We said the Great Litany today, instead of the usual march up the aisle wherein you sing a song you may or may not know and try mightily not to step on anyone. Our Kaia was the crucifer, and we all joked that of course the first time would be a day like today, one so out of the ordinary. Trial by fire, being shoved off a dock, is quite often the best teacher.
Lent sneaked up on me. Just last week I was, rather gleefully, placing bets with myself on who would be the one to say the forbidden alleluia. No one did, so that was rather a let down, until today, and it was me. One minute we were walking in an endless line around the nave and the next singing a kyrie, it was jarring, I was unsure of how I’d arrived so suddenly at the edge of a desert. I mean, we’ve been (the choir) practicing music for Lent and Easter for weeks, and suddenly it’s arrived, and I’m not sure what do with this time, these 40 days of self examination. I’ve had to suddenly choose disciplines, to bite back that alleluia, to try and swim when I didn’t even get to wade in or test the water; sink or swim.
I started reading The 5th Wave, have you heard of it? It’s apocalyptic, which I should not even say, because I’ve learned that apocalyptic is not the end of the world, but the revealing of something that was hidden. A compound Greek word consisting of apo, meaning away from, or back; and kalypsos, meaning veil — so it is to pull back the veil. It is not zombies, it is not aliens, it is not a super bug our own government created that somehow wipes out 98% of the world. It is a much gentler word than all those other things portend, it is simply opening a curtain and seeing into the next room.
Sometimes I think we try to make things more difficult than they are.
Sometimes I think we lose sight of what is important in our quest for what is important to everyone else, in all the ways that we (I) struggle to be all of the things for all of the people, to have a perfect face and personality, to fit a mold. What I am thinking tonight though, is that the mold I am squishing myself into is made up of my own notions of what and how others think I should be and act and do.
And what I am thinking is that much of our works of art down here on planet Earth are apocalyptic; because they pull back a veil, because they show us something we have not seen or considered, because they give us a different perspective. The Walking Dead is not about the zombies, it is a story of hope, of community and the deep bonds that are formed. These stories that we love and deem to be stories of the apocalypse are really not, they are that enduring tale of hope, humanity, of fighting back and fighting to the end, they are love stories. I think the book of Revelation is a bit of a love story too, it is a story that calls us into a world that we cannot imagine on our own, a story that calls us back to God; and that is fitting for a season like this one.
What if we meditated on more than the last 40 days in the life of a Jewish rabbi? What if we meditated on the cost to be the scapegoat, for the politics and those in power to have seemingly won the day and how they seem to win the day all of the time, an unrelenting and unstoppable force? What if we meditated on the deep and unknowable love that enfolds us, the waves and tides of grace that lap at our feet?
Could we be shutting ourselves into the boxes we made? Pigeon-holing ourselves? Trying again and again to be all that we just are not? What if that grace, the same holy water that laps at the shores of the throne room of God, what if it is so wide that all of our self examination is really meant to show us which version of our baptismal vow has been distilled and waits in an IV bottle, just for us?
The needle stings, it is large, but keep going.
What if that self examination led us not to a litany of sins imagined and sins real, but to open our eyes and our hearts just for a moment? What if we opened the door at the end of the hall, seized the cut glass knob and slowly twisted it, if we pulled open the door on the wardrobe and stepped inside? What if we looked, really looked, at all of the pain in this world for just a few minutes?
Would it galvanize us into an action other than repentance?
Would it move us to works of great charity and love?
I think that it would. You see, I’ve opened that door, felt the cold glass on my palm, gazed about upon the smoldering ruin of humanity – felt the fur coats hung in that wardrobe and peeked through to the other side, to a land where people live in an eternal winter, a land where the savior has gone missing, where the people wait in a perpetual twilight for the dark to fall, and then, finally, for the dawn to break.
There is a lantern in Lantern Waste, there is a small and flickering light to drive back the dark. You are that light.
When you self examine, I hope you will examine all of the ways that you are created, your faults and your fears, I hope that you will examine all of the ways you can help a world that is in so much pain.
Lent is 40 days for us, but for much of the world it is a never ending season, year upon year without an alleluia, with no joy. Sunrise to sunset a struggle, and especially in our mid-western clime, where it is all of 16 degrees tonight. Lent is a season that can last a lifetime, all of those moments spent wondering where God is, and why He doesn’t act.
God is sitting in the pews at your church and mine, God is changing the channel when a St. Jude’s commercial, when a Feed the Children commercial, an ASPCA commercial comes on. God shops for groceries that will be turned into meals with leftovers that will be thrown away. God is in us and with us, we are the hands and feet of God, charged to bring about paradise, to make the darkness finally fall so the sun can rise and we cannot even look the suffering that is all around us in the face.
I would call you to examine yourself less, to get your nose out of your navel, and to examine the world more. Take what you see and compare it with your skills and talents. Let us end the endless season of no alleluia. Let us be the answer when people cry out and ask where God is.
I want to be the hand that is holding the warm food, the warm coat, and a plan to change, to upend the society that has built this winter for those we leave behind.
Won’t you join me and say, God is right here? I am here.
So many faces. They began to blur together. The room expands, explodes past the walls, extending to infinity, filled with billions of little upturned faces, and oh those bastards, those bastards, what have they done?