Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 17: 22-32; Psalm 66: 7-18; 1 Peter 3: 13-22; John 14: 1-10
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
It is something massive, out of control, and utterly unpredictable. It doesn’t care about your feelings, and it will effortlessly destroy your hopes and dreams in a moment’s notice. But it gets worse, the path of horrible destruction it leaves in its wake is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. To quote the articulate political philosopher Rambo, it is “your worst nightmare.”
I know what you’re thinking – “he’s just talking about Houston Texans horrible season last year” – and while that was a unprecedented disaster, I am actually talking about something worse – the large reptilian monster of Japanese origin whom they call “Gojira,” or as he is commonly known here in the US, Godzilla.
Earlier this week I viewed the latest cinematic incarnation of this cultural icon, and near the end of the film, where the gigantic monster Godzilla unleashes all sorts of destruction on some poor city, knocking down buildings with a swing of his massive tail, his huge fists leveling bridges, airports, and buildings in no time at all.
The theme of unleashing a giant monster on an unsuspecting city, I thought to myself, seems to closely parallel unleashing a new rector on a parish. Without thinking about it, a rector can stomp all over a parish, knocking down programs, destroying long held traditions at the drop of a hat. I think “Godzilla” should be required viewing for all clergy. If you employ the city as a metaphor for the parish, the message is simple – don’t treat the church this way!
Monsters have captured our attention for years. As children, perhaps we believed monsters hid under our beds or in our closets. In our family’s home, sometimes we play a game called “monster” where I become the monster and chase children around the house. As adults, we know that while the monsters of our childhood were mostly confined to our imaginations, in our own adult life we struggle with monsters of a different sort, that seem often more real: addiction, disappointment, failure, depression.
It seems that much of our adulthood is spent in conflict with these monsters, and often we are lulled into believing that if we work hard enough, if we make enough money, or attain an adequate level of success and prestige, the monsters will magically all go away.
But we don’t defeat the monsters of our adult lives by engaging in conflict and struggle with them. Rather it seems that the best way to engage our inner monster is to befriend it. To shine a light on it with reverence and gentleness.
The author of 1 Peter this morning writes that we need to always be ready to make an account for the hope that is within us. It is a compelling verse, because I believe the author is speaking not just about the hope that our faith offers us, but also the hope that even those things of which we have no control – the chaos, the monsters, that they also have something to teach us. The hope that even in the monstrous, God is uniquely present.
If God is present in the chaos, in the monstrous, then what does that say about the Kingdom of God? Perhaps it is a reminder to us that the kingdom of God is not about getting away from our problems, hiding from our monsters, but realizing that God is totally present and supporting us through them? A “monster friendly” theology might invite us to look into the eyes of whatever monster terrifies us most with the hope that is within us, and through that hope, we discover we are actually seeing the eyes of God. Roman Catholic priest and author Thomas Keating writes about the theological worth of monsters, declaring that the kingdom of God “consists in finding God in our disappointments, failures, problems, and even our inability to rid ourselves of our vices.” If your life is imperfect, as mine is, perhaps these words offer much hope to you, as they do me. They offer me a new set of eyes to help me to see the monster for what it really is – something beautiful, something wonderful – God - in clever disguise. AMEN.