Stories of Grief and Trust

This Sunday, November 15th, our scripture readings were 1 Samuel 1:4-20, the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and Mark 13:1-8.

 

It’s hard not here the resonance with the words of Mark’s gospel this week – that there will be wars and rumours of wars. Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes and there will be famines. Earlier in the week, I was thinking in environmental terms, we know of the earthquakes, floods, and famines that are a part of climate change. We know the ways this not only creates destruction of ecosystems and species, but becomes a human justice issue as well. This week, however, we remember this, and we remember the refugee crisis – the largest since World War II. And now once again we think even more of the so-called War on Terror. Friday’s loss of life leading to so many other forms of loss – how this could impact so many other issues and concerns that we care about. To paraphrase Hannah’s words, together we might say: “I am a world with a broken heart! I have been pouring out my heart. Simply pouring out my feelings of grief and misery.” . . .

Jesus lived in a time when there was a discourse of terrorism, when military force was used to suppress the unrest of the people. . . .  At the time Mark was writing the gospel (approximately 70 CE), this second Temple was already destroyed, or soon to be destroyed. It is not a prediction of the future for the hearers of the gospel, but a reminder about misplaced value. What is our society valuing today? Where is our trust misplaced? What are the false prophets’ calls? Where, instead, do we place our trust and our hope? How do we live in a way that does not focus all the attention on the destruction that is coming? . . .

In the life of Jesus, we hear warnings about where not to put our trust, and warnings of the hard things to come. What we are offered instead are stories, stories that a baby could change the world. Stories that those who are outcast can find a home. Stories that our work will be hard, but that great things are somehow possible. What we are offered is not a commitment to certainty and glory, but a commitment to paradox. A commitment to weakness, to waiting with grief, to expecting the unexpected to be possible. What we are offered is a promise that simultaneously feels like never enough and more than we could imagine or deserve – that we are not, that we are never alone.

 

This sermon comes in the context of a media filled with news of the Paris Attacks. Following the service, I took part in conversations about the grief, the worry, and the struggle of knowing there are no easy answers. I also took part in conversations about the level of attention given to Paris – after all, earlier in the week there were the attacks in Beirut and Baghdad. What does this say about where we (as a society? as individuals?) focus our attention and see the value in human life?

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