We don’t usually go on to read that part of the story we’ve just heard … at least it’s not one of our “prescribed” readings for Sunday worship. More typically we take time with the part that comes ahead of it, which we did last Sunday – of the journey of the gift-bearing Magi who follow the star that leads them to the Christ-child. There we get a hint of the ugliness that might be on the way because of the encounter with Herod, but we usually close the book before we get there. And by the time we come back the following Sunday, Jesus is all growed up and we’re celebrating his baptism!
A few weeks ago I wondered with Daniel how much of this story would we read this time around? We decided why don’t we slow it down a bit and make room for more of this story before we, so soon after his birth, meet the adult Jesus. And yet, knowing the grief that the story holds, I wondered further with Daniel, so why would we do this? what’s to be gained by going there? And Daniel as much said, “that’s our world!” And in particular he pointed to the heartbreaking scenes on the US/ Mexican border … weeping mothers being torn from their terrified children; and the caravan of refugees-- babes in arms, children with parents, elders, all manner of desperate people-- making their way, mile after arduous mile out of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala. We see these images, and then they’re gone -- so quickly replaced by the next big news story.
Meanwhile as Daniel says, they’re still there. These people in their desperation have not gone away. Surely there’s a place for us, a need for us to remember them, be mindful of them, not to erase them. Who are we if we can’t somehow appreciate the plight of these people, these precious lives.
That conversation was a few weeks ago … before we got to the events of this past week, and the week before.
Here we are this morning with this terrible story, with its own recollection of Rachel weeping, inconsolably.
It’s our world!
It’s ourselves. It’s ourselves, and yet maybe, not so much – this weeping.
My guess is that most of our weeping has yet to come. Most of our weeping remains bottled up inside. For all the heartbreaking events we witness, or hear about, for all the heartbreaking things that transpire in our own lives, how much energy must be going into not letting our hearts break
… for then what? I think that’s a very real fear … what would happen to us
if we allowed ourselves to go there, to feel that deeply? What if we can’t get a hold of ourselves again … can’t stop crying or raging. What then?
And so we do whatever we do to keep those images at bay and close off those heart connections, which at times for our own and other’s survival we need to … this is some of the wonder of our make-up.
Except that finally, keeping our hearts from breaking, hardening our hearts, won’t serve us or anyone else well in the end. How can it?
The more brittle we are, the less we are open to life, the less available we are to one another, to ourselves, to the empathy that seeks to rise within us, and to the love that works its healing way.
So here we are between a rock and a hard place: afraid to let our grief-filled hearts break open, and yet we suffer the consequences of holding on.
This morning I share with you a story … a very personal story, of Rachel weeping inconsolably. I offer this by way of bearing witness to the possibility that it won’t be the end of the world when we make way for the grief that is in us to come pouring out.
It was July 1 st this past year when my Dad said, “you know, I think I’m coming into my final days …I want you to know that, and, I really don’t want to be alone. So as we talked that through, I assured him that between us 5 kids, we would work out a way to be alongside … we would be so grateful. So that afternoon Colleen spent some time with Dad … enjoying the garden up at UVic. And I agreed to be there in the evening, and through the night.
This was us beginning to put the plan in place. In the middle of the night . . .
. . . Any talk of it’s not your fault or you can’t let this tear you apart was for naught. No one could have stopped my weeping… I couldn’t have stopped me if I tried. In time, that wailing ended … as though all that had been there was emptied. There was a kind of gentling … an easing into the next few hours.
The next day … it was kind of miraculous really … there was no shame or guilt, no dark blanket of grief hanging over me. I would have thought I would be haunted for the rest of my life … I thought I would never stop
crying … but the tears were gone. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hospital to see Dad, to be with him. I was able to go and be totally present It was as though my heart was emptied – not of the pain of his dying, but of the grief of my part in how these days would finish out for him.
Somehow my heart was available again for pure love. So for the next 10 days I was indeed able to be right there … focussed… full of tenderness, un-tainted by any sludge.
Somehow in and through that inconsolable outpouring, I received everything I needed to go on OPEN HEARTED. It wasn’t at all something I produced myself …my part was in the emptying out.
So what can I say to you? What have I been saying? …
It is in breaking open that healing works her way.
So what about the grief that we are carrying? What about the grief that you are carrying?
This morning I see us us carving out this space … a generous spaciousness in which to be in touch with whatever that might be for us these days … whatever may be bottled up in us … whatever might be there that, maybe only now given a space, comes back to us, or perhaps something very present that we’ve been aware of carrying, like a stone on our heart.
We hold grief from all sorts of times and places, experiences and images.
I imagine us giving ourselves the gift of this time to be gently present to our hearts … to invite what is there to come to light … to come into the light. And if that comes with tears … wouldn’t that be beautiful!
And if it doesn’t come with tears … that’s also the way it comes—how beautiful.
Around the sanctuary in these locations you’ll find large bowls of water; and beside each, a pile of salt. In your own time, you may wish to come to one of those stations and gather up some salt to spill into the water …
an offering of overflowing grief, of salty tears … that it all may somehow be received … lovingly received, honoured, held … mingled with God’s own tears whose love is never overcome.
We’ll take time for this. We’re not rushing.
Eventually, I’ll begin to pray aloud … some folks may still be making their way to a station … that’s just fine … it’s not about hurrying. We’ll share the Peace … we’ll offer our gifts … we’ll sing our way out … some folks may still be making their way to a station …
Please hear me …for the remainder of our time together this morning, it’s not about hurrying! We can let things unfold around us, while whatever is unfolding within us. Whatever this looks like for you, I encourage you to let yourself be present to whatever may be the grief you connect with … trusting that touching this grief opens the way for healing.