It was my honor today to provide the Communion message at church. Per the request of a friend, here is the written-down version of what I said:
"Hi. My name is Joseph Porter, and I am a sophomore at Harvard College. I’d like to share briefly about some of what the cross means to me.
How many of you guys are stressed out about finals right now? I know I am; I have three in the next week. It’s tough, isn’t it? When I’m studying for a final and I’m lonely and it’s three in the morning, it’s hard to feel like God loves me. I’m literally too tired to feel loved by God.
Of course, finals aren’t the only thing that can make it hard for us to feel loved by God. There are times when we can be too hurt to feel loved by God, too depressed to feel loved by God, too outraged to feel loved by God. There are times when we can want nothing more than to cry, to forget, to escape, to scream, Why? Why did my girlfriend break up with me? Why did I lose my job? Why did my husband die in Iraq? Why does my kid have cancer?
I think about some of the things I have seen happen to people around me. I remember when I was seven years old and I found out that I was leaving the United States and all of my friends and everything I knew for a different country. I remember crying and asking my mom if I could hang out with my best friend one last time. I remember crying when I visited an orphanage for children with cerebral palsy. Their bodies were stunted and they were crying for their mothers, and I just couldn’t bear it. Why? Why should I trust You, God? How can this suffering all be worth it?
God could have just given us a point-by-point answer to these questions. He could have simply said, 'Trust me, it’s for the best. My ways are higher than your ways; it’ll all work out.' But He did something much, much better instead: He gave us His Son.
Why should we trust God that it will all be worth it? My answer is the cross. The cross, to me, says this: 'I love you, and I know that you are suffering. So am I. I know that you are wounded. So am I. I know that you are broken-hearted. So am I. How do you know that I love you? This is how you know: Jesus Christ laid down his life for you.'
What’s crazy isn't that an all-powerful God would let mankind suffer. What’s crazy is that an all-powerful God would let Himself suffer. That is why the cross is the ultimate proof of God’s love; as John 3:16 famously says, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.'
As many of you know, Jon and Rachel were engaged yesterday, and Jay and Alex were engaged just a couple weeks ago. Because of all the recent engagements, I’ve been thinking about what it means for the Church to be the Bride of Christ.
Let’s fast forward to Jay and Alex’ wedding. (I’m going to pick on Jay since he’s my cousin.) It’s a beautiful day outside, Jay’s in a nice tux; Alex is wearing a beautiful white dress. Alex walks up to the altar and Jay begins his vow: 'I, James, take you, Alexandra, to be my lawfully wedded wife: to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, but not for worse; for richer, but not for poorer; not in sickness, only in health.' That’d be a pretty pathetic vow. (Hopefully Jay realizes this.)
We all know that that’s not how marriage works. The beauty in a marriage vow doesn’t come from the commitment to someone for better; the beauty comes from the commitment to someone for worse, for poorer, in sickness. The beauty comes from the commitment of the lover to suffer for the beloved. And Jesus is the most reckless lover in history. Romeo doesn't have anything on Jesus. Because Jesus committed to his Bride when doing so meant dying on a cross for his Bride.
There will be times when life will seem hopeless and unfair, when the pain will feel unbearable, when we may want to hate God or to plead with Him: 'My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?' When those times come, remember that Jesus was there, too. Jesus felt the same way. And he endured all that pain and all that God-forsakenness simply because he loved us.
On August 23, 2006, I was baptized into Christ in Davie, Florida. I became Christ’s bride, and this was the vow made to me:
'Your present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in you. I am for you; who can be against you? Who shall separate you from my love? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things you are more than a conqueror. For neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from my love.'
As we prepare for Communion, let us remember that vow and that love."