April 10 Poetry: Mary Oliver, The Word and my own word...

Mary Oliver is big in poetry land. You can even find her stuff in bookstores---chain bookstores even. She's probably America's most popular poet and this is a title well deserved. Her stuff is amazing! Her story of the natural world, her vision of religion, here love of her partner and life is palpable.


I preached today at mass so here is a poem---from Mary Oliver---about preaching. Or at least I think it is about preaching.

Then below that are my words about Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead. That was the word today.

The Word

How wonderful! I speak of the soul and seven people rise form their chairs and leave the room, seven others lean forward to listen. I speak of the body, the spirit, the mockingbird, and the hollyhock, leaves opening in the rain, music, faith, angels seen at dusk--and seven more people leave the room and are seen running down the road. Seven more stay where they are but make murmurous disruptive sounds. Another seven hang their heads, feigning disinterest though their hearts are open, their hope is high that they will hear the word even again. The word is already, for them, the song in the forest. They know already how everythign is better-the dark trees less terrible, the ocean less hungry--when it comes forth, and looks around with its crisp and lovely eye, and begins to sing.

By: Mary Oliver
From What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems (De Capo Press, Cambridge, MA: 2002)

This is the jist of my preaching today...

It doesn’t likely take us long to recall those we have loved who have died.

To recall the grief we have been swallowed by.

To keep on living after those you love have died is hard work.
To live with hope perhaps harder work.

These readings challenge us deeply.
We are challenged to face our humanity.
To face our doubts and fears about death.

The readings of Lent are sign posts of who God is

They are the stories that get us through the confusion and of the sorting we will have to do on Good Friday…when it seems that God -Christ seems conquered by death…these stories are our hope in the darkness of that death. They get us through the cross, they show us how to have faith in what is after the cross.

The woman at the well offered the refreshing water of forgiveness and faith.
The blind man is given sight and faith.
The story of Lazarus shows us faith that becomes new life- a promise of what is offered to us.

These readings put Jesus’ humanity and what seems like unfathomable hope in the resurrection right next to each other.

When Jesus gets the news about Lazarus- Jesus knows that this is to be a sign.
To teach us about God’s promises to us.

Lazarus has died. . . as those of us who are here today know the living are the ones who face the greater challenges.

Let’s take the family of Lazarus

Mary and Martha, unmarried women in ancient Israel:
They have no living father, no sons, no children at all,
Their male family member is dead.
So in essence they have died.
Their grounding in society is gone.
They have no source of income.
No source of food.
No sense of clarity of the future.

They should be hopeless.
In our world, we imagine them swamped with medical bills, trying to deal with insurance companies,
their disability (in this case gender) leaves them unable to work, don’t have the resources or citizenship to access food or foodstamps.
They are abandoned by society. By the world.

They are teetering on the edge of collapse.

But from this reading we don’t pick that up.

Martha greets Jesus!
She has faith that Jesus would have raised Lazarus if he could
She has faith that he will raise on the last day..
And even more..

She believe he is the Christ…who has come into the world.

Mary seems less clear but still believes in Jesus as Christ.
What is this amazing faith that Martha has?

The blows that life is throwing her! She is grieving, certainly, but has clarity of sight, of faith.

We see in Jesus’ emotions that it isn’t the grief or sadness that makes him angry. He himself is sad, overwhelmed, grieving.

It’s the hopelessness in that grief.

The phrase, Jesus wept, would be better translated Jesus burst into tears.
That’s pretty different.

Imagine all the emotions.
His dear friend has died.
His friends, Mary and Martha, are all alone, and possibly become homeless, foodless, and naked.
All these people are surrounding him full of hopeless grief.
He has entered a dangerous land where people are out to get him
he knows big things are about to happen
He is angry and sad, and frustrated, and overwhelmed by injustice, and people’s hopelessness

He burst into tears. So upset. So emotional. So tense and struggling.

Because of all of this emotion, all of this building, all of this hopeless grief, and pain through the cloudy tears he goes to the tomb..
And we see the Glory of God! A sign of what is to come for Christ…for us!

And challenges us to truly believe! That those who we have loved really are alive.
A challenge to truly have hope amid our grief.
Sure we are saddened, overwhelmed, challenged, struggling, and burdened by grief.
But we are not hopeless.

To truly believe the promise of the resurrection.
Is to hope for our beloved dead.
To know that in our hopeless challenges.
In the parts of our lives that are rotten.
That are unjust.
At the times when we are homeless or foodless.
At the times when our relationships are amuck.
At our darkest days and the rotten days.
We, like Mary and Martha, are a hopefilled people.

Despite the horrible trials that life is holding for us…having faith that God is in it!
That is what Jesus did.
A sign for us…That God is with us in all of it. Working with us, holding our faith, being with us in our resurrections.

Do we really believe! Do we really have faith! Do we really know that despite all the obstacles life throws us…that God is willing to take us in. To take us as we are…to take us…and resurrect us.


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