Good Friday 2016
“Well, I don’t know why I came here tonight, I got a feelin something ain’t right…, Clowns to the left of me — jokers to the right — Here I am — stuck in the middle with you…” Steelers Wheel — from the movie Reservoir Dogs — captures the mood of our service this evening.
Being stuck in the middle is not a comfortable place to be, just think of getting the middle seat on an overbooked airplane. Or think of being at a stand still, idling on I-5. We are often stuck in the middle, between yesterday and tomorrow, between yes and no, between going forward or retreating.
The words of this song aptly describe the position of Jesus at this moment; stuck between two thieves, stuck between a jeering mob and people who love Him, stuck between earth and heaven.
What to do? There were many moments in the Passion Story where Jesus might have opted out to change the ending of the story, but He didn’t. Jesus believed in His mission, maintained His integrity and stayed true to His and His heavenly Father/s fundamental option for the poor and the oppressed. Integrity is not a virtue vividly evident in our society, certainly not in our politics at the moment. Integrity is a gritty and strong virtue that has real consequences and to achieve it we need to get comfortable being stuck in the middle.
St. Francis stood in this position with the poor of Assisi. Gandhi stood in this position with he poor of India against the powerful British Empire. Martin Luther King stood for the rights of blacks in our own country, Archbishop Romero stood in the breach for the poor of El Salvador, Mother Theresa for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, Dorothy Day on the streets of NYC, those on flight 93 that crashed in a Pennsylvania farm on 911. These people all believed in their mission, stood fast and accepted the consequences.
I think I can presume that none of us consider ourselves in league with the likes of these people and yet, we are. They are our sisters and brothers; their lives call out the best in us. They have lived the great truth of the cross and the heresy that I love to proclaim — Jesus doesn’t save us from anything but shows us the way through — redeems all of our doubts, fears and anxieties leading us to new life. All these people began in a life blessed with all they need and yet each of them heard the cry of the poor and responded with their lives no matter the cost. They caught the spirit of integrity of the cross, the life and mission of Jesus and asks us to go and do the same.
We are living amid much fear and anxiety — some are calling us to retreat and give up our cherished values of justice and acceptance so all can pursue a life of freedom and liberty. The cross calls us to utter a profound NO to retreat and a profound YES to all calling out to us in desperation. We can be the clowns or jokers to the left and the right or we can take up our cross and revel that we are stuck in the middle with each other as we trudge the road of new and fuller life for all.
Easter Homily 2016
Tonight we remember our origins and celebrate our destiny. We began in darkness, hearing the Spirit of God hovering over troubled waters, and we end in communion at the banquet of the Lord. Each year we Passover, from fear and slavery to new life in Christ. We remind ourselves that we are Kingdom people, we are living and growing in the realm of Christ’s victory over darkness, fear and death and learn each year the LOVE is stronger than death.
Outside the city of Portland is shrouded in the darkness of nightfall. There are a multitude of darknesses in almost every corner of our planet. Hatred, war, terror, the homeless and hungry, greed and narcissism, the darkness of ignorance and and apathy. So much darkness we can be brought to our knees. When we are brought to our knees, we might, just might hear the silence in the darkness. “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…” It is in darkness and silence that God spoke the first creative Word.
Perhaps the greatest darkness we feel is the darkness of grief and loss. Grief over the death of someone we loved to be sure. Then there is the darkness of hopelessness, that life isn’t turning out the way we expected it to be. There is a line of dialogue in the movie the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that goes: “will you stay? I don’t know what I shall do, nothing has worked out quite the way I expected. Most things don’t but what happens instead is the good stuff.” That movie is all about letting go, plunging into darkness and finding new life on the other side.
The strong women in this evening’s Gospel rise up in the darkness of early morning. Undeterred they go to the tomb, ignore the stone that has been rolled away and plunge into it’s darkness to find even more darkness; the one they loved is not there. In the darkness they remember, remember the hope and the life that Jesus promised and their first response is to run to the others, to run to community. This is when the good stuff really begins. I believe there is a lot more dialogue, a lot more chatter than what is presented in the Gospel stories. Can you imagine the excited chatter as each try to fill in the blanks of what others have just said. “Well, Jesus said this, and Jesus said that, and Oh, oh, do you remember when he…. the list must have been endless and excited.
The question in the movie and the question in the Gospel is “will we stay?” There are two places where I feel very safe, in the rooms of AA and here with you in prayer. Both places are places where I can plunge into what ever darkness I am experiencing, here I can bring my brokenness, fears, anxieties, failed hopes and dreams. This is where we can bring all of that and have it transformed into light.
We are Kingdom people. We are the salt of the earth and light for the world. Here we receive the strength to light up all the dark corners of our world, to care for the poor and oppressed. This table unites heaven and earth, and this table draws us together to be promise and h