Sermon Library

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Wed, Dec 09, 2015

Man of Sorrows

Duration:10 mins 10 secs

Our Scripture for this evening comes from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 53, verses 1-12. Let us hear these ancient Words from the Lord spoken afresh and new to us today:

1Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.
11 Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer.

This past summer Pixar released their latest film called Inside Out. I have always found Pixar films marked not only by outstanding computer animation, but also by the quality of their storytelling for children and for adults.

Inside Out is the story of an 11-year old girl named Riley who has to moves with her parents from Minnesota to San Francisco. The majority of the story is told from inside Riley’s head from the vantage point of her emotions: Joy, Fear, Disgust, Sadness, and Anger. These five emotions, located in a Star Trek bridge-like “Headquarters,” help her navigate through life and a new house, school, hockey team, etc. The emotion Joy tends to be lead emotion in charge in Riley’s mind as Riley is a pretty happy kid. So when things go awry in Headquarters, it is Joy who leads the way, with Sadness in tow, on a journey to the depths of Riley’s memories and then back again so Riley can be happy once more.

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie takes place about halfway and involves Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend. Heartbroken over losing his precious rocket/wagon, Bing Bong falls to the ground and begins to whimper. Joy, who is intent on squashing out any hint of unhappiness, tries repeatedly and persistently to cheer him up. But she is unsuccessful. As Joy begins to walk away, Sadness settles in next to Bing Bong and consoles him simply by allowing him to cry. Joy is amazed as Bing Bong’s tear drops of candy flow until he is able to continue their journey again.

Like, I said, Pixar makes movies for adults as well as children because as that scene illustrates Inside Out is fundamentally about learning to reconcile joy and sadness. As Josh Larsen wrote in one review,

“It’s a rich subject – one mined with Pixar’s usual combination of wit, intelligence and emotional resonance – and also one that echoes a Christian understanding of the human experience. Christianity, after all, is an expression of joy in response to - not in denial of - deep sadness.”

Larsen continues,

“In Inside Out, we’re surprised by Sadness. While we might expect her to be a villain, instead she’s a crucial component to Riley’s emotional well-being. It isn’t just a clever gag, then, that Bing Bong’s tears take the form of something sweet. The overall arc of Inside Out begins with naïve happiness, encompasses an acknowledgement of sorrow and settles on a tearful sort of joy. Even as they make you laugh, those candy tears have a sacramental quality reflective of this spiritual journey. They’re images of a bitterness that has been re-formed.”

My friends we gather here together tonight to bear witness to the fact that Christianity is an expression of joy in response to – not in denial of – deep sadness. Indeed as he is described in our text from Isaiah this evening, the one who saves us, the one who brings us new birth, the one who opens the way to life eternal, is a “man of sorrows.”

In this season of the year it is easy to think that there is only joy, only happiness and if we fail to experience or know it, there must be something wrong with us. As one devotional writer put it this week:

“I worry too many of us are going about life looking to travel down a path brightly lit with adorable, solar-powered lights, covered in fresh rose petals. Yet, somewhere down the road, we have forgotten that those very roses would never have bloomed if not for the pile of dirt they grew from. We wake up every day wanting the roses without the dirt.”

We cannot have roses without the dirt. We do not know joy without sadness, for both are linked in Messiah who is a “man of sorrows.” As the poem on the front of the bulletin tonight says,

“In the middle of the night, when stark night was darkest,
Then you chose to come.”

Yes, the child born in Bethlehem comes to take the sins of the world upon himself by dying on the cross. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “for the sake of the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

It is from that exalted seat at the right hand of God that “the man of sorrows” brings comfort and hope and even joy to those like all of us who have gathered here this evening, those who continue to know grief and pain and loss and death during “this happiest time of the year.” For tears bring others to embrace us. Yes, God comes into the midst of our darkness, to help shoulder a bit of the pain and the loss, to just sit beside us as we cry. My friends, may the presence of the exalted “man of sorrows” be enough for this night, for in Christ our tears of bitterness just might become the soil for roses and new sweet memories.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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