A Blog by Bishop Christopher deForest...
March 16, 2022
As we introduce a new synod website, I am taking this opportunity to start A NEW BLOG – a place online where I can regularly post reflections and highlights from our journey together as the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod. We’re calling it “On The Way” as a play on the word “synod,” which comes from two Biblical Greek words, syn and hodos. These can mean “on the road with” and also “walking with” – since most people in Bible times (and around the world still today) got from place to place on foot. My intention is to connect with you in this way every week or two. I will also occasionally include a video version to go with the text.
YES, JESUS WEPT
Last week I attended a mid-week Lenten service. Afterward, a woman who teaches faith to young people shared with me a student’s question. A child had just asked her: “When Jesus was on the cross, did he cry?” She told the young person, “Yes, he probably did.” But she was a bit concerned whether she had answered correctly, and wanted my guidance.
I understand her wish to get things right. This is the Bible, after all – and we want to pass on the faith, faithfully. I don’t think it specifically says, in any of the four Gospels, if Jesus wept on the cross. The only place we find him crying is that short verse in John 11:35: “Jesus began to weep” – in some translations, simply “Jesus wept.” This was that moment, a few days earlier, when Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus, finding his dead friend’s sister Mary and others there, crying. People over the centuries have wondered why Jesus cried even then – considering that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. With all that power and authority, why would he let his guard slip? Why become so emotional, look so weak, so vulnerable?
“Big boys don’t cry.” This is the kind of message many of us have heard all our lives. Adults have to stay strong – for the sake of their work, their families, especially their children. But young people know, already. They know better. And they want and need to see us as we are, for real. As always, Jesus shows the way. He weeps when his friend is dead, because he loves him. He cries because he loves those suffering in the throes of loss and grief. Because he loves all people, all of us, at all times and in all places, who have passed through the valley of the shadow of death. He weeps with us, and he walks with us, down all those lonesome valleys.
And we walk with him, this Holy Week. Another year gone by, and new tears shed. We long for healing, for home, for love, for the end of sickness and division and war. And we see in the cross: our hurt, our hate, our sin, and its wages, waging war on all we hold dear. But there is Christ. Jesus, the man from Nazareth. God’s only Son, our Lord, crying out on that cross. And so, that simple question, posed by that wise child: “Did he cry?” Yes. Yes, of course he did. I cannot imagine any of the words he said, while hanging there, being said except through tears. Especially: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]
A few years back, I sat with someone in her 60s who came to me with a confession. This was not someone inclined to strong emotion. But she told me: “Pastor, I feel like my generation has failed. We have failed to pass on the faith.” As she said this she too, like her Lord, “began to weep.” I wish she could have heard the question posed by this child. We pass on the faith, by listening, by inviting questions, by being honest about who we are, how we feel, what we’ve lived – and by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, God from God, born of the virgin Mary, crucified, died, and rose again.
Yes, he cried. Yes, he died. Because we do. Because of what we do. He was raised. We shall arise. Forgiven, healed, whole, restored and reconciled. This is the real and honest faith we have to pass on, and to receive again, in the awesome questions of young and old alike.
OUR NEW “GROWING YOUNG COORDINATOR”
Speaking of sharing good news: I am glad to announce the hiring of our new Synod “Growing Young Coordinator.” Her name is STACEY BURKE, and she is currently serving part-time as our “Contact and Supply Coordinator” – a position she will continue doing. In that role, she works with congregations who are in transition – that is, ones in the process of finding and calling a new permanent pastor – to help them find a qualified and approved preacher or presider for Holy Communion or Holy Baptism on Sundays and at other worship times.
As “Growing Young Coordinator,” her new title says it all. Growing Young is one of the three VITAL SIGN GOALS we believe God is calling us to, here in NE PA. It means, seeking to become an ever-more Jesus-centered community, that engages and connects all kinds of people, and especially youth, young adults and families, to Christ and his good news of grace and life for all people and all creation. Stacey’s efforts and goals will center on equipping leaders in congregations for this work. She will start the position part-time and for a limited duration – two years – leaving her and us open to wherever God takes us.
To begin, Stacey will be reaching out across the Synod to connect with those of you already working on Growing Young, to learn how it is working and how we can support your efforts. She will also be working with our Youth, Young Adults and Family Ministry Team to build support and make plans – some of which will come alive at our upcoming Synod Assembly June 10-11. If you have any questions, call or email Stacey – you’ll find her contact info on our Synod website.
Blessings along your way through Holy Week to Easter,
Bishop Christopher deForest