St. George Episcopal Church
Tenants Harbor, Maine
July 1, 2018
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
There is a wonderful, probably aprocryphal story of the family visiting the Maine coast from New York City for a summer. Their teenager was bored to tears. One day the boy went up to a fisherman preparing to go out on his boat. Asking him, “What do you people do for excitement around here?” The fisherman replied, “Don’t know, never been excited!”
Well, here is an account of folks who were most excited, From the Gospel of Mark: (our 2nd lesson) When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he entered, he said to them: “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.
This morning, I would like us to reflect on the “commotion” in our midst as a people, as a nation, as a world. There is a divisiveness, there is an anger, much is pitting friends and family against one another. So much is keeping us awake at night:. As W.B, Yeats wrote in his poem “The Second Coming” Turning and turning in the widening gyre. The falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
You can supply the stuff that keeps you awake and I am happy to tell you of mine at any time. But if there a core to this sermon it is to be patient, Paraphrasing what Jesus said to that family in crisis, “We are not dead, but sleeping”.
Jesus, as it so often happened, had a crowd pressing in on him and a prominent man, leader of the synagogue implores the teacher to come to his house as his daughter was dying. I am sure many came to him for help, but he knew on some intuitive level that this was a situation that needed attention, not only for the distraught family, but as a rich opportunity to teach something important.
We all know that anguish in a house where there is grave illness and death.
Jesus presence wasn’t enough to still the commotion so he sent all outside but the immediate family, he goes to the child, takes her by the hand and says: Little Girl, get up. She does, all were amazed – and well might they be.
What did Jesus see, what did he know that all others could not know because of their fear and helplessness – the child was only sleeping.
This is all so human, this is all so true, this is what we all know. Stress, large or small clouds our thinking, our rationale our ability to see clearly what is immediately in front of us. Upon reflection, we might be able to understand the truth that was right in our midst, but in the moment we can be beside ourselves.
What I love about Jesus is what he did for those with whom he walked and talked and struggled, entering their frail humanity with them. AND what I love about Jesus is that he is present in our midst, entering into our own frail humanity.
As he once said to his friends: For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
I love this quotation: “Jesus is the future bubbling up in the present!” Jesus shows us the clarity and truth of what is in our midst, where our own stress and commotion blinds us in seeing. He is our “Spell Check” as we go about with both consternation and joy in the writing of our own stories.
I once heard of a man who was hard at work in his vegetable garden. It came to him, How can you be planting a garden when the world is falling apart around you? He answered himself, Well, for this moment I cannot stop the chaos so I had best do what I can do which is to continue making this the most beautiful garden possible.
This says to me something quite remarkable. I do what I can do in the moment I have and in doing so I am calmed to see more clearly what is possible for me to do about whatever is tearing apart the fabric of our lives: A political system gone awry, a retrenchment in our sense of community and caring for others, homelessness and helplessness among many, many in our midst, withdrawal into the current buzz word being used, tribes, and an incredible violation of human rights in this country and beyond.
So what is Jesus telling us? that in fact we are only sleeping. That there are answers, that there are things you and I can do to respond effectively to those things that keep us awake. I just came across these words the author, Alex Haley lived by: Find the good and praise it! There is something so simple and yet so profound in this.
What is your good to praise? Let’s be silent for a moment and reflect within ourselves: (PAUSE) These are mine: Civility, Humor, Gratitude, Calm, Gardening, Community, A social consciousness, Diversity in all things, community, gender, race and religion, Love, Hope, Decency, Many loving friends, Holding On, Patience, My family, A Loving God, YOU, and finally gratitude for the rich life I have had and am having. I saw a license plate Wednesday that said “B-Gentle” I could not help but smile.
David Brooks wrote a fine column a few weeks ago in the New York Times, Personalism: The Philosophy We Need. “Despite what the achievement culture teaches . . . human dignity does not depend on what you do . . . Infinite worth is inherent in being human . . . Doing community service isn’t about saving the poor; it’s a meeting of absolute equals as both seek to change and grow.”
Could it be that what Jesus brought into this world was a “meeting of absolute equals” so that he and all those he met and lived with could seek to change and grow”?
Anis Nan wrote: Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage!
So I ask us, do we have the courage to be patient, do we have the courage to act where we can close to home and far away, do we have the courage to engage those with whom we disagree, do we have the courage to vote our conscience and our passions, do we have the courage to see every human being as no more nor no less a person than our own selves? Remembering, Archibald Macleish, “We have all the answers, it is the questions we do not know!”
Finally I want to close with the words from Mark with which we began:
When they came to the house of the leader on the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he entered, he said to them: “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.
And they laughed at him.
When we see through the fog of troubles, when we bring calmness in the midst of confusion, when we challenge others to become motivated, when we say figuratively “We are only sleeping” and we will awake one day. Others might laugh and I hope we can laugh at ourselves as well. But we know that the peace that Jesus brings, the peace that passes understanding will see us through and we will become whole.