Sunday, December 7, 2014

Getting Our Tears Back.

MARK 1:1-8
1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in he prophet Isaiah, 
     “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, 
          who will prepare your way; 
3   the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 
          ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, 
          make his paths straight,’” 
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The beginning of the good news of Travon Martin, a son of God.
The beginning of the good news of Michael Brown, a son of God.
The beginning of the good news of John Crawford, a son of God.
The beginning of the good news of Tamir Rice, a son of god.
The beginning of the good news of Eric Garner, a son of god.

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Listen to the beginning of the Gospel of Mark with first century ears. Ears of those who have seen and heard the crucifixion of Jesus. Ears of those who are as intimately connected to what happened on Calvary that dark Friday afternoon as we are to what is happening and has happened in Ferguson, in New York City, in Pittsburgh.

They would respond just as uncomfortably to these words: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God” as we have reacted to this very short list of African American men and boys, gunned down in our cities, in our time, and we feel it straight to the gut.

The good news? Is Mark crazy? This guy Jesus ended up getting himself crucified! He was killed by the Roman guards for sedition, and now these first century Christians are in the middle of a war against that same state and he wants them to believe that this is good news? 
And it sounds so pollyannaish - so trite and easy - or maybe just simply wrong, to proclaim “the good news” of any of these young men, killed too soon, killed, simply, it seems to me,  because they are black. The good news? These young men were killed because of racist systems that have oppressed all of us since the founding of this country.

But it doesn’t seem quite so naive — at least I want so badly to believe it — it doesn’t seem so blindly, falsely optimistic if we remember that Jesus was killed in such an unjust way, too.

And it doesn’t seem so, if we remember that this death, its unjust circumstances, and the terrifying situation that our first century hearers are living in, is the context for which the writer of our Gospel of Mark proclaims, “This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” 

But it’s not good news unless we do the dangerous and heartbreaking work of proclaiming it to be so.
It’s not good news unless we become prophets who cry out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” 

It’s the worst news, news as bad as a dead savior, unless we wait in the darkness, all the way to the end of the night, unless we wait and we cry and we hold on until the dawn.

Our bodies are wracked from all the wandering, all the doing. All the moving and the arguing and the striving and the facebooking.
We come out of the wilderness, out of the darkness, and all we’ve got left are our tears.

Biblical scholar, Walter Bruggeman, says, “The Gospel is a very dangerous idea. We have to see how much of that dangerous idea we can perform in our own lives. There is nothing innocuous or safe about the Gospel. Jesus did not get crucified because he was a nice man.”

Jesus was crucified because he was a minority who pissed off the people in power.
He threatened the status quo.
He upended the tables of power and prestige.
He healed the sick and cured the blind and he mourned with the lost and demanded justice for the poor. 
He threw coins back into the faces of the rich.
He fed crowds and didn’t call it a handout. He called it grace. 
He said we could do all this too.

Jesus was there. He could have been selling cigarettes on the street. He could have been listening to his music too loudly. Could have been playing with a toy gun in the park. Could have been wearing a hoody and the “wrong” skin color.

And Jesus is still here.
Jesus stands in the protests blocking the highways in Ferguson and 376 W in Pittsburgh.
He shouts for justice in the crowds in New York City.
He weeps over the death of these sons with their wives and mothers and children.

A friend of mine went to a protest in North Carolina the other day. And this is what she said, “Last night I was civilly disobedient for the first time. I'm not sure what shutting down the Durham Freeway in protest of police brutality and in remembrance of Eric Garner really does. But I know what it did for me - I got a tiny flash, however passing, however stunted by my middle-class whiteness, of what it's like to be afraid of the police in the US.  And everything really did look different.”

And it is dangerous to proclaim the good news. It’s dangerous to see everything differently. Because it’s shouting into the dark. Into the wilderness. Into the barrel of a gun. 
It’s shouting and crying and protesting and resisting into the prisons and the soup kitchens and homeless camps. It’s crying - weeping even - into the tear gas and the flying batons and rubber bullets. Into the shouting and the fear. Into the brokenness and the faces hidden behind millions of dollars or jihadi masks or behind riot gear.

We are all called to be prophets, ones who enter the wilderness and get lost and do a lot of wandering and who come back to demand justice, who come back looking a little haggard, who come back a little broken, looking a little unsteady.  We’ve got that crazed John the Baptist look in our eye that people get when they have seen injustice and poverty and death straight on and we don’t quite know what to do with it. We’ve got calluses on our feet and blisters on our hands and sunburns even on our eyelids from the wandering and the searching and the getting lost and the coming back again. 

But is it too trite, is it too early to proclaim that the good news is that death and injustice and the tears don’t have the last word?
Is it too easy for me to say because it’s not my son under the ground, not my dad at the morgue? 
I don’t know.
All I know is that I have to hope. I have to hope in this good news. Because I just don’t know what else to do.
The good news is that God entered in to this world, weak and vulnerable and left this world just as weak and vulnerable. And then came back again. And still comes back again.

Back to Ferguson. Back to New York City. Back to Cleveland. 
It’s a coming back even as God has been there all along.

That’s Advent.
It’s a waiting for what is already here. 
It’s a waiting for the kingdom even as it is already at hand.
We’re not waiting on God. 
We’re waiting on US.
We’re waiting for us to prepare the way. To make straight the path so that God can come through. 
God is going to do what God does. The question is, will be able to see it? Will we be able to get out of our own way to let it happen in our lives, in our city, in our world?

So it’s an active waiting. 
It’s a crying into the wilderness. 
It’s a confessing of our sins and eating locusts and honey and dunking ourselves in rivers and rivers of tears.
It’s the subversive practice of sabbath as resistance.
Resistance to the anxiety and the coercion and exclusivism and the multitasking that keeps us from demanding justice. 

Weeping. Mourning. Crying out. This is true sabbath. A rest from all the doing. A living in to, and a full feeling of the horrors of this world and demanding “why?” demanding change, proclaiming that this is not the way God intends them to be.
Because only our tears will save us now.
Only the cry of “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” is an acceptable response to what has happened in our country, what happens in our city, in this very neighborhood, every damn day.

That’s the cry of a prophet. That’s the crying out into the darkness. Into the wilderness. 
It’s a weeping.
It’s a mourning.

Go into the wilderness and get your tears back. Get your tears back from the folks who told you to “man up” when you scraped your knee.
Get your tears back from the patriarchy that said that you were a baby, a weak little girl, when you cried about your lost doll.
Get your tears back from the stoic demands of our society that claims there is no time to mourn, only time to go and go and go and do and produce and make and earn and acquire and go and go again.
Get your tears back.

And then go and baptize each other with your tears. 
Cry together.
Come together for Sabbath and let us mourn. Let us lament. 
This is how we prepare the way. 
God is here. God is listening.
The tears are the beginning. 
This is the beginning of the good news of all these innocents, sons of God.
This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 

This is just the beginning.
It’s going to get darker.
It’s going to get harder.
You’ll feel lost in the wilderness.
We are so sad. So lost. So helpless.
We are weak and tired.
And the darkness is so terrifying.

But cry out. 
Cry into the darkness anyway.
Be a prophet. Prepare the way.
Cry out and march and shout and hold on.
Baptize each other with your tears.

This is just the beginning.
Hang on.
Wait. Prepare the way.
The dawn will come.

This is the beginning of the good news of the children of God.

Thanks be to God.

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