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Apocalypse Blues


Series: Ordinary TIme

Category: 2018 Sermons

Speaker: Rev. Nicole Trotter

 Scriptures….(Much of this week was improvised so text will not always match recording)


As a clergy person, I'd like to welcome you all to the apocalypse. Pull up a chair, and make yourself uncomfortable. If when you think of an apocalypse, you picture a scary, doom-filled punishment from above, you're not alone. Originally, though, apocalyptic literature existed not to scare the bejesus out of children so that they would be good boys and girls, but to proclaim a big, hope-filled idea-- that dominant powers are not ultimate powers. Empires fall, tyrants fade, systems die, God's still around. 

In Greek, the word apocalypse means to uncover, to peel away, to show what's underneath. That's what this country has been experiencing in recent months.

(she goes on to talk the me too movement,,,about the uncovering of male dominance that’s always been around, but is now being uncovered and exposed…) 

But what if we expanded the idea the byproduct of all the division we are experiencing… we are uncovering a greater understanding of one another in the process. What if through the experience of witnessing hate groups with anti semiotic agendas we develop a greater sensitivity to the history genocide that our jewish brothers and sister have endured since the beginning of time… and what if through the natural destruction of fires, earthquakes and floods we come to realize that we can do better, better by the environment and better by one another through compassion and care…

And more than all of that….what if all of that leads us to take action and stand up in the face of everything thats falling apart by actively doing something about it? 

because if Jesus is promising that all of this is but the beginning of birth pangs,,than life is being born….something new…something hopeful, something promising is being born through us in this painful process….

In the little reading I did, I found a book titled Blue Note preaching in a Post-Soul world….The idea is similar to what I’ve preached here before….that we tend to be an easter people, wanting to skip painful part of good friday and get to sunday so we can shout hallelujah….

But Hallelujah is so mush sweeter once you’ve allowed yourself to feel the moans of friday. Before we get to rossirection, we must experience the cross.

That’s what we’re experiencing right now……in fires and death, in shootings and in hurricanes, in anti semitism and in division, the world is experiencing the blues….

And like any good blue note, there is an inherent understanding that you are not alone….that like the laments of the psalms…there is a universal note that is struck…yes, I’ve been there, yes I am there….and yes, I will probably be there again.

No one knows this better than Jesus. The one who knows suffering first hand, knows hope. The one who dies knows resurrection, but he didn’t skip over anything to get there, and if we are supposed to be following him, we don’t skip over it either…..

Birth pangs are real, they're excruciating….here are some quotes….that in the particular experience of a particular womanhood, of giving birth through particular anatomy, comes the universal truth of life from death, of resurrection from pain, of hope out of fear——the same is true for our holy scriptures…that out of the particular experiences of a people from a specific time still lives the universal wisdom and truth of experience that transcends all time, all races, all genders.

So listen to these quotes about birth….but think universally about where we are culturally as a county, a state, a country and a world….

Birth Quotes-

“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”

“Birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exult in.”

“The wisdom and compassion a woman can intuitively experience in childbirth can make her a source of healing and understanding for other women.” 

“A strong intention, a relaxed body and an open mind are the main ingredients for an active birth.” 

“Birth is an opportunity to transcend. To rise above what we are accustomed to, reach deeper inside ourselves than we are familiar with, and to see not only what we are truly made of, but the strength we can access in and through birth.”

“Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.”

—Maya Angelo


Jesus never answers the disciple's question of when this will all take place… 

The end of time will be Tuesday at 3:10 pm. Instead, he tells them there will be false messiahs claiming to be him and they will lead you astray…

So what are the false messiahs leading us astray…The media who would have you choose fear over faith? facebook who would have you think that if you place your thoughts and prayers on a page you’ve somehow done something profound because 33 people liked it? Choosing not to pay attention to the news at all because it’s just too depressing? 

Which is why Hannah-

And here this woman who is in the midst of suffering goes to pray and Eli the priest who is hanging around the temple mistakes her for being drunk, adding insult to injury, and so she explains- 

“No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 

And we know how the story ends…she gives birth to a son…. 

Which is why these scriptures are placed together for lectionary purposes….there's a birth in all of this anguish and anxiety… is born…again…

But here’s our mistake as Christians….we go to that hope just a little too quickly. We like easter and we skip our Good Friday. But Hannah didn’t. And Jesus won’t give us a date for when his hopeful scenario will play out? Why is that? Our understanding of eschatology, or end times, can be one that is happening all the time….and the false messiah we follow too often is one of platitudes

 faith isn’t to focus only on hope or staying positive….faith looks like a woman who is filled with anxiety and vexation, who believes that God is responsible for her greatest pain in this life, and prays to him anyway. Faith is understanding this life as filled with awful threats and circumstance that God is in the middle of, working in us and through us to help return this life, to give birth in the middle of unbearable pain…not through avoidance, but through compassion. 

When I read this story of Hannah, I understood it as a story of prayer, not the reduced story of we just have to remain faithful and pray and God will answer our prayers, though if that’s what gives you comfort, by all means, go there….it just doesn’t work for me….because when I pray….I go to the people who are suffering….and God can’t bring back to life the loved ones of those who are gone….but if we pray long enough, as Hannah did, with full anxiety and vexation, God will give birth to something…born from compassion, born for the ability to sit with the sadness of what others must be going through….long enough for people to misunderstand our prayers and accuse us of being intoxicated, not with false hope, but with the promise that God is still there….working in us to help make a difference in the lives of those who suffer.

That's what we do. And its born from a place of compassion which can only come from sitting with the pain, not following some false messiah-but by believing in this Christ, who has already returned, who lives in each one of us, a god who didn't cause those fires, but who has the ability to keep our hearts open enough to endure tragedy by loving one another, doing what we can,  giving what we can, taking in what we can 

The best thing we can do is to pray to God to allow our hearts to grow heady…

“Birth is an opportunity to transcend. To rise above what we are accustomed to, reach deeper inside ourselves than we are familiar with, and to see not only what we are truly made of, but the strength we can access in and through birth.”