…and, on the Tuesday before Good Friday, I preached a short sermonette on Mark 15. It’s contained below. The sermon concerns my experience of disability, and other phenomena, as betrayal and loss.
I hope you like it!
Green Hope Cloaked in Darkness: Wine Before Breakfast, March 27th, 2018
I remember that feeling well; at one moment, I had been standing mostly upright on my mother’s front steps in December of 2008, shoveling away snow, feeling pretty useful. The next moment, pain was radiating up and down my lower back, and into my legs, and I felt like I could hardly move…I had pulled a large muscle, and I felt like I was betrayed by my own body. I felt like I had lost motion, and agency. I felt such pain, both physically and psychologically.
On other days, I have had serious conversations with family, and with friends. People are happy together, and then they break up; friends move away; often, people die. All of this is loss.
In moments like these, I have felt betrayal and loss. In the same way, when I think about Jesus’ death, I think mostly of betrayal and loss. (SING: “Every time I think about Jesus…”)
The passages before this show us that the religious authorities mock Jesus—one form of betrayal—and that Peter, one of Jesus’ best friends, denies Jesus in front of others, because he’s afraid to be recognized and taken in for punishment…another kind of betrayal and loss.
Then Jesus undergoes another humiliation: after the Jewish leaders demand the Lord’s crucifixion, Pilate lets his soldiers make fun of Jesus with whips and a crown of thorns. I have never worn such a crown, but I imagine that it hurt, a great deal: Jesus is dizzy, and has blood pouring out of his scalp and other parts of his body…and all the while, the soldiers shout, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then he stumbles to Golgotha, with the help of Simon of Cyrene, while he’s carrying a big cross made of wood. Then the crowd makes fun of him some more, while he’s nailed to the tree. The tree brings pain, and remembrance of rebellion. On this tree, Jesus will pull himself up by inches, struggling to breathe, over several hours; on this tree, he will die.
Jesus is being beaten, mocked, and slowly killed, over the excruciating course of hours, because he believes in peace and love. He believes in a different economic system; he empowers women, and people with disabilities, and other people marginalized by his society. Friends, our brother Jesus is being killed because he wants to show people the way to goodness.
Betrayal and loss. Jesus goes to the cross because Judas has handed him over to the Romans; he goes to the cross because the Jewish establishment wants to retain some shred of false dignity and power. Some say that Jesus goes to the cross to forgive sins. I believe that…
Yeah. I believe it, and I can sing it, but it’s really hard to act out the forgiveness of sins. I know that my body can betray me, and it does—a little bit every day—and it is hard to forgive that, to slow down and to be patient with my reluctant muscles. Similarly, sometimes, I have tense conversations with people I love, and we say hurtful things. It’s hard to forgive then too. And as others have pointed out to us in recent weeks, it is difficult to extend divine generosity to people who are in love with power and wealth, and who would use violence to protect it.
I’m sure that you know how I feel. I know that you feel betrayal and loss, too. Am I right? (Wait…) Yeah. We all have a rough idea of how Jesus feels…
So is there hope in this passage, hope at the foot of the Cross? Yes. There is…but that hope is tenuous, and fragile. We see in verses 40 and 41 that a number of women are watching from a distance, enacting shared grief, as Luke talked about last week. They trust Jesus, and they follow him to the end. A bit later, Joseph of Arimathea gives us hope too, because he gives Jesus’ body a decent burial in a new tomb. All that said…
Our hope is muted, and cloaked in darkness, and we must wait…
We wait, in the darkness of the early spring, for the green pulse of hope. We don’t know entirely what that hope looks like, or when it will come…but we dwell here together, with our yearning, and our feelings of loss. I hope that our empathy and solidarity are enough. Amen.