March 11, 2018
Ps. 1; Mt. 5:1-9
The #metoo movement bubbled to the surface at Christ Church and we have fifteen entries, thirteen from women and two from men. The reflections speak to the betrayal that comes from the misuse of authority, the violation and helplessness that compounds with anger over time. They describe the spiritual violation that is pretty close to the polar opposite of ‘being cared for’.
There is an immediacy to the reflections that reminds us of how long lasting the spiritual repercussions can be. They were written last month about experiences decades old but there is a raw quality that is palpable. I found myself at a couple points praying for the child inside the adult who penned these words of pain- that child can come back front and center so immediately.
The reflections brought back an earlier era when you could threaten people to ‘keep quiet or else’. It brought back a time when there were certain things you didn’t talk about, pretty much across the entire generation. In the deep South, I could describe the Protestant version and the Catholic version.
The polite quiet about abuse never made sense to me as a child. It is still not convincing. I find myself asking Dr. Phil’s question, ‘how is that working for you?’ Apparently not very well.
Now that my generation has grown up, it would appear that a good percentage of us are ready to transcend the silence of shame. And perhaps that is the most powerful part of the movement itself. We may not yet know exactly how to proceed as we try to teach the next generation about finding an integrated and meaningful sex life, but we know that the culture of shame and silence wasn’t helping us get to where we needed to be.
We put up with too much dysfunction for too long.
Our exhibit of fifteen voices represent the plaintive cries for healing from the people you share the pew with week in and week out.
And this is actually how the Gospel of Matthew hoped we would live the Sermon on the Mount week in and week out with one another.
Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” Today, we would say, “Blessed are those who have reached their wits end”. Blessed are the desperate and despairing, like the refugees from the war in Syria.
“Blessed are those who mourn. Needs no translation..
“Blessed are the meek”, we would say those who have been made docile. They’ve decided that nothing serious will ever change in their situation.
“Blessed are those who ‘hunger and thirst for justice”. We would translate it ‘victims’. It refers to people like a Mother who son is murdered and the killer is still on the loose.
It was the Mother of Travon Martin wondering aloud why he had to die the way that he died. It is the High School kids in Parkland Florida asking leaders why they have to endure the tragic gunfire that they had to endure. These are the people that have been hurt and who have not yet had their haunting questions answered. They ‘hunger and thirst’ for justice because they don’t have it.
God bless all of you who are despairing, who mourn, who have been broken by the world around you, you who have been victims.”
It is a very surprising teaching. You are blessed. Why should we call you blessed.
That is the second half of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. These are the people that will reach out to you in compassion and empathy, offering such healing and comforting presence as we can be for each other.
He says, “Blessed are those that are merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart- we would say, those who have integrity- for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God.
There are people around you, who, when they are filled with God’s Spirit or as we would say ‘when they rise to their higher selves’ will show you mercy (compassion, empathy for what you’ve gone through), integrity (doing the right things for the right reasons), and peace (not just the absence of violence or conflict but ‘refuge’, ‘safe harbor’, stability).
At the very end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says simply, “let your light so shine, that others may see God’s good work in and through you.”
Because what we hope for is to have healthy boundaries that create love, care, compassion, blessing. If abuse is a violation of the sacred boundaries that create a warm humanity, then love creates healthy spiritual relationships that help us grow and become fulfilled spiritually.
Saint Paul really hoped that the Church might become a spiritual ‘family of families’, healing one another, making one another stronger, accepting that we are all broken and we want to live in grace and light, in the profound but humane redemption that we can offer one another. That is the great privilege of being human.
Jesus taught us that when we live like that, we know “Shalom” or peace. By the way, this is the same word for Muslims and for Jews. We are hoping to live in the same spiritual fulfillment.
And Peace means to make us ‘whole’. To make our relationships right- healed, strong, just. These are the people that create the conditions for human flourishing.
You want to know what blessing looks like? It happens when those who embody mercy, integrity, and reconciliation reach out and become the healing presence of God for the despairing, the grieving, the broken, the victims.
You know that we are blessing one another when we are sharing what is healing and restorative with those in need right around us and we ‘let our light shine. We let God’s light shine through us.
It is a wonderful line. The spiritual life is all about us serving one another. We are all gathered together. Sometimes we are the people in need, and in some seasons, it seems like those needs come in clumps don’t they? And the Good News is that God wants to heal you and empower you.
And the rest of us gathered here, God asks you ‘what is it that you can do to promote human flourishing in an through the community that is all around you? What can you do to make us better? Where will you reach out in mercy, doing the right thing, making the world a better place around you.
This is your divine calling. This is what you are here for. This is the new commandment, as the Gospel of John puts it that you ‘love one another’, that you create the conditions for love to thrive.
If you are hurting, outcast, marginalized- God’s hands are on you with comfort, inspiration, and concrete material help. And how will you know that? Because if you are strong, God’s hands are guiding you to help provide comfort, inspiration, and concrete material help.
And when these two sets of hands touch, we make the Divine connection. A new Spirit emerges, a Holy Spirit.
And this is the way that you live a life of significance. It is how you wade into the deeper pool of meaning. So this season, pray. Pray that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, will fill your imagination and direct your life.
Embody compassionate mercy, strengthen your people with comfort, bless them that they might flourish and heal. You can be the light for those around you. Be the light.