7 Easter – May 29, 2022
So, here we go again. Another school shooting, additional violence. It stirs up anger, deep sadness, confusion, all sorts of emotions, because here we go again. Nothing’s changed. In our Thursday service, we prayed for radical ideas – because let’s face it, our system is broken on so many levels. And for this to stop, we need to go about things very differently, we need a multi-faceted approach. And so, the question becomes….and now what? Michael K. Marsh, from Interrupting the Silence, also asks great questions.
“What do you see when at the end of the day you look in a mirror? What does your life look like when you compare what you value with what you’ve done? Have you ever gone to bed at night seeing the difference between who you are and who you want to be?
Michael continues: I’ll tell you what I see when I look in the mirror and examine my life. I see a mixture of contradictions and opposites.
I see a face that has smiled with joy and a face that has wept with grief;
I see a face that has beamed with pride and a face that has flushed with embarrassment;
I see a face that has been real and authentic and a face that has hidden behind masks;
I see a face of openness and receptivity, and I see a face that is closed and hardened;
I see a man that values honesty but has at times been dishonest;
I see a man that wants to be loyal but has also betrayed himself and others;
I see a man that has lived with integrity and a man that has compromised;
I see a man who has said one thing and done another;
I see a man that has offered peace and a man that has caused conflict;
I see a man who has done the right thing and a man who has done the wrong thing;
I see a life that is rich in so many ways and impoverished in so many other ways;
I recall times I have acted with compassion and other times I have acted with indifference;
I can name people I have helped and people I have hurt;
I have forgiven, and I have judged and condemned;
I have been at peace and I have been a mess;
I recall times of courage and truth telling and other times of fear and silence;
I have been focused and certain, and I have been lost and confused;
I have been loving and I have been angry and hateful;
I see the beauty of my humanity and the disfigurement of my humanity.
Thank you, Michael for your honesty and vulnerability. I suspect that like me, you can all relate to what Michael sees in the mirror. This “mirror of life reflects the human condition. It asks us to face ourselves. It shows our lives to be a study in contradictions and opposites. The wars and conflicts in our world, the division in our country, and the dysfunction in our families reflect the contradictions and opposites that live within each of us.”
And now what? That question again. Well, recognizing the opposites and contradictions in ourselves and learning how to hold them in tension, helps us see this phenomenon in the world around us. It’s not necessarily about eliminating the opposites, it’s about understanding and holding in tension those differences. Our gospel today is known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, the prayer he prayed before his crucifixion. And notice that it is filled with opposites.
“Look at the opposites gathered around the table that evening of the last supper: life and death; the Bread of Life and the devil entering Judas; Peter, the rock on whom the church will be built and the man who three times denies knowing Jesus; Judas, an otherwise faithful disciple who betrays Jesus; and Thomas, the one who declares he will not believe and yet confesses, “My Lord and my God!”. Look at Jesus…both divine and human – Son of God and Son of Man. He celebrated at the wedding in Cana and wept at the grave of Lazarus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he held the will of his Father in tension with his own will.
When we see, really see and acknowledge the tension in our lives and in our world, Jesus’ prayer takes on a more profound meaning and a greater urgency. Jesus repeatedly prays that we might become one. He asks for us the same oneness that he and his Father share. His prayer expresses our own deep yearning for wholeness and names the reality that our lives and our world are divided and fragmented. That’s the human condition. It’s who you are and who I am. Jesus sees the reality of what is and has a vision for what can be.
And now what? On this somber Memorial Day weekend, when we remember those who died on our behalf, so that our lives might be better; on this somber weekend when we struggle with the horror of yet more mass shootings and the tragic loss of such young lives – may we look in the mirror and pray for that oneness that Jesus prayed. May we look in the mirror and say to ourselves, “and now what?”. May we pray for some radical ideas for change so that we might act on them and work toward an end to mass shootings, to war, to find the ways that lead to life. Abundant life in Christ Jesus. A life that recognizes our interconnectedness. We were born to be in relationship. Relationship with God and with each other. We were given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit empowers us to live for God. But the power God gives us, writes Henri Nouwen, “is not the power that controls, dictates, and commands; (rather) it is the power that heals, reconciles, and unites.” We receive this power – the power to heal, reconcile and unite – through our union with God. The Spirit empowers us to be healing presences in the world, to be channels of God’s compassion and blessing and peace to all whom we meet.
The Spirit comes as an Advocate, a Teacher, a Guide, to be with us – to remind us who we are and to whom we belong, to strengthen us for the task of living as God’s people in the world. It is for this reason that Jesus can offer his disciples – and us – this peace that the world cannot produce or understand, and it is for this reason that he can encourage us to let go of fear and anxiety.
Come, Holy Spirit, come! Allow us to see, really see, Your power and love when we look in the mirror. Encourage us to take action in our lives that promotes the well-being of all of our brothers and sisters in this world, because we are all connected. Come, Holy Spirit, Come! Amen