Sermon by Guest Preacher - Mar 29, 2018

Lam. 2:10-18   Psalm 102      Mark 14:12-25

This week our homilies are about loss, death, and our hope of resurrection. And as Ernie pointed out on Tuesday, there are often common themes between our readings. Our first reading today is the second of five poems of grief over the fall of Jerusalem.

Why at this point in time have we poems of grief? Nebuchadnezzar controlled the land around Jerusalem. Then the King of Judah died and the new king, King Zedekiah came into power at the age of 21. As our text informs us, he is included in this charge: “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions…have seen oracles for you that are false and misleading.” with the result that he rebelled against Babylon bringing the destruction of Jerusalem and in particular the temple.

Now we can see the picture why we have the elders and the young girls (virgins) reacting to their whole world being destroyed, turned upside down. The kingdom of Judah is gone; Jerusalem is destroyed; and the focus of their religion, the place where Yahweh dwelt, the Temple destroyed. They are repenting the only way they know; sitting on the ground in sackcloth adorned with ashes, prostrated with heads to the ground.

The charge against the false prophets was “…they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes…” So, there was hope; there was a path to restoration. The weeping prophet, Jeremiah, just a few years before this time was very clear of the result if you just heard the Lords words:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah, 15:16)

Restoration may yet be possible.

Our Psalm today carries the subtitle: “A prayer of one afflicted, when faint and pleading before the LORD.” Not unlike our company in Lamentations, our psalmist is pleading, in my day of distress to not hide your face, listen to me and speedily answer me. I am in a difficult time; my world is upside down. Why answer me?

So that the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem

In our Gospel reading, we have the world view of the disciples continuing to be challenged by parables, miracles, healings, teachings, and prophecies. Passover was coming, so let’s get ready. Jesus starts this preparation by again demonstrating to them, your world does not work as you think — “Go into the city, and a MAN carrying a jar of water will meet you…” Who carried water jars in that day; not men or the man they needed to find would not have been discernable. And during the last supper Jesus continues to explain and show them that “things” are not as they seem; your world is soon going to be rocked, turned upside down again

As we are moving through the acts of passion during this Holy Week, where are you. How many time has your world be turned upside down? You have struggled to find a sense of order, maybe achieved peace, only to come to another awakening? This week I hope you are living in the uncertainty as the disciples did at this time with Jesus. What is coming next? Certainly, the crucifixion. And we know now the resurrection.

What’s your own picture of “resurrection?” In exploring the readings today, we have seen loss, death, and maybe a glimmer of hope of resurrection

I am closing with a poem by Jeremy Driscoll[i], OSB, a poem that challenges stasis and brings, perhaps, a new picture of resurrection for you.

 

AT BEING BURIED, MY SURPRISE[ii]

When they put me down here
—I knew they had to; I was not angry—
I expected only the dark and the damp cold
and long boring years of hoping for the resurrection.
Imagine my surprise, then, when
not ten minutes after they had cried their last and gone
I sensed some…
some breathing coming toward me

through the ground.

It was distant, very distant,
but it was growing stronger,
and it was definitely coming my way.

What was it?

I wondered much and was worried.
Yet as it drew closer, fears faded some
and gave way to—I can only call it—
my curiosity;
for as I say, I had expected nothing

to hold my interest here.

As the breathing drew closer,
I slowly discerned that it was
the breathing of a song
and the growing closer still, I could say
the song of a throng,
and closer still, at last the words:
“Sanctus. Sanctus. Sanctus,”

They cried,

and I perceived this the song of those who had died
and now praised the Lamb
as Lord of heavenly armies.
This song was coming to stir and roll me over
in my grave,
the which it managed
before too long to do.

Then famous people came my way
and other saints from epochs and struggles
I never knew. Wraiths all,
they came round my grave

and breathed their song through my lowly corpse.

Bright Light saw I then
and struggled upward in my spirit

to see clear again. I saw:

A soft green mixed with faint rose
in the robes of a tenors’ chorus,
and as their song passed through my being
a kind of recognition quivered
in both them and me:
Lovers of Christ. Brothers of Christ.

Robed in colorly glory.

Toward my toes, white robes marked a virgins’ chorus,
a crowd mixed with mothers and martyrs,
both clothed by red.
Blue was there too on many whom I saw,
Blue and every color of an autumn.
Not one there was
unmagnificent
undazzling,

No one unshining.

All, in fact, was now a shining and a sound
Moving through my plot of ground.
And I was being blended to their Light
and so sang with them,

“O Might. Might. Might-y Lord!
How vast, how glad this saved hoard!
How breathe we twice,
unsnared from vice?
O Might. Might. Might-y Lord!”

Straining further these new senses mine,
I tried to gaze where these veterans stared.
What cared I more that I was dead?
I turned with these toward Christ our Head
And sang with them the gladsome song:

Sanctus. Sanctus. Sanctus.
Dominus Deus Sabbaoth.

O gentle friends among the living still,
you yet but half alive,
pass by this plot with care
“A graveyard is a spooky spot,” you’ll say;
but the ground a different story would to you now tell.

Destined to be on the Last Day
the place of a most amazed upstanding,
it is already stirring.
It is already moved.
It is already singing.

Amen

[i] Fr Abbot Jeremy Driscoll is a patristic scholar and the current abbot at Mount Angel Abbey near Salem, OR

[ii] Driscoll, Jeremy. Some Other Morning, 1992. Story Line Press, Brownsville, OR. Pp 33-36.