Groans: Stillness, Silence, Surrender



Pastor Jeremy:


Today's scripture is from the book of Psalms, the 51st Psalm verses one through 12. Hear the word of the Lord, have mercy on me. Oh God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions, wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me against you. You only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. So you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb. You taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with his up and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladly gladness. Let the bones you have crushed, rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


Pastor Jonathan:


Well, good morning everyone. I am glad today for the joy that I have sensed here, but I think many of us, if not all of us, are aware that our neighbors just to the north in Allen are not experiencing that same joy today. And I don't know if you heard the news or not, but at the shopping center in Allen, there was another shooting where multiple people lost their lives and some today are still clinging to life. And I never know what to say or how to feel anymore when it comes to these situations. It seems like every several days there's another one that pops up where someone else takes their feelings of isolation or loneliness or discontent or hatred or rage or whatever, whatever it is, and lashes out in such a horrendous way.


I think it's a pretty common experience for us to know, not to know what to say. And to a certain extent, we need to learn to be comfortable not knowing what to say. Because when you don't know what to say and you say something, studies tell us that it's always wrong, right? At least that's how it goes in my experience. So there's a rich tradition in the scriptures. There's a tradition in Christian history where when we don't know what to say in the midst of tragedy, in the midst of heartache, in the midst of sorrow, that there's a spiritual practice called lament. There's actually a whole book of the Bible that's called Lamentations, and it's a collection of laments from Israel. And so this morning as I woke up and was remembering the violence of yesterday, I spent some time to write a LA that I wanted for us to work through this morning. And the spirit of this is crying out to God when we don't know what to say and crying out to God to be the one who saves in these moments. So here is this cry today, oh God, our God today we cry out how long, oh Lord, how long must we endure a way where hate overflows from one and devastates their na, the neighbor? How long must we live in a world obsessed with ways of violence?


How long must we wait until the next tragedy unfolds? How much more blood needs shed, how many more lives need lost? How many more? Here we go, agains must we utter? How could someone be so callous filled with such hate hell bent on inflicting their brokenness on others? These questions of how pervade our minds each time when we turn on the news still, Lord, we trust in you the prophets of old for tell of a world where violence is no more, where there is neither victim nor perpetrator where weapons are rendered useless except as plow shares where all live in peace. But until that day we cry out. We know that you hear our prayers and that you are near to the brokenhearted. As we reflect, we ask that you would be near today to all those whose loved ones lost their lives and those injured, and for those who will be tormented by these actions forever. God, today we ask you to grant us new words, ordained by your spirit to speak. All of our rhetoric is useless. The talking heads will say this and point to that these words are tired and empty and meaningless. Grant us action over speech. Lead us to value life in a culture that breeds death. Grant us your church, the courage to trust in you, to actively work towards the day where weapons and hate and fear and disdain are decomposed in the garden of peace.


As we remember, search us [inaudible] God uproot within us any animosity towards our neighbor, pluck from our lives, any roots of hate that might cause us to look down on our neighbor, enable us to live in tune with your spirit, that animosity, fear, frustration, judgment, and rage might not have any fertile soil within our lives that we might live as examples of grace and peace that our enemies might say of us, they retaliated our violence with cups of water. They visited us in our prisons of rage. They comforted us in our depression of fear. Until that day we look to you, we grieve for now, but we trust in your unveiling love. Amen.


I think this morning, if I could be honest for a moment, I woke up and I thought that the last thing that I actually wanted to do today was to preach a sermon because it just seems like sometimes that our words are not getting anywhere, not gaining any traction, not building or creating anything positive. And I don't know if you are aware of this, but sermons require words. And so there would be a, I guess Jeremy talked about a symphony that was silence or rests. I guess we could have a sermon of rests, but I don't know that it I, it would work well for us. But my prayer this morning in that was God give like, and we said this in the minute, God give us new words. I don't know about you, but every time these events happen, I listen to all of the things that will be said about it over the next several days until something else happens or we move on and forget about it.


And it just all sounds like noise at this point I feel like, and I think that as a culture, as a society, we need new words. We need new rhetoric, we need new ways of having conversations about these situations. I don't know the answers. I have my opinions, but at the end of the day, our opinions don't necessarily equate into a whole lot. And so what I clinging to and what I pray for the church in this moment is that we would be people who have the courage to trust fully in Jesus, to trust Jesus over material things, to trust Jesus over our bias, to trust Jesus over our worldview and to trust Jesus fully. That learning to live as people of the kingdom of God is what will serve as an example for our society to lead out of these types of situations. And there is hope in that even when it doesn't feel like it necessarily, it doesn't feel like there's things are going to change or that change is even possible. There is hope in Jesus. And so that is what we clinging to today.


So with that, and also as I was sitting there this morning thinking the last thing I want to do is preacher sermon I thought, but yet this sermon is the focus of this sermon today is so in tune with I think where we are and I think maybe it'll make more sense as we get into it here in a moment. If you have your Bibles and want to follow along in a few minutes, we're going to read from Romans eight, verse 22. But we have been working as a community through this book called Being with God. We were able to get a couple more copies if you did not receive a copy, we have one for you today for you to take home. We have worked through after today, we will have worked through the first eight chapters of the book, and so we're about halfway through, but it's still not too late.


If you want to get a book today and join in, you can catch up pretty quickly. The chapters are short and easy, which is my favorite kind of book. It's frustrating to me when I start reading a book and I feel like I've been reading forever and I'm only halfway through the chapter, so I appreciate short chapters and this is a great book that's very practical in nature on a very complex subject talking about contemplation and prayer. So don't leave without a copy if you haven't received one yet. And the purpose of this series that we're doing, the purpose of this book that we have been reading is all about walking with Jesus. That's that's the goal of following Jesus. It's a journey with Jesus. It's walking with Jesus, it's living our lives in step with Jesus, having an apprenticeship of love with Jesus. And as I was reading through what I use for my morning, quiet times, it's just a collection of scripture that revolves around the calendar of the church calendar.


But I was amazed this week alone at how many references I read that dealt with the invitation to follow Jesus, to walk with Jesus. Scripture is littered with these passages that invite us into a journey with Jesus that is a step by step journey. And the purpose of these journeys is threefold. The purpose of walking with Jesus is first of all, to be formed with or to be with Jesus. Jesus is through the presence of the Holy Spirit with us all and we can learn to be with Jesus, to spend time with him, to just simply be with Jesus. The second part is to be formed like Jesus, to be molded and shaped into the image that we bear the image of Jesus, that when people see us, they see the presence of Jesus. The term Christian actually means at its root, little Jesus that you would be little Jesus that you would be like Jesus.


And then the practical explanation of it to do what Jesus did, right to do the things that Jesus did. That is what the purpose of being with Jesus is and to achieve this, the form that we use, the mechanism that we use is prayer. That's what shapes and forms and molds us. Now also what shapes and forms and molds us is gathering together as community is singing songs and reading scripture and learning about scripture and all of those things. But ultimately the thing that brings all of that together and forms it all together in one vessel, the vessel of your life, the mechanism for that is prayer. I think that the achievement of spiritual maturity, whatever that means is when we learn to talk less and listen more, I feel like the more we are dependent upon God to speak to us and the less we talk, the less we have opinions, the less we share our opinions and we just learned to sit and be with God. That is when we are beginning to reach spiritual maturity.


Several years ago we were living in a new place and Kelly and I made fast friends with another couple and they had some friends that they believed that we would be friends with, and so they invited all of us out for a day of shopping. Now, a day of shopping is for me saying, you're going to pull out my fingernails. I do not like shopping. Shopping is a utility experience for me. I know what I want before I go. I find what I want when I get to the store, I purchase it and I go about the rest of my day, right to go and to look at everything and to touch everything and to think about buying things and this and that and the other. That is not my idea of fun. I would rather stay home with the kids and let everybody else go and enjoy that.


But we were trying to meet new people and be friends, be good friends. And so we decided to go and do this. And the person who we met that day was, I don't know if you've ever been around a person who talks constantly, any moment that there is a moment of quiet is filled with them talking. And I don't know if it's just that they can't enjoy silence or if it makes them uncomfortable or whatever, but just talk, talk, talk, talk. And then to make it even more than that, this person would not only constantly talk, but every time they would ask a question to of another person, the other person would start to talk. And then as they would answer their own question, have you ever been around somebody like that? I don't know how to have a relationship with a person like that.


My personality, if that happens multiple times, I just sort of stop, right? I'm not even interested at that point in trying to say anything because I know that it's not going to get anywhere. I was thinking about that this week and I started to think, I wonder if God ever feels that way with us. I wonder if God ever gets to the point to where he just says, Hey, could you just sit still for a moment? Could you just pause the or? As Jeremy said, I think he used the profound word, hush or shush. I don't remember which one it was.


I wonder if God ever just says, Hey, could you just sit and listen for a moment Now to be clear, intercessory prayer, prayer where we have needs or we've have the needs of our neighbors and we speak them to God, it is important. It is beautiful. It is a great way of prayer. In fact, we gather together here in this space every Wednesday at 11 and spaces around for those who are unable to be here and pray specifically for the needs of others to release the concerns and the needs for others to God. We do that. It's a beautiful form of prayer. But if that is the only form of prayer that we practice in, then maybe we need to hear God saying sh and start to listen. And so in Romans eight, I really want to read verse 26, but verse 26 begins with in the same way.


And so I know enough about Bible study to know that if it says in the same way, then you probably need to back up a little bit and understand what that same way is. All right, so we're going to read a couple of verses before where we're really focusing today, but here's what the scriptures teach us in Romans chapter eight, verse 22. I'm sure that this is a scripture that if you're familiar with the church that you have, you have read at some point or heard parts of at some point. It says, as we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in pains of childbirth, right up to this present time, not only, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the spirit grown inwardly as we eagerly await the adoption to sonship the redemption of our bodies for in this hope we were saved.


But hope that is seen is no hope at all who hopes for what they already have. But if we hope for what we do, not yet have we wait patiently for it in the same way the spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the spirit because the spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. Wordless groans. Have you ever been in a situation where you just didn't know what to say, but inside there was like this groaning or this yearning and that the yearning itself was clear, it it had clarity, but it wasn't something that you were able to verbally express. Have you ever had that feeling before? I think that's what Paul is talking about here.


If you've ever been in a situation where you've been in the desert or the wilderness or a mountain range somewhere, and you get away from all of the noise, the humming of the city and the sounds of the city and get away to a place that is quiet, there's a groaning that is present in creation. And what Paul is talking about here is that same groaning that's inside of us, and it is a wordless groan that the spirit exhibits in our lives that leads us into the image of Jesus that invites us into the image of Jesus. So when it comes to prayer, learning to be quiet enough to give the spirit a moment, to speak to and in us, that is when prayer becomes formative in our lives. There's a quote in the book from Marjorie Thompson that says this, perhaps our real task and prayer is to attune ourselves to the conversation already going on deep in our hearts. Then we may align our conscious intentions with the desire of God being expressed at our core. I think the problem though that many of us face with this is that listening is not easy.


Some of us are good listeners, we're just by nature, good listening listeners. But oftentimes listening is a struggle for us. It's much easier to speak than it is to listen and particularly when it comes to listening to this inner grown of the spirit. And last week as we did our prayer emphasis, we focused on the fruit of patience. And when it comes to listening for the spirit, when it comes to paying attention to this groaning inside of us, we have to exhibit patience. Because as the prayer focus that we read last week says, God is never in a hurry, right? God never moves at our speed of urgency and fast and quick. God is slow and steady. And sometimes waiting on God to speak requires patience, not sometimes all the time. It requires patience. So we have to have patience. But also there are three components that Jeremy mentioned last week and there and these two chapters that we're focusing on today talking about stillness that are struggles to all of us that are present in our culture, that are things that influence us, whether we realize it or not. And they're the three Cs, CS of comparison, control, and consumption. So in order for us to be in a position to where we are able to listen to God, we also have to limit the influence of these three Cs in our lives. And if these go unchecked or unaddressed, then we not only will not be able to be silent with God, but we also will be led in directions that are the opposite of where God might lead us.


Comparison is asking the question, how am I better or what do I lack? Think about how many times we ask that question in our own inner dialogue or control. How do I get my way? How do I get what I want? Think about how many times in our inner dialogue we have that conversation. I heard this past week that there have been some studies done about control and that they suggest that the average person only controls about 15% of what they think they control. 15%. That's not very much. Now for myself, I realized I have realized, especially recently in my life, that I have control over very little. And so my 15% is probably smaller than the average person. I don't know how much you think that you are in control of. And I suppose that you could probably make an argument that if you thought that you controlled more than your 15% of what you actually control would grow. I'm not sure that's how it works. I think if we are obsessed with what we can control, that we will have difficulty encountering God in the quiet. The third C is consumption. What can I take? What can I have? Think about how much of our lives are centered around what we can take and what we can have.


But luckily for us, as the book points out, there is a remedy for the way that these three Cs consume our lives. The remedy is stillness, silence and surrender, stillness, silence and surrender. And when we find ourselves in posture of stillness, silence and surrender opposed to comparison, control, and consumption, we began to understand two things as aj Cheryl points out. For us, these two things are, number one, we are probably less important than we think we are. And the second, we are definitely more loved than we know. It's interesting those two things seen side by side. Alright, we are probably less important than we think that we are, but we are definitely more loved than we know. And when we come to the place to where we realize these two things, that is the most fertile spot that we can be for God to nurture and grow the seeds of his kingdom in our lives.


But these are things that we have to practice. They come more natural to some of us than others. But there are things that all of us, regardless of our personalities or thought, we need to at least spend some time in being still and being silent and in surrender at the end of chapter seven, I believe there's a practice that is, will be somewhat familiar to us because of the breath prayers that we do, but it's a way of praying and keeping our attention on God through breathing and reciting scripture. So there's a passage in scripture where this tax collector comes to Jesus and he's beating his chest and he cries out, Lord Jesus, son of God have mercy on me, a sinner, right? And we hear this beautiful cry that Jesus receives and makes mention of and talks about how this person is welcomed into the kingdom of God because of this cry of his heart.


Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. And so the practice for today that it's on page 91 and your book there, it's just a moment of inhaling and exhaling. And as you inhale, you cry out, Lord Jesus Christ. And as you exhale, have mercy on me, and Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me. And this is an inroad. This cry is an inroad for us to be able to quiet the things that are going on all around us in order to be able to sit and be still with Jesus. So there's some more instructions there on your book and page 91, if you have that, you can read that. But I want to encourage you just at some point, maybe you're feeling frustrated, maybe your day is going in a direction that you didn't want it to go or that you didn't think that it was going.


Maybe there's some sort of tragedy that's unfolding. Maybe there's something going on that is leading us in a direction that you don't want to go. And in that moment is a perfect time to take a deep breath and to remember this simple cry. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. And wouldn't it be great if we learned to be people who instead of allowing the frustration to boil over and spill out on those who we love and care about, those who we're trying to be good neighbors to that, instead of that we would be able to pause to collect ourselves, invite the Holy Spirit to keep us from that moment and to inhale and remember, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Wouldn't it be something that if in when fear or judgment or comparison or control or consumption is getting the best of us, that we would pause for a moment, be able to take a deep breath and remember, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me? That is the practice for this week. I want to invite us to pray together this morning. Jesus, we are grateful that you are always with us.


We are grateful God, that you love us more than we know Jesus. Would you guide us today in your ways? Would you God instill your peace in us? We ask these things today. God, in your name and for your sake, amen.