July 10, 2016

Pentecost - Proper 10

Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Psalm 25:1-9; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37


I phoned a brother of the cloth yesterday, because I had been struck dumb by the week’s events.  “Friend, I need help.  How are you processing this week?”  He replied, “It seems to me that the whole world is groaning.”  With those words, he unlocked my mind.  His was a reference from Romans 8, which reads: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  My Methodist brother spoke for my anguished and grieving gut, much like the newspaper headlines this morning speak for our shared agony.  The New York Times in particular reads at top in bold “America Grieves.”  Indeed, the world is groaning, and it feels in a way as though everything is at stake.

The isolated are tired of being forgotten.  The rejected are tired of feeling shamed.  The historically slaughtered are tired of being killed.  The historically privileged feel set up to fail.  The world would seem to be groaning as though deep at its core, it is begging us to renegotiate.

Oh dear God, how to ensure that this deep and sustaining pain we are feeling is the pain of labor and life to come?  How can we know if these are the pains of the end times or the pangs of new opportunities ahead?

Dominique Christina in a recent book of feminine archetypes introduces the myth of the Wombed Woman.  The Wombed Woman is the mother, the matriarch, the widest door, the best love, the first nourisher, the one who lays down facing death as she gives birth.  In so doing, she herself becomes an earthquake.  The wombed world would seem to be groaning in just such a way.

With so much killing and violence across lines of different, it would seem that we human beings have come to overall hate each other. But if we people are taken as one, singular human race, then the assessment changes.  It would seem instead that we suffer from a state of hating ourselves.  Perhaps we hate that we have bought and sold each other.  Perhaps we are disgusted by the ways we have sometimes used our land.  Maybe our stomachs and heads hurt from constantly overdriving everything, but yet we cannot seem to stop.  Like the mythical Hound of Hades, that three-headed dog that was said by the ancient Greeks to guard the gates of the underworld, we are faced with the question of which mouth of our humanity to feed?

We seem stuck, and the mystics of our tradition have their own word for ‘stuckness.  They call it sin.  And for sin our mystics offer the remedy of repentance.  Meister Eckhart in particular said there are two kinds of repentance.  One is of time and senses.  The other is supernatural.  The first always declines into greater sorrow and a deep lament that becomes despair.  Nothing can come of it.  Divine repentance, however, takes self-loathing and lifts it up to God.  The greater the sin and weakness, wrote Meister Eckhart, the greater the potential to bind to God in undivided love. [1]

God’s promise as delivered by Moses in today’s first reading from Leviticus is a speech that intends to inspire repentance and renegotiation.  The people Israel are a fallen, dejected, exiled and physically scattered people.  And Moses is trying to scoop them back up into the hands of God and a meaningful narrative of their divinity and spiritual prosperity.  They have been brutalized by the Babylonians.  Their land has been pillaged.  Their women have been raped.  They are beaten and dejected and seemingly detached from their God.  So Moses – in spite of their pain – calls their suffering sin and invites them to bind themselves anew to God.  It is a refreshment and renewal of the original covenant at Mount Horeb.  It is the half-time speech of half-time speeches.  Moses attempts not only to rebuild moral but also to call a people to save itself.

Anyone can go to the web to reference revered half-time speeches that inspire a team which is behind to make come back to victory.  In those speeches are heard similar appeals and themes as in this Mosaic narrative.  One theme that you will find repeatedly in those game-changing sports talks is the theme of heart.  They insist that making a comeback from pain and loss or mistakes and bad strategy – or sorrow and sin – requires the full force of the heart.  Now retired, former NFL player, Ed Reed, can be seen on YouTube in a video from his college career in Miami.  It is fourteen seconds long.  One assumes as the video begins that Reed’s teammates have just expressed genuine concern for an injury he has sustained.  He screams at them in anger from the deep core of his being as though they are missing the point.  He seems furious that they are focused on his impairment rather than their responsibility as a team to survive and thrive.  “I’m hurt dog!  Don’t ask me if I’m alright!  Hell no!  …. But I’m puttin’ my heart into this &*$%, so let’s go!”

If we as the human race have so come to hate ourselves that we are constantly and brutally killing each other.  If we have negotiated terms with one another and with God such that we have become this angry and this brutal, then let us put the whole force of our heart into a repentance that would bind us to the love that lays down with death in order to birth life through the force equivalent to that of an earthquake.  If we have to, in order to learn to love ourselves again, then let us renegotiate.  Let us renegotiate everything.