Proper 13C, In Which I Preach Another Sermon About Hope While Feeling Pretty Darn Hopeless
The readings for this week can be found here (using the Hosea passage)
If you attend the 8:15am service in the Spring you will find that the light comes through the stained glass window in such a way, that the most stunningly beautiful aspect of its composition is the crown of thorns as it sits in the lap of the Mother of God.
It radiates in ruby tones. Standing out against the backdrop of grief, the backdrop of an empty cross from which a body has been taken and not yet risen.
I wonder, if her hands bled, if she clutched at this remnant of her son’s final moments regardless of the thorns.
I wonder at her wounding born of his wounds and I wonder at this peculiarity of this place. This church in which an empty cross adorns our space, but it is not yet the cross from which he rose and remains the place at which he died.
And, yet we turn our faces to the light, tipping our chins upwards to look into the light that beckons. Because while he is dead, we know also he has risen.
On Monday I took communion out into the world, to protestor and police officer alike. Offering it to those whose appointed task kept them from church.
And on Tuesday, I watched as one with whom I’d shared the bread was arrested by one with whom I’d shared the bread.
And, in that snapshot of a moment, a sense of awe consumed me. Broken, rended, separate, yet one. A shared humanity. And, regardless of the events leading up to that moment. And, regardless, of the events to come…
They and we are beloved.
Beloved Children of God, beloved children of God, joined together in a brief moment when all that matters is the broken bread shared and the love of God revealed.
They and we are beloved. And, when we recognize this, when we recognize each other as beloved, the challenge then becomes to love as God loves us.
The bread did not fix the broken structures. The bread did not prevent the screaming and the cursing. The bread objectively did not solve anything.
But, it held the promise of healing everything. One moment in which police and protestor alike bowed their head to receive a blessing. One moment in which police and protestor alike lifted their hands to receive the bread and hear the words “this is my body, broken for you.”
Without qualification. Without judgment or arbitratration rendered. You are hungry, you will be fed. It is what the psalm promises.
You will be fed, because there is enough for each of you. You will be fed because we will not withhold God’s grace from you. You will be fed, because you have stated so clearly that you are hungry.
Hungry for a new kind of food. Hungry for a different way of being.
Longing for the offered embrace that was not ours to give, but God’s to grant.
Longing to be included, included in the promise of life yet to come.
Longing for the reassurance, that this moment of pain is not the end of the story.
And, this brings me back to the window in this, our sanctuary, a place where invitation is literally spelled out across the chancel steps.
Come, you who are thirsty. Come all those who hear the call. Come.
Come to the table where our sorrow turns to rejoicing and our tears to laughter. Come.
It’s an open invitation to those who can see beyond death and into the life to come. Those who can see the hope that the world so often forgets.
So as the light filters through the glass, we are pointed beyond the moment of death, and it is we who hold onto the hope that Mary and the beloved disciple must have found so hard to grasp. In knowing what we know, and what they have not yet learned, we hold the hope for those who have lost their hope.
I want to be clear—hope is not a platitude, it is not easy and it is not offered as a means to avoid talking about the painful, hard, unjust, frightening and hateful. Our hope looks at death upon the cross and sees something more to the story. We hope despite it all, we hope because of it all.
Our hope leads us to open the doors for those who need shelter, to offer bread to those who need bread. Our hope gathers diapers for those who need diapers, to serve food to those who need food. Our hope shows up. Our hope fills cups. Our hope sings. Our hope creates beauty. Our hope teaches children. Our hope offers blessings. Our hope loves those who can’t love themselves. Our hope listens, knowing that it is God who will call us home.
This story of our stubborn and persistent hope, is the testimony the hopeless, the fearful, and the hate filled in this world need. It is the testimony that Hosea gives to us in the here and the now as well as to those in the once and then. Hosea reminds us who we are and to whom we belong. Hosea points us towards the God who loved us and loves us, the God who has already healed us. The God who stays constant even when rejected, stays present even whilst in pain. The God who cries out for us even when we have forgotten how to cry out for God.
The prophet Hosea’s goal was to point out in the strongest way he knew how, his people’s betrayal of God and God’s continuing love despite that betrayal. And, while Hosea’s extended metaphor of infidelity and punishment is hugely problematic, it was the means by which the prophet sought to express his own understanding of the brokenness of Israel’s relationship with God. But, this week, Hosea moves beyond the brokenness to speak of restoration.
God brings the people home.
When we pair the prophet’s words with the icon before us, we are invited to see as God sees at the foot of the cross…to be in that place of mourning all that has been destroyed, while simultaneously rejoicing at the new life that is to come. This is a place of tension, it is a hard place, where there are no easy answers. It is the place where police and protestor alike, lift their hands, sharing the bread and blessing in one moment and in the next finding themselves bound together by force and reckoning. Both part of the body of Christ, both caught in brokenness, both hoping for more than today.
Isn’t the cross beautiful when the light shines through just so?