A Prayer for Wholeness: drawn from Psalm 80

Restore us again, O Lord God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance,
and we shall be whole.”
(Psalm 80:19, New Coverdale Psalter)

You, who are beyond me yet near me,
who are at One with Yourself,
yet interacting with a confused world:
speak wholeness into me.

You, who are God of all and over all,
who are holy, holy, holy,
yet are merciful beyond measure:
breathe wholeness into me.

You, whose presence is brilliance and light,
whose majesty is incomprehensible,
yet whose light brings illumination so personal:
shine wholeness into me.

You, who know all things comprehensively,
who have created the world in grandeur,
yet who intimately knows each one:
mold wholeness into me.

You, God, holy and mighty—
You, God, loving and merciful—
You, God, majestic and personal—
make me whole like You.

The Hidden Burden: a prayer reflection on the woman with the flow of blood

Unknown, The healing of a bleeding woman, Rome, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, 4th century.

“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years….When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’” (Mark 5:25, 27, 28)

The burden I carry is quiet and hidden,
only seen in my most vulnerable times.
But it is always with me. It gnaws at my dignity
and my sense of self in ways I cannot fully describe
or measure. Oh, just to be free. Just to be whole.
Without my lifeblood constantly draining out.
O God, how long I have cried to You
for deliverance and healing. I am waiting
and watching for You, like a watchman
waits for the morning: bone-tired and ready for rest.
The conversations and activities around
seem necessary but not deep enough, not true
enough, not life-giving enough. I try to see
through it all to You. Then a glimpse
through the crowd, as a spark of sunlight glimmers.
I see You and my attention trails off from all else
as I chase after You. Do You see me? I pass through
the crowd and stretch out a trembling hand
in order to touch You. Do You notice? A jolt, like electricity,
and I know something has happened. I know You know.

Bringing Our Sins to the Cross :: Theodore Prescott, “All My Sins”

Theodore Prescott, All My Sins; Cherry, lead, hand-blown glass, paper ash, and silicon; 1996.

When I was a new believer, I hungered for a deeper relationship with God. I followed the example of a mentor in my life who had taken a focused time to work his way through past sins as a means for drawing near to God, confessing them one by one, category by category. Over the course of several days in a summer vacation, I brought my sins to the foot of the Cross in the presence of the Lord. I started this process with excitement, eager to draw near in vulnerability to God, but over time I slowly grew overwhelmed by the multitude of ways I had turned away from God in the course of my life. When I finally completed the process of confessing sin over those days, I needed to read and re-read portions of Scripture about the forgiveness assured to me by faith in Jesus Christ. Certain verses struck me as incredibly powerful: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In his work of art, All My Sin, Ted Prescott relies heavily on process to create the final piece. In this work, Prescott first took a month to write all his sins that he could remember on paper (“a creepy and depressing list,” he writes). After shredding that paper, he inserted the bits into four open forms of glass that were heated up, sealed, and then cooled over the course of a day. The paper turned to ash and blackened the glass from the inside. The final work reflects the process of confession but also the process of Jesus’ work on the Cross. Jesus took upon Himself our sin and entered into the darkness of what sin does to us, in death and separation from the Father. Jesus did this so that we might have life to the full (John 10:10). Lent reminds us that when we bring our sins to the Cross of Christ, our creepy and depressing list of wrongs can be transformed by Christ, leading us into life, love, and forgiveness. One portion of Scripture I have never forgotten from that extended season of confession I mentioned earlier is a verse which we all might benefit from committing to memory: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

His Healing by Faith

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our Advent journey and our preaching series entitled “‘Tis the Reason.” This third week of the series, Will Branch preached on two stories of healing by Jesus en route to Jerusalem in Matthew 17:14-20 and 20:29-34. Will really made me think about whether my faith is substantial or more like sand.

This message is part of the seventh part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” and “Who Do You Say I Am?”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

The Faith Problem – Matthew 17:14-20

  • The Father and Son: I want to believe
  • The Disciples: I thought I believed
  • The teachers of the law: I won’t believe
  • The Healer: No one believesThe Faith Solution – Matthew 20:29-34

Two Blind Men – Matthew 20:29-34

  • They heard so the cried
  • They met a mountain so the cried louder
  • They saw because they believed

The Faith Calling – James 5:13-16, 2 Chron 7:14; Luke 18:6-8

  • Have you Heard? Then cry
  • Is there a mountain? Then Cry Louder

Hearing the Stunning Invitation of Jesus

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Here we have the stunning invitation of Jesus our Savior. Do we hear Him?

It is not an invitation only for a few, but an invitation for “all you who are weary and burdened.” Are any of us weary? Are any of us burdened? Praise God that our weariness and burdens do not need to push us away from God but can lead us closer to Him. So what are our areas of weariness? Where are we worn down? What has caused sheer tiredness in our experiences and circumstances today? What burdens do we carry? What things from our past, our present, or our future feel like weights upon our lives? May we bring them to the feet of Jesus today.

Our encounter with the tender acceptance and care of God leads us beyond ourselves into a new way of living. The yoke that Jesus describes is a new way of learning from Jesus. When we think of a yoke, we probably think of a cattle yoke, where two animals are yoked together. But it is highly likely that Jesus is referring here to the human yoke, or shoulder pole, which is used to carry burdens more easily. The concept of the yoke was often used as a metaphor for how we live our lives. The yoke was then connected to the idea of walking in God’s wisdom and law. One took up that yoke by learning from God’s Word and teaching. So we have the opportunity turn from our own yoke—our own way of life—and turn to Jesus’ yoke—His way of living.

As we hear Jesus’ invitation we then discover and encounter His character. What is Jesus like? He is gentle and humble in heart. He is meek. He is lowly. He is, as we will continue to encounter throughout Matthew’s gospel, a servant Messiah. In fact, Jesus, as the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), shows us that there is no one as gentle and humble as God. God is the most gentle and humble being we will ever meet.

When we respond to Jesus’ stunning invitation then we will experience true rest for our souls. Are any of us restless? Are any of us feeling like we are searching for a true place of peace and home to abide in? This is found in God through Jesus the Messiah. As St. Augustine writes near the beginning of his beautiful work Confessions, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”