Saturday, 30 June 2012

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 1st July 2012 Pentecost 5

First Reading: 2 Samuel 1:1,17-27,   Gospel Reading: Mark 5:25-34

Let us pray:   May your word for us and our response to your word be a place, in your Spirit, of renewal, commitment and hope for us and for the world O God.  Amen.

So, how has your week been?  Has it been same old, or has something completely new happened, something that has seriously impacted your life?  Has it been a happy week, or one of great sadness or a bit of a mixture?  Because that is the reality for us isn’t it?  That our lives are a mix of good and bad, ups and downs.  And sometimes the downs seem to take over, pulling us into places of great pain and heartache, shutting off the light and extinguishing hope – the deep dark pit that Psalm 130 talks about.
And in many ways the part of David’s life that we heard about today was in that deep valley.  Just to remind us, last week we talked about the young somewhat bullet proof David – willing to do anything in the hope, the knowledge of God with him and in him. And he succeeded in defeating Goliath and going on to great victories in other battles.  He was Saul’s right hand man, both soothing his pain with his music and delivering him from his enemies with his sword – and in the process developing a deep and caring friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan.  It was never easy and there was quite a bit of eggshell walking I am sure – but by standards of the day he was blessed and lauded.
And then it all changed - David went from the heights to the depths.  He has had to run literally for his life from Saul, with the help of Jonathan, he had to abandon the high honours and the relatively luxurious living and is now sheltering in a cave, earning his crust by fighting the foes (as long as they weren’t Israelites) of the Philistines, those who he had so eloquently and physically dismissed on the battlefield in what must have seemed a lifetime ago were now his employers.  David’s ‘I can do anything with God’ attitude that we talked about last week had taken rather a beating. 
What was it, do you think, that kept his hope alive?   What sustained his walk with God despite all the curve balls that life had thrown at him – I mean did he ask to be chosen for this life of intrigue and politicking – he could have been living a very happy and fulfilled life back on the family farm doing what he did best – protecting the livestock and being part of a God fearing and loving family.  But he was plucked out into this new life by Samuel, by God – a life of danger and high stakes and politics.
So there he was now – surviving.  And there was yet another body blow to come.  Jonathan, his dearest friend, his most trustworthy ally was dead - along with his father and his brothers.  David’s lament is passionate in its sense of grief and loss, his acute pain is there for all to see.  There is a really interesting point here in this magnificent piece of Hebrew poetry – David chose to eulogize the two men, the friend and the king, side by side.  Despite all that Saul had done to him, plotting his death, hounding him out of the country, despite all of that, David is honoured his king alongside his soulmate Jonathan.
This past week I attended the funeral of a twenty year old young woman Alex: she had been a member of our Rendez-vous group at Knox Church.  She had died unexpectedly, suddenly, from liver failure – with a 12 hour window of opportunity for a transplant – and a family praying for a miracle by her bedside as she lay in a coma.   That is a depth of pain for her family that few of us are called on to experience – where on earth do you find hope for a future in a situation like that?
Yet as I listened to the words of the liturgy at All Saints Church and as I contemplated the service of celebration and farewell that we had here on Monday for the life of Joan Madill, I knew a sense of hope stronger and more powerful that I have ever felt – that in both the timely and the untimely deaths of our loved ones there is a hope that encompasses all our pain, all our suffering, all our anger, all our sweet memories and sense of irreplaceable loss – a hope that nothing on this earth or beyond, neither time nor space nor anything in creation can ever separate us from God’s love.  And that hope holds us through the celebrations and tragedies that are almost inevitably part of all our lives and living.
In a sermon recently posted on his blog, Jason Goroncy suggests that this hope – the hope that seems cruelly shattered in the times of tragedy and hopelessness is the place we sit on Easter Saturday when we often as not find little to live for – all that we seem to have held safe and dependable and hopeful is no more.  He posits that what holds us together in that Saturday silence of hopelessness is what he calls the divine memory.  When all seems lost, he says, “It is God’s memory of us which makes possible for us to neither abandon our sorrow nor to surrender the horizon of hope. It is the memory of God which places a boundary to our hopelessness and our dislocation”[1] The promise that we are held forever in God’s love is what allows us to reach blindly into the Easter Sunday hope - God’s memory of us holds us before we are born, in our life and in our death – and it is this that we hold desperately to when disaster engulfs us, robbing us of peace and happiness and all that we hold dear.  When all that is hopeful disappears from our lives we are held close in the divine memory that is the love of God. 
What kept David hope in God alive through all his trials, what will keep Alex’s family from sinking forever into the pits of despair at the cruel loss of such a beautiful young woman from their lives – it is the knowledge that we are not lost to God, even in the worst of moments when all seems hopeless, pointless we are held in the divine memory of the crucified Christ whose scarred hands and body proclaims our names before the living God who loves us.
Jason concludes his writing with some powerful words of hopefulness which I too would like to finish with:
“And, in the crucified God, we hope together with those who do not share our hopes, and with those whose hopes for this life remain unfulfilled, and with those who are disappointed and indifferent, and with those who despair of life, and with those who have been the enemies of life, and with those who for whatever reason have abandoned all hope. In and with Christ, we hope and we remember them before God. In the crucified God, we hope together with the God who remembers us and who, in remembering us, is our hopeful end.”[2]

Margaret Garland with thanks to Jason Goroncy

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