17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Philippians 3: 17- 4:1
Days before we began working on this devotion, President Barack Obama spoke to the nation once again about gun violence. As he recalled the first graders killed in the 2012 Newtown, CT shooting, he paused. Emotions overwhelmed his typical stoic demeanor. Before continuing, Mr. Obama wiped away tears.
Many things in this world lead to tears. We weep tears of sorrow in the midst of death. We weep tears of joy in the midst of deliverance. We weep tears of frustration and anger in the midst of injustice. We weep tears of pride when moved by acts of courage. We weep tears of longing when a dream is deferred.
The apostle Paul writes to the beloved church in Philippi through tears. He weeps for those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ, whose lives focus merely on self-fulfillment, their own glory, and other earthly things. He weeps out of concern. He weeps in hopes of a better day and a better world with the coming of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the midst of our tears during the season of Lent, we wait. But it is not a stationary or unchanging type of waiting – it is an active type of waiting. This waiting is about transformation from the inside out. We eagerly await the coming of our Savior, not only because of his redemptive power but also because he completely refashions our earthly selves to be more like his resurrected self. It is a makeover to the highest degree. Our physical bodies are vessels we live in and are precious because they are essential to life on earth, but they are not perfect vessels. We are vulnerable to sickness, injuries, emotional turmoil. These things, the things that cause us to weep, leave us empty and in need of change from within.
In this season we acknowledge our own brokenness and the cause of so many tears through reflection and often “give up” something we enjoy as a reminder of our need for our Savior. By doing so, we often find ourselves in unexpected emotional places. We think of the loss, loneliness and rejection of Jesus and reflect on those we have lost, when we have felt or feel alone, and we remember our own times of rejection or regret over rejecting others. Dealing with and re-encountering our emotions is not easy, but it does most often lead us to healing. The toll this kind of transformative healing takes on us is something only our Savior can refill.
This Lenten season, we encourage you to contemplate the intersection of the world’s pain and your own brokenness. As your tears flow, fix your eyes upon the Savior the Lord Jesus Christ for he comes to transform you and the world from the inside out until all might see the glory of God…
In that spirit, let us pray together…
Holy God of Mercy, collect our tears and hold us close. Help us to receive your comfort as we embrace our un-comfort, and grant us healing as your Spirit rebuilds us. Give us strength to keep taking steps toward justice, love and redemption. Give us eyes to see the joys around us. Bring your church together as one, and transform each of us – beginning with me. Amen.
Melissa Miller is a second-year M.Div. student at Union Presbyterian Seminary from Richmond, VA. Melissa currently serves as an intern at Ashland Presbyterian Church and is actively discerning her ministry call through her seminary studies.
The Rev. Matthew A. Rich (M. Div. 2000) is the Pastor of Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA.