As people of faith, we know that when the world threatens to crush the light of love which resides in us, we can turn to God. We can ask God to revive us again.
March 13, 2022
“Lengthening the Light For Real Change”
Pastor Heather McColl
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Revival Luke 13: 31-35
It has been fascinating for me to see which of the Lenten practices our community of faith has shared through social media, which of these Lenten practices has resonated with people. Journaling… not so much, maybe because it reminds us too much like the essays we were all required to write in school. Maybe it is too old fashioned in a world of computers and tablets to write with an pen and paper.
The prayer of the heart which introduced the breath prayer, where we pray phrases as we breath in and out. That one got pretty good results. Maybe because we don’t have to think about breathing Or maybe we know we need as much oxygen as we can get going to our brains at this moment. But the invitation to breath in God’s grace and breath out courage, the invitation to breath in Holy Wisdom as we breath out our request for God to guide us…that one got pretty good results.
But the one about being vulnerable? That one didn’t go over too well. Even the quote from the incomparable Brene Brown, reminding us that vulnerability is not a weakness, that it is our greatest measure of courage, couldn’t help this practice gain traction on social media. Maybe that’s because that one hits a little too close to home after being vulnerable for two years. We don’t really need to practice it. We have lived it.
However what surprised me was the practice which got the most likes and interaction on social media: It was the Lenten practice which invited us to fast from toxic positivity, the one with the invitation to fast from making everything okay, the one with the invitation to allow space for discomfort. The Lenten practice watch go the most interactions on social media was the one with the invitation to let the negative emotions and hard circumstances arise and to simply be with them. That Lenten practice reached 363 people and counting.
I don’t know why this surprises me so much. It really shouldn’t. After all, we have not been able to do this for the last two years. From the “We will get through this together to the constant trying to find the silver lining in all this mess”, it has taken a toll on us physically, mentally, emotionally and yes spiritually. As someone shared with me the other day, “I feel like I am constantly searching for something. I just want to be for a bit. I want to be sad for a bit. I don’t want to pretend that nothing has changed. I’ve changed. We’ve changed. But no one wants to talk about that. We are just using up more energy pretending like we were not, like we are not deeply affected by the trauma we just experienced and continue to experience every single day.”
In theological terms, what that person is describing is lament, something which we don’t often talk about in the wider church because it is easier to say God loves you, to pretend everything is sunshine and roses than being vulnerable, than being sad, than turning our grief over to God, than shaking our fists and saying this is not how it is supposed to be.
But the truth of the matter is our faith does not expect us to remain positive all the time. Our faith teaches us that lament is needed. Our faith teaches us that we can get angry at God, that we can be heart broken and feel helpless to change anything around us. Our faith teaches us that we can name the trauma in our midst and lighting is not going to strike us down. Lament is a big part of our faith tradition. There is even a whole book in our bible called lamentation. The psalms are full of lament, of people calling God out, of people asking how long God is going to turn away.
Our faith tradition teaches us that we don’t have to ignore our lament. This is a big difference between our faith tradition and our culture. As people of faith, we know that when the world threatens to crush the light of love which resides in us, we can turn to God. We can ask God to revive us again. We know that we can always cry out in hope, that we can change the narrative and find strength in knowing our worth, in knowing who we are and whose we are.
Which is exactly what Jesus is practicing in this text as he is confronted with the toxic positivity of his time. People have come to him and reminded him that he is making waves, that the powers that be don’t like what he is doing, they tell him that if he would just play by the rules, if he would maintain the status quo, if he would just put on a smiling face and pretend everything is the way it is supposed to be, everyone would be a lot happier.
Again, I am grateful for my Savior’s example of not buying into what makes people happy. Rather he calls it like he sees it. He understands that the coming of God’s Kingdom will not be rushed. He understands that the powers that be don’t like that he is pointing out the brokenness and hurt all around him. He understands that not everyone is going to like his mission or his honesty about the realities of his time.
Again, I am grateful for my Savior’s example of setting boundaries, for realizing that he is bringing about justice and hope but not everyone really wants them to come to fruition.. For realizing his grief in the process, yet holding to his mission, no matter if it makes people angry or uncomfortable. I am grateful for my Savior’s example of not being deterred from his mission as he reminded the powers that be, reminded his disciples, reminded us that this world will not have the last word.
Like so many before him, as Jesus cries out in lament over Jerusalem, he is saying that the story is not finished yet, that it will not end in sorrow, that it will not end with death or destruction. He is proclaiming God is in the process. He is crying out for renewal. He is asking God to revive God’s people again.
Or let me say it this way…within the black church, revivals are moments of spiritual awakenings. They are opportunities to celebrate, to praise God, to remember even in the midst of hurt and sorrow, that God is moving in and among the people, bringing forth new life. Revivals are opportunities to praise God and to remind this world which destroys prophets, which destroys people who tell the truth about the realities of oppressive systems, revivals are opportunities to praise God and to remind this world that it will not have the last word because God…God will restore God’s people again. God will revive God’s people again. God will gather God’s people like a mother hen, bringing God’s people under the safety of her wing, that even if the people refuse to listen, God is still bringing about healing and wholeness.
This image of a mother hen gathering her chicks close is just another way of asking God to revive us again because as one minster shared as he described a revival in his community: “We set up a tent in the midst of a housing complex reputed to be a pit of crime and despair. Even as I made my way to the tent, I was told don’t stray too far off the main road because kids throw rocks at cars for fun. But we held this revival every weekday evening and Sunday morning — rain, sunshine or cold from August until October’s end.
It’s been a long haul, “But it’s been worth it,” “For three months, the drug seller, the drug-addicted and the broken have come.””We want to let people know there is another way,
The pastor goes on to say.. “My body is tired. But when you see God changing people,” “you can’t stop because you see the wonderful things that God is doing.”
Because that’s how the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.”
So today in our lament, as we fast from the toxic positivity of the world, we gather under God’s wings and say once again…y… Lord, revive us again. Revive us. Restore us so that this world will know that it does not have the last world.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, March 13, 2022 – Revival Luke 13: 31-35.