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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Raise me up, Jesus

Easter 4, Yr. C
John 10:22-30, Revelation 7:9-17,  Psalm 23
Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook

I am weary of crying over lives of promise that won't be fulfilled.
•    Raise me up, Jesus!
I am weary of mourning the devastation caused by the power of a creation I believe to be good.
•    Raise me up, Jesus!
I am weary of trying to forgive people who have lost sight of the preciousness of every life and of trying to cope with my own anger.
•    Raise me up, Jesus!
I am weary of reassuring children that they will be secure even as I fear for their safety.
•    Raise me up, Jesus!
I am weary of reading stories of heroism that make me wonder if I would have the courage to run toward danger, rather than away.
•    Raise me up, Jesus!
I am weary of seeing flags at half mast.
•    Raise me up, Jesus!
I am weary of trying to call upon a loving God in the midst of a world that seems to be meting out so much brutality.
•    Raise me up, Jesus!
You too? Are you weary?
•    Raise us up, Jesus!

I don't know that any year is easy, but this one has seemed harder than most. I long for a peaceful, gentle interlude that, quite honestly, makes no challenging demands upon me as a pastor and preacher, as a parent, as a person...a green pasture where I can safely graze and rest without anxiety about the past or fear for the future. I suspect I'm not alone in this. And you know what? I don't think there's anything wrong with wishing for that; our hearts and minds are shaped with a longing for the Garden, for a renewal of the time when we lived in perfect connection with creation, with each other, and with God.
  • Raise us up, Jesus, to that day when your new creation is perfectly revealed.

I suppose one alternative is to shut down our emotions, to try walling ourselves off from the pain and anger and sense of impotence. There are mornings when the alarm goes off and I know from the radio announcer's tone, even before comprehending the actual words, that yet another tragedy has struck...and I want to stick my head under the pillow. Another preacher I know posted this quote: "I don't know which is worse. The terror you feel the first time you witness such things, or the numbness that comes after it starts to become ordinary.”* Making the horribly extraordinary ordinary is certainly a way of defending ourselves against the pain, but that's not who I want to be.
  • Raise us up, Jesus, when our hearts start to turn to stone.

Every year in the church's calendar, the 4th Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. We hear passages that for many of us are among our most familiar and favored. Even if there's a wee bit of suggestion that we might be like not-so-clever sheep, we love the idea of One who will guard us, guide us, feed us, lead us. But when people suffer, when people die, when we're walking through the valley of the shadow of death and that  good shepherd is hard to find--in Newtown and New Jersey, in Boston and Afghanistan, in Texas and in China, on the riverbanks of the Mississippi and even the hillsides of Altadena--I wonder where the goodness and mercy are. Aren't they supposed to be following us all the days of our life?
It turns out that we've tamed those words far too much; what we translate "follow" might more accurately be read as "pursue." A whole different image, isn’t it, of goodness and mercy pursuing us?! Perhaps I'm not giving God enough credit; could it be that humanity is moving fast and erratically, and God is doing God's best to keep up with us? Maybe those heroes running toward danger, not away, are angels in God's pursuit. Maybe the individuals who walk in here with cans & coins in hand, who lift up their hearts in prayer or their voices in song, who speak on behalf of those who have been silenced, who sit with those who are in darkness are the incarnation of goodness and mercy. Maybe one of the ways the Good Shepherd catches up with us is when we embody his love.
  • Raise us up, Jesus, when others need us.

Of course we pray to be saved from the time of trial…no one sidesteps it completely. I've said before and will say many times more that I believe God cries with us when these ordeals come to us. God isn't oblivious to the world's pain, nor unmoved by our tragedies, nor absent from human suffering; one look at that cross tells us very much the opposite. And so I hold fast to the promise that no one can snatch us from God's loving hands. We profess our faith by continuing, as best as we can manage, to act out of our belief in God's constant presence. We may not always hear God, but God can be there in the silence. We entrust ourselves to God who, by prodding and poking and calling and sometimes carrying us, guides our feet along the pathways of the kingdom. We're on a journey with a shepherd who brings us to the springs of the waters of life, toward that time when there's no more hunger, no more thirst, no more sun striking us, no more scorching heat, when weariness weighs us down no longer and our hearts are healed.
  • Raise us up, Jesus…raise us up, Jesus…restore our souls, pursue us with goodness and mercy, and wipe away every tear from our eyes.

*The Fatal Waltz

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