What Do You Have for Us, Lord?
It was hard to know what to expect when I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in in the Old City of Jerusalem this past January. While no one can say with certainty, it is likely that this is the place where Jesus was crucified, anointed for burial, buried – and rose from the dead.
I was open to God blessing me with a spiritual experience appropriate to the magnitude of this place. That did not happen for me. And I’m okay with that.
For some, it appeared that something remarkable was happening. I joined the huge line that led up the stairs to the place of the crucifixion, made into an extremely ornate chapel with marble pillars and floor, tall statues, elaborate gold fixtures, and thin candles lit to establish a sacred atmosphere. People were rushed along in this line for a brief moment to kneel and kiss the ground where the cross that held Jesus might have been. Those who did seemed moved to have done so. I was glad for them.
However, I chose to step out of the line, pleased to be there, but realizing my heart was not going to soar. In part, the environment was too foreign to my Protestant sensibility of simplicity to speak to me. In part, the moment was just too rushed.
As I reflect on that experience, I have come to three conclusions.
1) It is more important to believe, by faith, that Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again for us than to see the exact location with your own eyes. You don’t need to feel cheated if you have not been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. You have all you need, right where you are, without making a pilgrimage to Israel, for true faith – which is a gift from God. As Heidelberg Catechism #21 says, true faith “is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word, but also a wholehearted trust which the Holy Spirit creates in me through the gospel…”
2) We cannot manufacture experiences of spiritual “highs.” They happen or they don’t according to God’s discretion. It is good to feel emotionally close to the Lord; I treasure those moments as often as they come. But I do not depend on them. The bedrock of life as Jesus followers, as disciples, is the conviction that comes when “you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).
3) While not depending on deeper spiritual experiences, we can gladly welcome them as God in his mercy gives them to us. We do this by making ourselves available to God. We can live with faces uplifted to God, or live as if God is not there. That is a choice daily before us. Psalm 105:4 encourages us to “seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” It is an attitude of the heart and mind. “What do you have for me, Lord? I am ready to receive from your hand.”
Holy Week (March 29 – April 5) is soon upon us. It is the ideal time to make ourselves available to God, to seek the Lord. Not in a desperate search for a spiritual high. But as an expression of faithful discipleship that honors the sacrifice of Jesus.
Lord, we look upon your suffering and sorrows. Lord, we look to you. We are ready to receive from your hand. What do you have for us?
David Lenz, Lead Pastor