Go Ahead and Weep

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By Pete Ashton, flickr, cc

Preached by Denise Griebler to St. Peters Episcopal Church Detroit via zoom.

John 11:32-54

I haven’t said or written much since we have begun sheltering in place.  I’m a little nervous to do so now.   I am humbled by the pandemic.  I am awed by it.

I believe that God is with us and that we are with each other – the profound truth that we are in this together.

There is a story about the Chinese Master, Lau-tzu and his disciples:

The disciples were absorbed in the teaching:

Those who know do not say;
Those who say do not know.

When the Master entered, they asked him what the words meant.

The Master asked them: “Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose?”

Of course, all of them knew.

Then he said, “Put it into words.”

All were silent.

I am grateful for the rawness of the gospel.  A man has died.  A brother.  A friend.  There’s mourning and crying.  Jesus is late, put he does show up.  The one who heals others couldn’t be there in time for his friend. He’s too late.

And it’s not like he rushed to get there.  There’s a back story.  Lazarus (who has died) along with his the sisters, Mary and Martha – were his good friends.  They regularly helped and supported and sheltered Jesus.  They were part of his trusted inner circle.   Mary and Martha – had sent for Jesus when Lazarus fell gravely ill.  But we’re told that Jesus lingered for days where he was sheltering-in-place, hiding out from the religious authorities who wanted Jesus dead.  Finally he decides to risk going to Bethany to see his friend, but he’s too late.  Lazarus has already died.

I’m grateful for the rawness.

And even Mary’s accusing question:  where were you?  You could have saved him.

I’m grateful that he doesn’t make excuses.  He’s silent.  He weeps. I’m grateful for his tears.

And for Martha recoiling from the stench of death – from her brother’s dead body.  I’m grateful for Mary and Martha’s anger and impatience with Jesus. And for Jesus’ anger.  And his second round of tears at the tomb.  I’m grateful for the kerchief-covered face.  And for the exposure of the betrayal of the ones who are plotting to keep their privilege and power, who are ready to make easy tradeoffs – one life for many.

I’m grateful for the rawness.  Because honestly, I have been feeling pretty numb.  And the rawness helps to break me open.   I’m glad for all of the weeping in this text.  I haven’t yet found my way to tears.  How is that possible?

Maybe I’ve been caught up in denial and fear. I hear it in myself as I worry for the “most vulnerable” in a way that serves to distance myself from suffering ever actually touching me in my own body.  I am vulnerable.  We’re all vulnerable.

And I’ve been caught up in trying to keep myself and my family safe.  And trying to do my part – our part – to keep others safe.  All of which seem so small and pathetic.  Especially when I think of people who need my help. Even as I know this is precisely the best thing  most of us can do to take care of each other.  Maybe I am too ashamed to weep.  But that would be a mistake.

What if grief is our calling right now?  Our vocation.  Grief is how we can stay human in the face of all of the suffering that has been happening at a distance and is now here and washing over us in Detroit.

I heard about a meme that was circulating on FaceBook.  Jesus is in his room, sheltering in place.  Someone asks: “Where should I tell them you are?”  Jesus replies:  “Tell them I’m working in mysterious ways.”

But there actually is a mystery that he stakes is own life and death upon.  I think some of the tears he cries are for himself.  He knows that death is closing in on him and there is not much more time to be with his friends or his mother, or to be under the beauty of the sky, or out on the Lake, or around the table, to see or smell the lilies, or see the little sparrows or hear the dove hovering or to feel the Wind.  Down to the bone he believes anyway: death does not and will not have the last word.

Maybe he’s weeping at the excruciating mystery of that.

I hope I come around to my deepest self and finally weep.  I hope you do. I hope we mortals become more human.  And that we come to know more deeply our place in the web of all life.

It’s hard to feel like we are doing nothing – especially if you are someone who thrives on the front lines.  There’s plenty to do from the place where we are sheltering in place if you are longing for that.  People have been busy advocating for the water to be turned back on.  And to be turned back on safely.   And now, not in 3 months from now.   And then to be made affordable for the long haul.  The work that we have done for years is having an effect.  Thank goodness.

People are restoring other connections as well.  Reaching out to family and friends with whom we’ve been out of touch for too long.  And there will be neighbors and organizations that will need financial help – be generous.  And water deliveries to be made – if you and others in your household are healthy and not among the vulnerable, you could help with that. There will be more opportunities.

But mostly we just need to stay put.  And wait.  And try to live as well as you can – with as much kindness and joy as you can – in your own household – whether that’s with family, or roommates or alone.  And keep ourselves and others safe as best we are able. And let life keep insisting in us.  Cindy Tobias reminds us that this is front-line work at this time.

But we can also open ourselves to the suffering and weep when we feel like weeping. Be angry at the ineptitude that could have prevented some of it.

Be awed by the terrible mystery of it and our own vulnerability.

Call on the accompaniment and wisdom of the ancestors – they are helping us.

Weep and rage and rest in God.   Amen.

What the Waters Know: Re-Reading John 1:29-42

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Photo by Erinn Fahey

By James W. Perkinson

He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure (Ps 40:2).

I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel. (Jh 1:31)

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” (Jh 1:36).

So we sit today in bit of snow here in Motown, while our news feeds show weekly pile-ups of cold precipitation elsewhere across the land—and pile-ups, as well, of twisted metal in our stupid infatuation with cars and speed—as the Great Stream of Jetting Air bends south and brutal, from the Arctic Circle to Arizona, in announcement that Change, with a capital “C’ is not future, but here.  And we wonder about the upheaval of an entire planet.  Australia become a living kiln, cooking up a billion-fold of living flesh, involuntary offerings to our wanton refusal to heed!  In Puerto Rico they sleep outside, as the fracked Earth, heaving from a thousand cuts, here, there, in Oklahoma now grinding Her teeth in warning hundreds of times per year where She used to rest soft and fecund and quiet, but in our little cousin island to the south, slipping and sliding the soil into great fear and one more sheer nightmare.  Last time—it was the sea and sky as Maria roared through.  Now it is rock and sand, all serving notice they do not plan on being raped and plundered, forever.  But it is the poor who are first forced to hear and bear the pain.  The rest of us sleep-walk in daylight and pull the covers of night over our oblivious heads.  But our time is coming as well, I am afraid.  And we are far more culpable. Continue reading

Sermon: St. Peter’s is Not for Sale

IMG_1878Sermon by Denise Griebler,
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, November 17, 2019

Isaiah 65:17-25
Malachi 4:1-2a
Luke 21:5-19

May we see like God sees and hope like God hopes.  And may we not be afraid to live by that sight and that love in the meantime. Amen.

These scripture passages each get us thinking about the end. Nothing like beginning with the end.  But since we are dealing with these readings so rooted in apocalypse, maybe we are on the right track.

Imagine this community, this city, this country, this world that is going to pieces in so many places – whether by poverty or war or climate reckoning – and hear the words of Isaiah again: “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the holy city as a joy and a place where I will rejoice in my people the way they take care of each other – no more inconsolable weeping, no body in distress, babies get to live and old people get to  live our their days.  People enjoy the fruits of their labor, have homes to live in, food to eat.  Predators will cease terrorizing of the vulnerable and they will eat side by side. Healing and peace will come to the whole community. Continue reading

Sermon: Gathered Body

footprintsBy Rev. Denise Griebler at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
January 27, 2019

Epiphany 3C    Annual Meeting Sunday

Luke 4:13-21, 1 Corinthians 12-20

Get comfortable in your body – best you can – as we begin – feet grounded – sit on  your bottom and let your back be straight but relaxed and just breathe – sometimes that’s enough! – you don’t have to do or think anything right now – just be here – relax your shoulders – relax your jaw – relax your cheeks and your eyebrows – and just keep breathing – enjoy being in your body as it is  – and staying relaxed and present, notice the people who are around you. Breathing.  Here. Continue reading

Sermon for First Week of Advent

Advent 1

First week of Advent. Bio-regional wreath by Sarah Holst

By Rev. Denise Griebler
St. Peter’s Episcopal
Dec. 2, 2018
Advent 1C & Homecoming

An earthquake in Alaska, fires in California, hurricanes, flooding, draught, the wars – especially the war in Yemen – refugees at the border, people living under constant threat of deportation or eviction or water shut-off or exorbitant rent increases and more auto plants being shut down. The Rev. Karen Kerrigan (who was just ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest here at St. Peter’s) observed that we don’t even need to read the gospel this week – we could just read the newspaper! Continue reading

Sermon: Death Has No Dominion

By Bill Wylie-Kellermann, last sermon as Pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Detroit

Romans 6:1-11
Matthew 10:24-39

When I was called to St Peter’s in 2006 it marked the close of an important part of my life and the beginning of another. On the last night of 2005, Jeanie Wylie crossed over to God, having lived 7 years, and gloriously, with an aggressive brain tumor. Though marked with grief, that was nonetheless an amazing time for me, for our family: in those seven years she was teaching us how to die, and so how to live.

Continue reading

Sermon: “Preceding the Dawn”

dawn.jpgBy Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Easter Vigil, April 16, 2017
– St. Peter’s Episcopal and Detroit Catholic Worker

Matthew 281-10

Dan Berrigan, now of blessed memory, who crossed over to the ancestors and saints a year ago this month, has since been repeatedly quoted as saying, “If you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood.” Theology in a quip. He also said, though less famously, “It all started with the Resurrection…If only we would have stayed put!”

I love the particulars, the details of Matthew’s story of how Jesus refused to stay put – and more often than not, God is in the details. Let me mention a few unique to Matthew’s Gospel. Continue reading