The Crying Ground
by Jack Wald | July 24th, 2011

Hebrews 10:19-25

I had a very rich month in the US. I had a couple days with my daughter and her family in Boston and then began my tour. I flew south to Philadelphia, west to Los Angeles, north to San Francisco, east to Chicago, east to Columbus and then east again to Boston. After another four days with my daughter and her family I flew again to Philadelphia and back and then headed home.

I flew 17 flights for a total of 14, 298 kilometers, not counting the 14,682 kilometers from Rabat to Paris to Boston and back. I met a lot of people in many cities and I had a great time visiting with old friends, some of whom once lived in Rabat. I celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of Ruth & Habib Iskander, with whom I lived when I first came to Rabat and Annie was still working in the US. I met the fiancee of one of my nephews. I visited the dairy farm of a niece and her husband. I went to see a movie, Super 8, in Los Angeles with Peter Lee who was also visiting Los Angeles. I went to a wonderful concert of Burlap to Cashmere with Joao Goncalvas and Mike Schneblin, both of whom used to live in Rabat. I shared with old and new friends about the state of the church in Morocco and encouraged them to pray for us. I had a great time.

One of the lessons I came home with is that life is not easier in a more affluent society. There are many of us who think that if we had more money, a nice home and a nice car – then we would have less trouble. But that is clearly not the case. Wealth does make it easier to live without having to worry about finding money to pay rent and buy food. But wealth does not contribute to happiness and satisfaction in life.

As I traveled I discovered that the people I visited with also have needs and I was able to encourage and counsel as I traveled from home to home. Some are struggling in their marriage relationship. Others are dealing with abuse in their childhood. I met four women who were sexually abused when they were growing up; three of them were abused by family members. This abuse creates ongoing pain and difficulty in their relationships. I met people who have a very uncertain financial future, wondering how they will survive when they are no longer able to work. I met a man who has not been able to get a job and whose wife is bringing home the paycheck. They live with the wife’s mother and she is critical and judgmental of her son-in-law. So I prayed with him and encouraged him to see how God is at work in his life through this difficult season. I met people who were lonely and so glad to see an old friend with whom they could share their difficulties.

If you met these people, you would not know they had any difficulties. From the outside they are strong, confident people. But when they let down their defenses, then the struggles are revealed.

This made me think of a video produced by Mars Hill, a large church in the US. Let’s watch it now. Saved but not whole

How painful is that to watch? How many times have you come to church hiding what you are really feeling? Who is there in church that really knows you? Who is there in church that knows the deep issues with which you are struggling?

What does it say about church when you can come with the deep issues of your life causing you pain and no one knows about it? I was surprised to discover that some of the people who shared their struggles with me did not have anyone in their church with whom they could be open and vulnerable.

I am not at all suggesting or encouraging you to come and share with everyone in church the struggles of your life. That would be embarrassing and inappropriate. But there should be a part of the church that knows about these struggles and talks them over with you and prays with you about them. There should be people in church who know you and listen to you, who love you and encourage you, who support you and stand by you.

A church that does not do this is a spiritually superficial church. When the husband in the video spends all morning yelling and being irritated and then comes to church and lifts his hands in the air while singing Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, what is being expressed? Is he praising God from the heart, or is he acting culturally and hypocritically? Is there any authenticity in his life?

Since David preached last week from Hebrews, I thought of this passage: Hebrews 10:19–25
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

This is a great passage and many of us know especially the last part of not neglecting to meet together, but what precedes it?

How is it we approach meeting together?
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

The blood of Jesus gives us confidence to come into God’s presence. The death of Jesus, the painful crucifixion and the horrible aloneness of Jesus as he was cut off from the Father and the Spirit – that is what gives us confidence to come into God’s presence. In the Temple in Jerusalem there was a curtain behind which only the High Priest was able to enter and then only on special holy days. That curtain has now been opened and it is the cutting of the flesh of Jesus, the destruction of his flesh that allows us to enter.

The video showed a ritual, habitual coming to church, not an awareness that we enter because a great price has been paid.

Jesus died, paying a great price so we could come into God’s presence but then he rose from the dead to be our high priest. Jesus stands with the Father and Spirit and speaks up in our behalf. We are still sinners. We still have bad days. We still get irritated and yell when we should not. But Jesus intercedes for us because he has paid the price for all our sinful behavior. Jesus has paid the price for all of our willfulness and self-centeredness. Because of the work of Jesus we can approach God with confidence.

It is with an awareness of the extent to which Jesus went to help us that we draw near to God.
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

What does a Muslim do before going into the mosque to pray? A Muslim has to wash before going in to pray. A Muslim has to take off shoes before going to pray. There is an awareness of the holiness of Allah that demands these rituals.

What do Christians do before going into a church? I suspect most of us do nothing. How many of us read our Bible and pray before leaving for church? How many of us take time to reflect on what it is we are doing when we come to church?

The truth is that we sleep in late, grab some breakfast, get our children dressed if we have young children. We probably look at the computer to see if anyone has emailed us or facebooked or twittered or whatever it is we do. We take time to check up on the relationships we have through these media tools, but we do not take the time to check up on our relationship with Jesus before we head out to meet with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The writer of Hebrews says we are to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. How do we do that without taking some time to read the Bible, to pray, to journal and to reflect?

The writer of Hebrews says we are to draw near with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. How do we do this without taking time to pray, to listen, to confess our sin, to receive grace and pardon?

I am certain that our experience in church on Sunday mornings would be quite different if we took time to prepare. Our Sabbath starts on Saturday evening. So take some time Saturday night or Sunday morning to prepare. At the very least, while you lie in bed, you can pray and think through the past week and prepare yourself for worship. Pray for some of the people you will meet in church. But take some time to prepare. The writer of Hebrews continues:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Who can you encourage when you come to church? Who does God put on your mind? Pay attention and make sure you go up to talk with those people. Listen to see what it is God wants you to do for them. Maybe they need a kind word or some affirmation or encouragement. Is there someone you can meet with after church and share your lunch? Is there some tangible way God wants you to help someone in church? If you listen, you will hear God speak to you.

God will speak to you because he designed us to live in fellowship with each other. Father, Son and Holy Spirit lived together in fellowship before the world was created and we are to model our fellowship after the fellowship of the Trinity. We were not brought into the family of God to be isolated and independent. We were brought into the family of God to be in relation with God and in relation with each other.

Open yourself to God and God will lead you into ways you can help out the other members of his family who meet at RIC. And since we are a world-wide body of Christ, you may well receive the inspiration to do something tangible to encourage someone far away from Rabat. God wants us to be connected, to be in fellowship, to encourage each other, to love each other and do acts of service for each other.

It might be sharing a verse of Scripture that you read and God brought to your mind someone who would benefit from hearing that verse, or thanking someone for something or baking some cookies or offering a ride to the airport or sharing some of your possessions. Listen and God will lead you.

Let me come back to the idea that church is a place for you to be a real person. You should not have to pretend when you are at church. Church is where you should be free to be open and honest.

You may know that I like a singer and composer named Pierce Pettis. We sing one of his songs as a benediction from time to time.
When you start to doubt if you exist, God believes in you.
Confounded by the evidence, God believes in you.

Another of his songs is titled, The Crying Ground. He uses this as a name for the church, a place where people can be real and allow the tears that sometimes come to us to fall openly without shame.

This first verse reflects the reality of life in a small town where everyone knows everything about everybody and people who fall face the embarrassment of everyone knowing about their failure.

No need to hide what’s going on
Your story’s all over town
But it’s all right if everything is all wrong
Just come on down to the crying ground

Dark skies, feels like rain
Why, look at all those thunder clouds
I’ll bet that dam is just about to break
Better come on down to the crying ground

Come on down to the crying ground
Let your tears be holy water
Rolling down your face, ain’t no disgrace
Come on down to the crying ground

I can see you want to steal away
Where you will never be found
But sometimes everybody feels this way
So come on down to the crying ground

Come on down to the crying ground
Let your tears be holy water
Rolling down your face, ain’t no disgrace
Come on down to the crying ground

No need to tell me what you’re going through
Cause, sister, I’ve been
right where you are now
You know exactly what you need to do
So come on down, down, down. down…

We are talking holy water
Rolling down your face, ain’t no disgrace
Come on down to the crying ground

Church, the Crying Ground, is where we should be free to be open and vulnerable. The video we watched reveals a different church. It is a church of people who hide from each other, who wear masks and pretend. It is a church of superficial people with superficial relationships who worship with superficial hearts.

This video is so distasteful to me because I see myself in it and I don’t like what I see.

So once again, who is there at RIC that knows the struggles you keep hidden? Were you sexually, physically or emotionally abused as a child? Do you have deep insecurities? What fears and anxieties do you have? You need to find friends with whom you can share the pain you experienced. You need a small group of people who will meet with you each week and who will listen to you, pray with you, share their own lives and struggles with you. It might not be the first time you meet that you share so deeply, but as you meet, your trust and confidence in others in the group will grow so that you can share the deeper parts of yourself.

We are all moving through life, preparing ourselves to live for eternity with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Everything in this life that we value so highly will slip away at the end. Those the world views as successful will have all that made them successful slip away. Their reputation, bank accounts, job titles, awards and powerful relationships will all slip away and then we will be seen as we are, not by what people think of us.

We are moving through this life and we need each other to encourage us and help us grow in faith so we are ready when it is our time to leave this earth and come into our heavenly existence.

So make an effort to come to church prepared to worship with a clean heart and conscience. Come to church having listened to God and listening to God through the service to see how you can encourage someone in our fellowship. Find a small group of people who will meet with you each week to encourage you and who you can also encourage.

If you need help finding a small group, talk with me and I will help you find some others who would like to receive the support and encouragement of a small group.

You can choose to keep yourself closed, but it is just not worth it. We come together to meet in the presence of God who loves us and died for us. This is not a club to which you pay your annual dues so you can enter. This is church where the price for your entry has already been paid. This is a place for healing, for love and encouragement. This is a place where you can be made whole. May God help you as you move toward wholeness and life.