Have you ever been broken? Do you know what if feels like to be broken? So far at the bottom of the pit that you can hardly see the light at the top?
The Velez family has been reminded what being broken feels like. You see a couple of years ago, their son, 23-year-old José Velez, was killed in Iraq. He had been on an operation near the Iraqi city of Fallujah. His unit came under fire trying to clear an enemy stronghold. After that funeral, José’s younger brother, Andrew, who was also a soldier, accompanied his brother’s body back to the states. The family has endured the stinging loss of José for a few years now. Well, not long after this happened, tragedy struck again. The Velez’s other son, Andrew, was on patrol in Afghanistan after he returned to duty. And he also was killed in the line of duty.
So, this family lost both of their sons in the course of a few months. In an interview, Roy Velez, the boys’ father, said, “I'm going to miss them for a long time. I can't be angry. I feel like my heart's been pulled out. We've done what the Lord allowed us to do for our country.”
What can you say to Roy Velez? What can you say to someone who is broken? What can you say to someone who experiences the pains of death, or ruined relationships, sin, brokenness?
People in a state of brokenness often return to one question: Is there any hope? People in a state of brokenness need to know they are not alone. They need to be reminded that someone is there to hold their hand in the midst of grief.
I want you to know that God has given us just such an opportunity. And to be honest, God has always given His people that opportunity. What set this God of Israel apart from all other so-called gods was His desire to be close to His people. If you read stories of ancient gods of the near east, the story is always the same. The gods created humans to do the work of the gods, so they could live their lives in leisure. Humans were the slaves of the gods! This was true with Egypt and Greece and Rome, but not so with Yahweh! As we’ve been talking about throughout this summer, The Lord is in our midst! God was with His people, Israel, through the prophets, and God is with us today through His Spirit.
The God of Israel devised a plan very early in history to be close to His people. He walked with Adam in the garden, but sin entered shortly thereafter. And that is a problem for God! I John tells us that God is light. Where there is sin, God cannot be. Something had to be done! Why? Because God couldn’t tolerate a world in which He couldn’t be in relationship with us! So, God devised a sacrificial system that we find in Leviticus. We think of this as just a list of dos and don’ts. But don’t fall into that trap. This is the system that God devised for one purpose, so God could be close to us. Humans were forgiven after sacrifices, they were made pure. Just for a few moments until they let sin cover them again. But God wanted so desperately to be near us, a few moments would have to do. It would have to do until a more permanent system was in place.
With the cross of Christ, God figuratively opened up the gates to the Garden once again. Allowing you and me to walk with the Creator in the cool of the day. Allowing you and me, fallen as we are, to experience the majesty of the Holy God. Do you understand how special it is for a broken people to enter into the presence of the Holy God? Listen to one of my favorite passages of Scripture:
READ ISAIAH 6:1–13 CEB
Isaiah entering the throne room of God, a fallen man, a sinful man, a broken man, standing in the presence of God! In that moment, Isaiah realized his inadequacy. He said, “I don’t belong here! I am an unclean man.” But church, I’m here to remind you that our God has the power to make the unclean, clean. And our God has the power to make broken people whole. That’s what God did for Isaiah that day. And would you believe He gives us the same opportunity?
We are about to celebrate the fact that God has opened the doors to His throne room. Because of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you and I have the ability to stand were Isaiah stood. To walk freely into the throne room of God. To experience the holiness of God! This meal that we eat together is more than just crackers and grape juice. It is our communion with God Himself and with each other. In this moment, we are able to do what God has always wanted to do with His people. Something that sin deemed impossible for thousands of years. Something that Abraham and Moses and David could never do. We are able to sit at the table with the Creator of the world.
It is difficult to sit at the table together each week. But I envision what it must have been like for those earliest Christian communities. They were smaller in number. They met in homes. And likely, literally, gathered around a table to share this meal.
Now let me tell you what is so special about sitting at this table. This table tells all of the broken people of the world there is hope. It tells the Velez family this morning there is a God who grieves with you. This table means that we longer have to be broken people because One has already been broken for us.