THE BROKENNESS COMES FIRST

One cannot truly appreciate the extreme joy of new life without having first experienced the deep sorrow of brokenness. Christ did not come to us simply to be resurrected. He came to first be broken by a world that ultimately finds ways to break us all.

In the hours leading to his crucifixion, Jesus humbly acted as a lowly servant washing the feet of his followers – even the one who would betray him! Jesus ate a meal with a group that he knew would scatter and fail him in his hours of need. Jesus experienced the ultimate injustice of being wrongly accused and sentenced to death – simply because the powerful wanted to protect their place in society. Jesus was physically and emotionally abused. Jesus felt the frustration of weakness and the grief of losing physical strength and ability as he repeatedly fell carrying his cross. Jesus bore the sorrow of saying goodbye to his mother. Jesus winced and screamed in excruciating pain. Jesus helplessly listened as he was mocked and bullied. Jesus, finally, lived the moment of a last breath…and human death. All the while, Jesus carried the burdens of humanity upon his shoulders, to a cross, and eventually into the darkness and isolation of a tomb.

The Lord, the Messiah, did this all in solidarity with every person to ever walk the face of this earth. O what beautiful humility and love. O what a thought that the Lord truly knows brokenness as only humanity can know it. My humble and loving Lord, you embraced the full human experience, even in its ugliest places. Today I thank you for allowing yourself to be broken. It will make the joy that is to come all that much sweeter. Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

A LITTLE BIRD IS SINGING

The storm struck central Illinois in November of 2013. I was there several times within the first few weeks and months in its aftermath, and often found myself standing in quiet awe, if not shock. Life had been interrupted by a few wild moments of extreme chaos, and now a neighborhood had been reduced to nothing but rubble and silence. On one sunny and chilly day, I took a break to gaze around. On this afternoon, for the first time, I locked in on the one lone surviving tree – still standing tall over all that had once been. The tree was bare, and a portion of the trunk had split, but here a bright red cardinal sat on a tiny limb singing in perfect voice. He was awaiting a return call – which never came. I walked down several hundred yards to the tree, stepping over debris. His appearance was a tiny shining light for me as I stood entrenched in such gloom. The little redbird wasn’t fazed at all as I approached. My presence was nothing compared to what he had endured so recently, and he truly had no shelter to seek anyway. I looked upward and simply uttered, “I’m sorry little one.” He glanced down, singing once more as if in response, and then flew over to a pile of wood hoping for another place to perch. I involuntarily let out a deep sigh, my heart recognizing the beauty of this little life struggling amidst so much destruction.

Perhaps, this is how God sees us. Beautiful little souls wading through chaos, our voices occasionally crying out desperately awaiting a clear response. I can almost feel God’s hand grabbing mine in my weakest hours and saying, “I am here, my child.” Somehow, in ways we cannot begin to perceive, we muddle along even as storm clouds gather and winds begin to howl. Somehow, we sing songs of praise even in the most extreme moments of our brokenness. Somehow, we stand back up, and even fly, once again. We do this all, knowing that God’s grace in our lives is ultimately defined by renewal, resurrection, and new life. Thus, our eyes tend to find the little tiny glimmers of light that shine in and around whatever darkness we find ourselves existing within. God is here.

Today, in central Illinois, a new neighborhood stands, where children play and trees are sprouting. And almost unnoticed, a little bird is singing…

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

LET YOUR LIGHT SO SHINE

It is a Sunday morning, and the sun is shining through the stained glass windows. In my arms is a little child, only weeks old. He stretches and wiggles, his bright eyes staring inquisitively at my face while his hand instinctively reaches out for the stole draped around my shoulders and neck.

“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” These are the words I share while gently pouring water on his forehead. My parental experience also kicks in, as I find myself unconsciously rocking him in my arms and winking with a reassuring smile. “Let your light so shine before others…” This line is etched into the depths of my memory, and I powerfully belt it out for all to hear while holding the child in one arm and lighting a baptismal candle with the other. And then, I look back down into his eyes – the window of his youthful and innocent soul.

For a few seconds, my baby brother in Christ, so curious about this new world, gazes into the flame. THIS IS HIS LIGHT! I can see it reflecting in his eyes, which are so intensely studying and pondering it. I have no idea what the future holds for my little friend, but I do know that right here and right now, his light is flickering just as brightly into my eyes as into his. My often weary adult soul needs light such as this, because life can sometimes become a grind for this pastor. But darkness can never overcome light. So in this space and for these precious few minutes, the two of us together experience a remarkable stillness, even in the midst of so many people and within the steady flow of worship. In some miraculous way, I have been invited into the glow of his tiny heart which, even at this young age, is powerful enough to illuminate my tired soul through the shadows. Now it is time to hand him back to his mother, who has tears running down her cheeks. My “thank you” is more genuine than she can know, for her son has blessed me with the energies of Grace, Love and Joy – just as much as I may have blessed him. Such is the dance and rhythm of worship, as the ever so gentle and yet bright light of God seeks to touch every heart carrying heavy burdens. Thank you, O Lord, for moments of peace and connection that reach across all generations. Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

 

THE WISDOM OF A WILLOW

The Weeping Willow has long stood on her own special piece of land, proudly growing amidst so many trees. However, she stands out from this particular crowd, the only one of her kind here. Depending upon your perspective, she is either different or unique. She may be out of place, or she could be an oasis of beauty adding depth to an already glorious scene. Her worth in this space exists within the eye of the beholder – those who now feel they have the right to value her – or remove her. She stands helplessly at their mercy – and I stand at her base on this afternoon and bless her.

In my heart she represents a cherished life granted by God and gifted to this little corner of the universe. She has far pre-dated any homes or humans here, but the rest of her ‘family’ has been removed over the years because they somehow didn’t ‘fit in’ with everyone else. Still, she remains regal and proud, and even defiant. My eyes appreciate her presence, and ability she has to catch my attention with her large canopy seemingly reaching down to greet me. My soul, though, grieves for our world, for we have become a people in which different is observed as something to be disliked and removed. Perhaps it is this that makes me admire her all the more on my daily walk.

I learned long ago that where I see a tree here and a tree there, God sees the character of an entire forest. The same is true of us. We see, and judge the value of, individuals in the same way we choose to manicure our yards – which is itself a futile process. God, on the other hand, sees a family, a community, with God’s own Love planted in its heart. Indeed, it is God who chose to make this community of life so varied and full of differences! We can fight with all our might – and ignorance – to make the whole community resemble ourselves and pleasing to our own eyes, but we would lose much more than we would gain in the exchange – for we would lose that which God so intentionally has created. And thus I am brought to a deep sigh, because I realize that where we, as children, can only see differences and uniqueness, God can see something much greater and much more simple at the same time. God’s eyes gaze all around and admire pure and beautiful life molded by hands of Grace. OH HOW I WISH I COULD SEE LIKE THAT!!! Thank you, my Lord, for such a glorious day, such an intricate tree in my path, and such a valuable reminder of my own place here. Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)