Pentecost – Proper 28
Daniel 12: 1-3, 14-25; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10: 11-14, 19 -25; Mark 13: 1-8
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
So I typically write my Sunday sermon on Mondays. Mondays tend to be rather quiet days at the church, and they are a perfect time at least for me to thing and reflect upon the scriptures that are appointed for this day. This, by the way, is a peak behind the curtain for any of you who might lose sleep over such things as when I find time to write these things. I am spilling all my secrets now! I didn't write my sermon on Monday of this week however because of a funeral that was here that took up much of the day.
So I instead wrote this morning’s sermon on Friday of this last week. I was happy with it because it tied into this morning’s Gospel about Jesus predicting the destruction of the temple, and it gave me a chance to offer an alternative interpretation to last week's Gospel about the poor widow offering her two copper coins to this temple that would be destroyed.
I left town Friday evening to go on a Cub Scout camp out and all seemed right at least with my small insignificant world until a news update on my phone pinged, and I read in my tent next to my sleeping son the horror that befall nightclub in Paris in which over one hundred and twenty people were murdered in the name of religion - the most violent act in Paris since World War II. This came one day after another attack in Beirut where two suicide bombers killed 43 people and wounded more than 200.
Whatever meaning the sermon I wrote two days ago had, it washed away like a current drifting from the shore into a sea of helpless darkness. So I started again, typing out new words – these words - on my phone yesterday afternoon, a small attempt to shine a light in a world that has grown dark once again.
Friday morning I attended a breakfast for the Monarch School, where my oldest son James attends. It is a school for children with neurological differences. A teacher spoke that morning about a field trip she took with her class room to the Rothko Chapel in Montrose. The chapel is a dramatic building, featuring many dark paintings of black landscapes created by the abstract expressionist painter and Russian born Jew, Mark Rothko. The effect these dark monolithic paintings create when you walk into this space is overwhelming. It is like walking into a universe, and as you stand in the midst of that darkness, you are meant to feel small. The teacher recalled how that day one of her students, a boy, stood before the dark painting as something about it captured his curiosity. After a while, his back toward his teacher, the boy turned around, looked at his teacher, and smiled. His teacher shed a tear watching this young boy with so many challenges stand in front of the darkness and smile into it.
We are to do the same. The Christian life is defined by being ashamed or afraid of the darkness which surrounds us. In two weeks we will begin the season of Advent where our response to the gathering darkness of the winter solstice is to create light. Two weeks from today we will make advent wreathes for our homes so that we can remember that Christ, the true light of the world, is coming into it. The collect we will pray together the first Sunday of Advent will remind us to put on the armor of light so that we might go into a world darkened by hatred and violence and transform it.
In spite of our ability to do the worst, God refuses to give up on us. God stubbornly refuses to let go of Paris, Beirut, and any other place on the world where the tragedy of violence and life lost has occurred again.
God is living and active in Paris, in Beirut, and in every place darkened by human violence. The darkness is real, but it is nothing more than a speck in the light. Theologian and author Anne Lamott asks us, “What are we to do now? We are to do the next right thing.”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us to take courage during times like these, writing “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Follow God into the darkness, and you will redeem it. AMEN.