What becomes of the broken hearted…?
I have been reflecting this week on a question asked many years ago by Motown singer Jimmy Ruffin in a hit, “What becomes of the broken hearted?”
Forgive me if it wasn’t your style of music in 1965, or if you weren’t yet born, but Easter is a time for a healing of broken hearts and for people to find new life from their despair and grief.
I thought of the disciples locked away with their grief and fear when I heard the song somewhere in my memory: “What becomes of the broken hearted? Who had love that’s now departed,” and then, perhaps, the verse ends with their prayer, “I know I’ve got to find some kind of peace. Help me, please.” The dreams they had have all been broken and they had visions of many things, but happiness is just an illusion filled with sadness and confusion. I walk in shadows searching for light; cold and alone, no comfort in sight, hoping they bring, oh someone who cares always moving and going somewhere. Have a listen if you can https://youtu.be/UQU4sIn96M4 Can you imagine how the disciples were feeling when Love seemed to have departed and all their dreams and visions were broken?
The answer to the question in that Motown song of 1965 is in the Easter story because it is more than a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. This IS the raising of a group of people from despair so that they can live again to continue the work that Jesus was sent to do. The broken hearted become the Body of Christ in the world when they meet Love breaking into their presence and showing that however deep the wounds God will heal and lead us out of our darkness. Jesus is a seed that had to fall and die to multiply so that we, as Church, become the harvest field. I’m not a farmer, but I assume that if a seed clings to the stalk and refuses to fall it won’t find new life in the soil! It will die where it is instead of finding new life.
As we continue through the Easter season God is raising us up from our despair, leads us out of darkness and kindles hope from the ashes when Jesus walks into our lives and breathes his Spirit into us. It is the experience of Lela Burbridge who is our guest speaker this evening. The first book she wrote is about how she reclaimed her story from the ashes of her childhood and the title of the second is a good summary of how it happened: ‘Dare to Trust God’s Word — the foundation of all hope.’ We can often be like Thomas and doubt the stories people tell us, but God will give us our own personal experience that can heal our broken heart. Sometimes we have to touch and see more than once, but there is something amazing about the Love God sends among us: he never fails because he is patient with us and will persevere and, well, you can read it again in 1 Corinthians 13. Love keeps hope and faith singing!
Easter is the story of how Love overcomes death so the broken hearted can be healed and find life — and that is happening for all of us today when Jesus stands among us at the meeting of our eyes, we sing that we love him so our hearts are joined in unity and he takes away our fear. We ARE like the disciples who don’t fully understand scripture, can’t believe that God can raise life from the dead, don’t receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and still doubt when we see and touch the wounds of Love. Oh, we need a lot of convincing so let’s not criticise poor Thomas for his doubting when we are even worse than him! Thankfully, God’s Love will not fail and patience and perseverance will overcome the fear of the world.
Here comes the ‘crunch’ though: it’s for us, you and me, to open our eyes and see, open our ears and hear and open our minds and know that we are growing out of the one seed and will multiply in hope and faith because of that amazing LOVE!
The disciples were broken hearted and what became of them was that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was breathed on them so they were anointed to preach good news to the poor and sent to bind up the broken hearted (Isaiah 61: 1)…. Jesus breaks into the presence of the broken hearted to help them see there is life beyond what they know and that the Spirit of the Lord is on them, or us, anointing us to preach good news to the poor… (Luke 4: 18-19). So if you are “broken hearted” Easter is your time for healing because, as the Psalmist writes (Ps 34: 18): “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Jesus Christ has risen to raise you from your depression, despair and grief so when you see the wounds know that God feels your pain.
I wonder if it is like the game of Chinese Whispers that has concluded with someone saying that Broadway United Reformed Church is closing. Someone phoned me on Wednesday to say that was the rumour and I assume it is because news has got out that I expect to be moving on before the end of the year. Because a minister leaves does not translate to a church closing!
Today please remember Shirley Caddy, a long standing members of our Church family who died on Easter Monday. She hasn’t been able to attend church for a number of years and her son, Victor, wonders whether to plan a service in church followed by cremation or to have one service at the Crematorium to which people who remember her can attend. Some of you who remember her are not yet comfortable in attending church services so one service at the crematorium might be better than two and plans will be made on Monday. Please pray for Victor, family and friends of Shirley.
Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
The United Reformed Church has added its voice to the numerous voices condemning the violence being meted against Myanmar’s citizens and in the face of injustice and oppression, reaffirms its commitment to this biblical mandate and urges its members, and people everywhere, to continue speaking out – with and for the people of Myanmar.
God of justice, we pray for the people of Myanmar;
for democratically elected politicians
who have been prevented from exercising their rightful authority,
for those who have grasped power, through force of arms
and for all those whose families, lives and livelihoods are at risk.
God of freedom, we pray for those who have been imprisoned
simply because they have protested
or been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
God of peace, we pray for those whose lives are in turmoil;
for those whose loved ones have disappeared,
for those who continue to protest peacefully despite the dangers.
God of life, we ask that through our prayers and action,
and through the efforts of all those working for peace and justice,
the people of Myanmar will know your justice, your freedom, your peace,
and the fulness of life you promise.
AND A PANDEMIC PRAYER
we never thought it would be like this,
we can’t think straight.
Yet blinded by your radiance
we know that
you alone make all things new,
in our loneliness and hunger of heart,
you restore us to new life
in Christ Jesus,
and we bless you.
May his risen power be strong within us
and bless us with his peace,
that we may face adversity with courage
and grow in love for you and for each other.
The Revd Fleur Houston, retired minister and member of Macclesfield & Bollington URC
God Bless, Richard