Sacred Soil

Wait for it…
November 5, 2017, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Misty ForestWinter was a very different thing where I grew up, out in Oregon. Out there, the months would linger on with misty skies, while the temps hovered at a damp 40 degrees. The burnt grass of summer would turn green, as would the moss, while everything else lay dormant and bare, waiting for the light to return as the sun hibernated.

As a child winter always seemed like a time of waiting. Enduring the endless nights, hunting for the first signs of spring. On my walks to school, I would challenge myself to notice the first shoots of crocus leaves peeking through the soil. The promise of return. The buds swelling on the trees. But through those gray days, there were certainly times where it seemed winter would last forever.

We are no strangers to the reality of waiting. Sitting in these in-between moments, knowing too well the now and not yet.

As Jesus stood among the crowds in our text today, he knew that they were also waiting. Most, waiting without much hope. In this society, shaped by honor and shame, the poor were defined by their failures, the widows defined by their loss, the meek by their weakness. As the people gathered at his feet, Jesus looked out at a hopeless people, who were merely waiting for an endless winter to end. Unsure that spring would ever come.

But Jesus knew another way—another world. A hope that turns the everything we thought we knew upside down. All of it on its head. And so, he speaks, offering a radically different way. Instead of suffering bringing shame and hopelessness, endless waiting—Jesus names these ones as honored. As beloved. Blessed.

Blessed are the heartbroken. You will receive the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you who miss your loved ones so dearly. You will be comforted.

Blessed are you who are humble. You will receive far more than all the braggarts of this world.

As Jesus spoke, the people looked at him, wondering if they heard him right. Blessed? Honored? For being heartbroken, poor? Didn’t he understand? These were things to be ashamed of, to hide. To endure in silence.

On this All Saints Sunday, we gather in a space in between time. In the now and not yet. We remember, especially, those who have died. Those who have inspired us to live. Indeed, those who have blessed us. This is also a day when we call to mind the saints who are yet to come—those who will remember us on some All Saints day in the future. And these things can cause our hearts to break, as we sit in the waiting, as we long for those who have left us. Or as we worry for the future our children will inherit. Waiting in an uneasy space. Mourning, and longing for peace. Wondering if the crocus will ever emerge from the ground?

It is in these moments that I engage in a bit of wishful thinking, wishing that my very strong will were strong enough to pull those flowers through the ground. That I could make the doctors do the right thing. That I could grant even just a moment of relief from fear. That I could make the bullies stop. That by the strength of my own desire, we would know blessing. That I could by the sheer force of my will, end the shame and the suffering.

But my desire won’t do that. As strong as my will is, I cannot by my own force much of anything. And so, I am much tempted to sit with the crowds at Jesus’ feet and wonder, what? Blessed?

But here’s the thing about Jesus, the son of God—Jesus also lives in the now and not yet. Knowing the heartbreak and shame we endure now, while calling us to live in the not yet. But this isn’t a future defined by our hopelessness, or endless waiting. This is a future defined by God. Jesus invites us to live in the kingdom of heaven, as if it were here now.

To live in a way that cherishes mercy now.

To live in a way that honors peace now.

To live in a way of justice now.

Not to wait for some far-off spring, merely enduring the time, but even as winter approaches, to live as if life were flourishing now. Not to wait for people to treat us right, but to live in the full knowledge that we are God’s own beloved, worthy of peace, and justice. Now.

In Revelation, this beautiful and confusing text, John of Patmos’ vision pulls the curtain away, this curtain that divides the now and not yet, revealing that the kingdom of heaven is among us now. Right now. That right now God is wiping away every tear from our eyes; right now, the lamb is leading us to the water of life. Not in some heaven far away, but now.

It is important for us to remember, this text is not suggesting that you are honored because your heart breaks, as if you should go and seek out heartbreak to earn God’s blessing. Rather, Jesus knows that we are already heartbroken, already mourning. Already hungering for justice. But instead of endlessly enduring this in shame, Jesus calls us to live in the kingdom of heaven now.

To live in a world that comforts the mourning, feeds the hungry, that cherishes mercy.

For ours is the kingdom of God. The crocus blooms now.