Epiphany 4A – January 29, 2017

January 29, 2017, Epiphany 4A

Do you remember back in the summer time when we were reading these obscure texts from the prophets and these odd passages of the Gospel? As a sermon writer I there were some Sundays when I beat my head against a wall, not knowing from where I would be pulling a homily or offering a good word. Ahhh, those were the days.

This week God opens a silver platter and says would you like to choose from an excellently known Micah passage, the Beatitudes, or a simple message about the call of a Christian life from Paul? This week I have a smorgasbord of sermon candy available. … And do you know what I would give for a random and obscure text from Hebrews? After all, I am an Episcopal priest, and I can exegete the tar out of an obscure passage. I can go back to the original language, read the text’s truest translation, extrapolate its meaning, and juxtapose it onto an article I read in the New York Times. I can use my brain way of knowing spirituality to perhaps (and sometimes hopefully) separate myself from what I’m feeling. I can use thinking to help me decide the right path.

But today I am angry and sad and tired and a little freaked out. And I do not feel “blessed” or, as other texts translate the beatitudes “happy.” I am mourning, but I do not feel comforted.

I knew a woman once who was the survivor of rape. She was strong and courageous with how she told her story. She had done a lot of healing work to put together the pieces of a once fragmented life. But one thing she couldn’t get over was having her hair pulled. Her family and friends knew this, and she kept it pulled up and pinned in a bun so people would resist the temptation. She said that it doesn’t happen every time her hair is pulled, but sometimes when stressors are built up and her psyche doesn’t feel as strong it can really rehash some horrible memories. The last time he hair was pulled it took her right back to the trauma—back to the scene of the crime and back to a place where she had to gather up some shards of life to try to figure out, once again, how to glue them back together to live her life in a way where she felt safe and whole.

This week our country has had her hair pulled. A lot. This week our country found herself trying to grasp at broken shards of herself that she thought had mended. This week many citizens were traumatized or re-traumatized. This week many people flying into the US were traumatized or re-traumatized. And I am angry and sad and tired and a little freaked out. And I do not feel like talking about doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God. I want my God to come in with blazing fireballs and give me permission to use weapons and to curse (more than I usually do…). I want God to fix this is and fix this now. I want God on my terms. I want Christianity on my terms. I am tired and angry and sad and freaked out. I want control!

And when I want control I don’t want humility or kindness. I sometimes want justice, but if I’m honest and I admit that I want control, I obviously can’t have justice without sharing that power. So then I get mad or sad or scared. And then I forget God or think maybe She’s not as powerful as She said She was. And I mistake God’s silence for lack of presence rather than clearing space.

And so in my tizzy I stopped. Because many of my teachers have shown me that oftentimes when silence is offered and space is cleared, clarity comes.

Blessed are those who mourn.

And my clarity today is that I don’t want to hide my emotions behind a thinking way of being and a thinking spirituality.

Blessed are those who mourn.

And my clarity today is that I do want to preach these beatitudes.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Because I am promised comfort in my grief. Because the actions of grieving give me space to feel authentic feelings and to be broken open.

Blessed are those who mourn.

The [people] Jesus calls ‘blessed’ (or fortunate or happy or well-off or however you translate it) seem far from what the world today would call blessed: the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the poor in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the spat-upon and cursed. Doesn’t really sound like the best of the best and the most successful, does it?” But this blessedness has nothing to do with our merit or worthiness or bootstraps and everything to do with God. It’s about the assurance that God goes with us, that God is present both in our messes and in our marvels. We are not alone.1

Blessed are you when you are broken, because you are broken open.

My friend Eric was once in a motorcycle accident. It wasn’t bad, as far as motorcycle accidents go, but he got some road rash that took its time to heal. After a few months one part of his knee just couldn’t seem to heal correctly. The area was really sensitive and though the skin had grown back, it was inflamed often and sometimes oozy. Eric woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain. His wife drove him to the ER, where they discovered that he had a pretty horrible infection that looked like it might be spreading. It turned out that there was a little bit of gravel that never came out of the wound, and even though the skin had grown back, it never healed well. What the doctors ended up having to do was to remove that new skin, and basically use the surgical equivalent of a scouring pad to scrub into the wound. Later it required a lot of gentle, cleansing towel wipes and changes in dressing too. It was a painful process from beginning to end, but Eric’s newly broken skin and scouring wounds gave way to a different dimension of healing.

Blessed are you when you are broken, because you are broken open.

Friends, we have reached a time in our lives when it is quite obvious that a space is being created—a breaking open of new and old wounds. And what we do with this time of being broken open matters because it will affect the way we heal. I do not believe I need to tell this congregation to call or write their senators. I don’t believe I need to tell this congregation to protest or to stand strong and LOUDLY for what is just and what is kind. If you needed to hear it, you just did. Jump into action and be loud and proud and honest and humble.

What I do believe, however, is that we—you and I—need to walk in the awareness that we are so widely broken open. Our wounds are out. Our hearts are out. Our tears and our sweat are being poured out. And now is the time for an open heart. But now, when the skin is torn off and the raw flesh is vulnerable, is also the time to be careful and gentle and loving with yourselves, and to open to a deeper healing. To clean and re-clean and re-clean these precious wounds—sometimes patting and sometimes scouring. Now is the time to do some mighty powerful healing work.

And if you dare to continue this work of healing—in yourself first, then in your community, then in your world, I believe you will truly know the meaning of “blessed.”

Blessed are you when you are broken, because you are broken open.

1 Sharron R. Blezard “We are Called” from www.stewardshipoflife.org