Scripture Passage – Matthew 27:27-31
Description – The second sermon of the 2011 Lenten Series
When nations go to war one of the things that happen is that the dynamic of invalidation takes place as a means of defeating the enemy.
This happens, quite frankly, through not just military means but psychological means as well to break the enemy’s will to fight.
When families go to war one of the things that happen is that the dynamic of invalidation takes place as a means of defeating the enemy no matter who it is – husband, wife, child, or parent.
Families use words, words that hurt, words whose sole purpose is to defeat another person. Actions, like “the cold shoulder” are also part of the arsenal. The result is that people are invalidated.
When churches go to war one of the things that happen is that the dynamic of invalidation takes place as a means of defeating the enemy and not necessarily Satan but the person who disagrees with “my” views.
Churches likewise use words, that hurt, and whose purpose runs the gamut from a coup d’etat to maintaining the status quo. Then there are actions, like arguing over bylaws, which are means to invalidate others, by arguing how a motion is to be made or not made.
Invalidation is a way of life for us in this sinful and fallen world.
Now what do you mean Pastor by invalidation? One definition, in a martial environment, is of a “pattern in which one partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other.”
(Source: Fighting for Your Marriage via By His Strips Lenten Series created by Creative Communications for the Parish)
As we continue our Lenten journey toward Jerusalem, I again remind us of something that I shared two weeks ago as I introduced this Lenten series.
Jesus knew exactly what it was like to be inflicted by words and actions that hurt.
Jesus was invalidated, often invalidated, during His earthly ministry. He was invalidated as the religious, and political, leaders of that day called into question his motives, his character, and his identity.
And He was deeply and profoundly invalidated the morning of His arrest as we read in our main text for this morning, Matthew 27:27-31
The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun. They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. They plaited a crown from branches of a thornbush and set it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” they said. “Bravo!” Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick. When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion. (The Message)
As I read this passage again this week I decided to further research the process of crucifixion and several details in this passage. I will spare us a complete and detailed picture of all that happened when someone was crucified.
However, I want to point out two details, one of which is in this passage and one of which appears in the next two verses, verses 32-34 “Along the way they came on a man from Cyrene named Simon and made him carry Jesus’ cross. Arriving at Golgotha, the place they call “Skull Hill,” they offered him a mild painkiller (a mixture of wine and myrrh), but when he tasted it he wouldn’t drink it.”
The first point has to do with the “entire brigade” which is translated “company” in other versions of scripture. I did some research to find out how many soldiers made up a company of Roman Soldiers. I could not find an exact number but it appears that it was perhaps 200 or so soldiers.
What this says to me is that, no matter how big the number, a lot of Roman soldiers were present to humiliate and to invalidate Jesus as they mocked him as “King of the Jews.” And invalidation by such a large group has always been a tragic and profoundly painful experience.
The other point I want to make is that most of the time the condemned person carried the cross they were to be hung on to the crucifixion site. Jesus couldn’t and Simon was forcibly used to carry it. He had been beaten, which was necessarily not the normal custom, as well as flogged. He had no strength left in Him.
The whole situation was very invalidating. It was designed to be. You were a criminal, a radical, a terrorist, you were nothing. You were not human. You did not count.
In their mocking and in their customary abuse, the Roman soldiers, invalidated Jesus Christ.
So what does this mean for all of us today? Why should we even hear, let alone consider, this whole concept of invalidation? Jesus after all died and rose again! That’s what we need to talk about, Pastor not this stuff!
This stuff is too uncomfortable. Too raw.
Let’s talk about heaven!
I acknowledge such feelings. This was not an easy sermon to write. (And this has only been the introduction!) But scripture speaks a great deal to the whole issue of human relationships and we see the effects of our sin and our sinfulness throughout the Bible!
Cain and Abel,
Jacob and Easu,
David and Uriah,
The Prodigal Son and his brother,
Jesus and Judas
All were relationships in which one party basically said to the other, “You don’t count” and because you don’t count I am going to do all I can to get the upper hand.
And it is because of our selfish choices that began when Adam and Eve believed that becoming like God would the best thing that could happen, we have been engaged in invalidating others while trying to find validation from everything else but the Lord!
How do we reverse the cycle of invalidation that has crippled our relationships across the board?
Let me suggest three key things:
We start by becoming emotionally mature and whole. I have really come to believe that emotional health and wholeness is a vital part of being a strong follower of Jesus Christ.
Dr Bob Kellerman of RPM Ministries (www.rpmministries.org) suggests that “emotions are windows to the soul. All emotions, positive or painful, open doors to the nature of reality. Emotions link our inner and outer world. But we want to escape the reality of both. The Scriptures teach that the suppression of feelings is a refusal to face the sorrow of life and our hunger for heaven. It is not a mark of maturity. Our refusal to embrace our feelings is an attempt to deal with a God who does not relieve our pain.”
He goes on to say “emotions are God-given. They are not satanic. Adam had them before the Fall. God has them. Christ has them. In and of themselves, they are not sinful. They are beneficial, and yes, even beautiful.”
Some of us are simply more emotional than others. We express our feelings quite freely and others of us are not so emotional, we tend to privately express our emotions. But all of us have emotions and it is part of being created by God.
To validate people’s emotions takes the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lots of listening, and emotional maturity. Easier said than done, I know. And in my own journey I have moved in the direction of emotional health and maturity as I have learned to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, feel and own my own feelings.
The second thing I think we need to do is to admit, then process, and learn from our feelings again with the Spirit’s help. Now to some of us this might appear to be weird and ‘touchy feely.’ It isn’t.
One of things that I have had the touching privilege of watching over the years are several individuals who have come to the place of a more peaceful and God centered life as they have admitted to, processed, and learned from their feelings as part of taking responsibility for their lives and overcoming despair and even depression. It was not an overnight process. It was, at times, a frustratingly period of starts and stops. But, with God’s grace and help, they learned, that emotional health and maturity was part of becoming a person who learned to validate themselves and others in a new and honest way.
This is not just about a humanistic view of life. This is not just some positive psychology thingy. I think that one of the most important aspects of the Great Commandment, loving your neighbor as yourself, has to do with the practice of validating people. But in loving your neighbor as yourself (which includes validation), you have to love yourself. To do that requires a continuous commitment to the Lord which includes emotional maturity.
Jesus is our example here. He validated people, certainly as He called them to change, and called them to follow Him, but also as a means of making clear the profoundness of God’s grace and mercy. He did so out of an emotionally matured heart.
Finally we need to practice, as our handout for this morning states, good words.
In Philippians 4:8 we read these words: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
One of the challenges to validation is the thoughts that we think. The words we speak are often the messengers of our thoughts. So to speak validating words we have to think validating thoughts. Our handout makes that clear with point number one.
Jesus likewise affirms the link between our thought life and our words when he speaks about the spiritual clarity, or lack there of, in our hearts and what comes out of our mouths as we read in Luke 6:45. “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
Now while I will readily admit that I sometimes do not say what I am thinking because such restraint is very important and necessary at times, The words that come out of our mouths reflect what is in our hearts and if validation is not in our hearts because we have both chosen for it not to be there and also because we have not allowed the Lord to cleanse our hearts, then our words will be invalidating words and we also live as invalidating people.
As I reflect on these three actions: allow for feelings to be experienced and expressed; appropriately process our own emotions; and intentionally, with the Spirit’s help think and speak words of validation, a question come to my mind that I think summarizes the importance of living a life of validating people.
What do you want your last words to be to those you love and care about?
It will soon be 20 years since my father passed away. My dad was a servant. He served the local churches we attended as a family very well. He was trusted by the pastors who served us and I think, was a source of help to those pastors.
I was finishing up my second master’s degree when word came from my mom that dad had experienced as serious heart attack. I postponed a final exam and headed home the next morning.
I spent five days with my dad before I left him for what would be the last time. Over the next two weeks they attempted to correct his very blocked arteries but was unable to do so.
Two days before he died I had what was to be my last phone conversation with him. I was underemployed at the time and was looking for a ministry position to fill (which would not happen until 15 months after his death.)
As we started to hang up my dad said to me with a quietness in his voice that I had never heard, “I am praying that the Lord will lead you to the right job.”
Those were words of validation. Those are words that I will remember for as long as I am able to remember them. They helped me stay steady as I navigated through the transitional period I was in.
What do you want your last words to your children, your family, your friends to be? Words of invalidation or validation?
Christ came to release us from the wounds of invalidating words and actions. He understood what it meant to be invalidated.
What is the Spirit saying to you this day?
I pray that each of us will be open to the Spirit this morning and in the mornings to come to so that we will heal with our words and actions and as we do, the grace of our Lord and Savior will work through our words and actions of validation and accomplish His redemptive purpose in people. Amen.