a prayer for a breezy, chilly, bluesy Wednesday

Lord, my body’s weary, but I didn’t sleep well last night or the night before last night or the night before the night before last night. Rather, hour after hour, through teary eyes, I stared above, watching ambient light dance across the ceiling, but really, trying to see…trying to find You…

For my weariness and teariness, Lord, are conditions, disorders, now, seemingly chronic, begotten of my feeling about, fretting over situations in this world. This world that Your Father made and gave into human care. This world that Your Father sent You to save. This world, it’s clear to me, for which we humans have not cared very well. This world where it’s sometimes unclear to me where I must look (having longed, yet failed) to see evidences of Your salvation.

This past Sunday, Lord (though I know You know), twenty-six of Your disciples, gathered in Your Name, were shot to death, half of them children, Lord, and twenty more wounded. I remember Your word about those Galileans who, when offering ritual sacrifice to Your Father, were slain on the order of Pontius Pilate.[1] So, yes, Lord, I know that to gather in worship, whether in a Baptist church in Texas, the temple in Jerusalem, or anywhere is no bulwark of safety from violence wrought by human will, whether at the hand of a lone gunman, at the point of a soldier’s spear, or by any other means. Yet, Lord, their murders, any murders, all murders grieve my soul.

So, today, Lord, after sleepless Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights, on this breezy, chilly, bluesy Wednesday, I, weary and teary, feeling…being lost, am trying to find You. Yet, Lord, even…especially amid my weariness and teariness, I have faith in You and Your Love. I remember Your parable about having a hundred sheep, losing one, and leaving the ninety-nine to go in search for that wandering one.[2] Lord, I’ve often wondered about this. It doesn’t make sense to me for You to do that. But, then again, my faith doesn’t make sense, for it (as is true of its object; that’d be You, Lord!) is beyond the fullest, even faintest comprehension of my reason. So, Lord, though it makes no sense, in faith in You and Your Love, please, I pray You, come find me.

Amen.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Luke 13.1

[2] Luke 15.3-7

“My God, why?”

a sermon, based on Matthew 26.14-27.66, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017

“Ēli, Ēli, lema sabachthani?”[1]

Of all the words of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ring in undeniable harmony with the human cry of sorrow and shame provoked by the experience of betrayal and abandonment.

Jesus was betrayed by Judas with a kiss.[2]

Kiss of Judas (1304–06), Giotto (1266-1337), Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

I wonder. What kind of kiss was it? An apologetic, ambivalent brush against the cheek; Judas, for the sake of his own survival, with the opposition against Jesus growing fiercer by the day, turned him in, but now had second thoughts? Or a bruising, resentful crush of lips on lips; Judas, disappointed, angry that Jesus wasn’t as he had hoped, a mighty militant Messiah who would run the Romans out of Palestine? Or a mercenary, eyes-wide-open peck on the forehead; Judas, for purely material gain, selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver?

Whatever. It really doesn’t matter. Judas betrayed Jesus with an act of familiarity, even fealty.

Anything like this ever happen to us? Anything like this ever been done by us? Severing a relationship with a loving gesture; a kiss or a seemingly tender word, for example, the now-proverbial, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Jesus was abandoned by Peter, the chief disciple.

The Denial of Saint Peter (1610), Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Peter declared his loyalty to Jesus. “I’ll never desert you!”[3] Then, under the pressure of self-preservation, his confidence overcome by cowardice, he blurted out his betrayal, “I do not know the man!”[4]

Anything like this ever happen to us or been done by us? Standing apart from another, even a former dear friend. Ignoring phone calls and email. Averting the eyes to evade a needy look. Avoiding past meeting places and potentially awkward encounters. Perhaps, in fairness to ourselves, under the pressure of changing circumstance, not knowing what to say or do, nevertheless, acting as if the other didn’t exist.

Jesus was betrayed by Pilate, the Roman governor.

Pilate Washing His Hands (c. 1655-1660), Luca Giordano (1634-1705)

Pilate believed Jesus was innocent. Yet, bowing to mob-rule, he symbolically washed his hands;[5] for the sake of political expediency, abdicating his responsibility to do the admittedly risky, but right thing and free Jesus.

Anything like this ever happen to us or been done by us? Having the authority, the ability to act to benefit another, yet, in response to our preference or prejudice or fear, choosing not; thus, leaving the other to face loss or to lose face.

My point? Jesus’ experience reflects, is our experience. People fail us. We fail people. We know the experience of Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and Pilate’s dismissal in receiving and giving. It never feels good, never is good when it happens, whether to us or by us.

Yet more…most devastating, Jesus was abandoned by God.

Crucifixion (c. 1618-1620), Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

“My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the prayer of one who believed he was following, fulfilling his life’s calling, yet found himself plunged into a bottomless pit of lonely Godforsaken suffering. “My God” (I do not question your existence, but) “why have you forsaken me?” (I do question your silence!).

Anything like this ever happen to us? Believing, trusting in God, then, at a time of crisis, at a critical, crucial, crucifying moment our calls, our cries for help answered by silence; feeling abandoned and the absolute absence of any sense or solution. We pray it doesn’t happen often, for it’s the sort of thing from which we don’t, can’t recover soon or at all.

Jesus cried, “My God, why?” I wonder. What did Jesus think, feel when the divine response was a deafening silence. Matthew doesn’t speculate, telling us only that “Jesus cried again…and breathed his last.”[6]

Perhaps this is the lesson of the cry of Jesus, the lesson of the cross, the lesson of any crucifixion. To yield to the experience. To surrender in the fight to find sense amid nonsense. Metaphorically, but no less truly, to breathe one’s last. For only then, if there is to be a resurrection, can it come.

 

Illustrations:

Kiss of Judas (1304–06), Giotto (1266-1337), Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

The Denial of Saint Peter (1610), Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Pilate Washing His Hands (c. 1655-1660), Luca Giordano (1634-1705)

Crucifixion (c. 1618-1620), Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Footnotes:

[1] Matthew 27.46

[2] Matthew 26.49-50

[3] Matthew 26.33

[4] Matthew 26.72, 74

[5] Matthew 27.24

[6] Matthew 27.50