Sermon for April 26th 2009.
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface, Siesta Key, FL
1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49
Each Tuesday morning a group of local Clerics meet at St. Boniface to learn from each other as we look at the passages for the following Sunday. We are appropriately serious about our intent. We are not afraid to raise honest questions about those passages which we find to be strange, or stupid, or incomprehensible. We are not afraid to express strong opinions about the passages. We try to bring our own lives under the scrutiny of the texts. We read the bible reverently and critically.
Last Tuesday as we read today’s passages and especially about the incongruities in the Gospel; we talked a bit about how it feels when someone comes back into our lives after a period of absence. One of our members is looking forward to this summer when his and his wife’s daughter will have graduated College, and will be home for a while. “I want my daughter back” he said “and part of me wants my daughter to be back in just the way she used to be”.
He is savvy enough to know that it will not be like that. She will be back, but it will not be the same.
In today’s Gospel Jesus “came back” to be with the disciples, but it was not the same as before.
In 2003 a fabulous family joined our congregation at St. James’s in Cambridge. Mum and Dad are skilled professional musicians. There were two older twins – boys aged 9 – Ramsey and Connor, and two younger twins, a boy and a girl aged 6 – Molly and Hunter.
The younger twins caught my heart, for I too am a twin and have a twin sister.
On my first visit to their home for dinner Ramsey and Connor were intrigued by my naughtiness. Molly, as bright as they come, fell in love with me right away. Hunter resisted all the tricks of the trade which I employed to gain his favour. He would scarcely even look at me. He seemed determined not to like this Minister who had invaded his home for dinner.
Later Mum, Dad and I helped out as the four sibs splashed around in a huge bath-tub, then we went to one of the bedrooms for a romp, for a story and for a good night prayer.
In the midst of the riotous romping Hunter took himself to the top bunk of a bed, stood up, and looked down at me. Then he spoke to me for the first time. Here is what he said: “Michael Povey, I like you”.
In February of this year, Hunter, now aged 12, developed flu. His condition rapidly worsened. He was rushed to Boston Children’s Hospital where he died 24 hours later.
I spent some time on February 28th to weep, and pray and listen with Mum and Dad, with Molly and with the older boys. My heart is yet sore, and I cannot even to begin to imagine their grief.
About three weeks after Hunter’s death Molly wrote on her Facebook “I miss my shadow”.
A week later, Mum screamed on her Facebook “I want my boy back”.
I know that in telling this story I am opening old griefs for us.
Grief for the loss of a spouse or a child.
Grief for the loss of our innocence.
Grief for what we could have been, or should have been.
Grief for what might have been - if only.....
.....If only we could have things as they were.
I know that this is what the disciples were thinking in their numbing grief for Jesus. “If only we could be back in Galilee when it all began, back to the good old days”.
Those disciples as their story is mediated to us the gospels have something to say to us. We treat their witness with critical reverence.
They will tell us that we cannot go back to where we were, but that the Lord Jesus can come to where we are. He’ll not the same as once we knew him, but it will be him.
They will tell us that the divine love and hope is encountered most often in the ordinary – if we have ears to hear and eyes to see.
“Give me some dinner for goodness sake” said the Lord “if you really care for me, why can’t you think for a moment that I might be hungry”.
They will tell us that we get unstuck from the places in which are trapped when we allow ourselves and other to be honest. They disbelieved. They wondered. They were startled. They were terrified. That’s more honest than the come to sweet Jesus crap which we often hear.
They will tell us that we have to begin and engage in the conversation. Silence and secrecy is our enemy. They talked with each other on the Emmaus journey, recorded in Luke just before today’s passage. They were talking with each other when Jesus came and stood among them.
They will tell us that we must learn to listen. The disciples listened as Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
Our lives will never be as once they were. Our griefs and regrets will never disappear.
But as we live into the ordinary – eating a bit of dinner;
as we allow ourselves to have honest lips and ears;
as we engage in the often painful conversations;
and as we learn to listen - those griefs and regrets become part of who we are – important rings in the tree of our lives.
And we hope and believe that the Lord Jesus is helping us to grow new, more vital, hope- filled, and sturdy rings around that grief.