What Shall I Cry?

Isaiah cries to comfort the people of Israel. John cries for baptism in the wilderness. What shall I cry?

There’s so much I would like to discuss with you. So much on my mind. Yet I hesitate. Not because I don’t have enough to say, but because I have too much. Too much and I’m not sure where you’re at and what you’re ready to hear.

In my first few weeks here, I received some feedback from a sermon that this person was, “Disappointed that your sermon was too political.” I wrote something like, “You will continue to be disappointed as politics is how we live together. Jesus was political. What I hope not to be is partisan which is one political party over the other. Please call me out if I was too partisan.” Instead of responding, they quit the church. But the two other members of the family joined because of that same sermon. I guess we came out ahead in that scenario.

It’s hard for me not to be political in light of what we just read. The beginning of the Gospel of Mark reads, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God.” These terms in Greek in the first century would sound like this: The beginning of the military victory of Jesus anointed one, emperor.” When we say Jesus is lord and savior, those are terms that belonged to the Roman emperor, as does the phrase “son of God.” When we say Jesus is lord and savior and son of God it means Ceasar is not. Nor is any leader, political figure, or president.

It’s complicated being human. It’s hard to figure out the devastating ways we hurt each other even when we wish to love one another. Never mind when we wish to harm. I still puzzle over that whole interaction.

Isaiah cries that people are like grass but the word of the Lord endures forever. John cries for repentance and the forgiveness of sin. What shall I cry?

I’ve been crying a lot lately. I’ve been in a season of grief. From the death of my father in July to Carrie Park’s funeral two weeks ago. Last month held 5 funerals and 3 weddings. Lots of grief to carry. That’s the problem with people; they are always dying on us. People are like grass, they wither and pass away.

It’s hard being human. The complications of our family dynamics and the vast network of our relationships. Irish poet Padraig O Tuama once saw a brochure that had an old Irish saying on it, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Another way to translate it is “It is in the shadow of each other that the people live.” The Irish word scàth can mean both shelter and shadow.[1]

Our relationships shelter and shadow us. We can do beautiful and terrible things to ourselves and others in our sheltering and shadowing. We are always stuck between grace and grief it seems.

We are indeed in the shelter and shadow of one another. Luther in that same letter wrote, “We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.”[2]

I shall cry that for you and for me… keep your eyes on Jesus. Should you find yourself in hell, fix your eyes on Jesus and start walking toward him There’s that great line in the Apostles Creed, “He descended into hell.” The ancient Christians thought that Jesus died on Good Friday, wrecked Hell on Saturday, and then resurrected on Easter Sunday. The gates of Hell are forever wrecked because of what Jesus did. Should you ever find yourself in hell, keep walking.

Much has been made of the cross. The suffering of Jesus. The grief in the garden. Yet here we are in the season of his birth. Both are physical acts. The body of Christ, hung from wood. The body of Christ, placed in the rough, wooden manger. How Christ was himself in the shelter and shadow of his parents. His community. His tradition. His context. As we are. His life of grace holds great hope for me. He lived with all this grief. His cousin John who prepared the way for him and baptized him in the River Jordan was beheaded by Herod. When Herod came looking for Jesus, he replies in Luke 13:32, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose.” So when the FBI, CIA, or whatever vague yet menacing government agency shows up at your door, you can say, “Tell that fox…”

What shall I cry? I shall cry Jesus. May we cast out the demons that possess us. Demons like violence, aggression, retention of slights and sins. Revenge. There are so many, they are legion. May we cast them out of one another through prayer and fasting and hoping and lighting candles in the dark. May we seek healing. Ours and our neighbors.

Here in the shadow and shelter of one another, may we find Christ. Seek his way. Keep on the narrow path and celebrate the fruit of the spirit. May we cry pardon. May we cry grace to each other. May we cry Christ, God with us. For we have hope. We have a way. Christ is the way. Amen.

Works Cited

[1] In the Shelter, page 92.

[2] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/did-luther-really-tell-us-to-love-god-and-sin-boldly/

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