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Collet for Tuesday in Holy Week

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Good evening St. Michaels,

So good to see you all on the Tuesday of Holy Week, a day that tends to be overlooked by many Christians.  With so much going on this week, this day can feel like a break between Palm Sunday and the rather heavy emotions we’ll all go through this coming weekend.  To do so, however, would be to miss an important aspect of the story that connects the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with the coming Passion–namely, that Jesus knew what was to come and he accepted what today’s Collect refers to as the ability to “gladly suffer shame.”  

Gladly suffer shame?  That’s not something I’d be eager to sign up for.  Is that what we are called to do?  In short answer, yes.  But what I would like to discuss is why and how we can do so tonight.

Jesus admits in the gospel today that his soul is troubled.  He knows that his hour has finally come.  Throughout the Gospel of John to this point, he has repeatedly pointed out that his hour had not yet come.  But now it has and he has to deal with everything that entails.  The knowledge of his coming betrayal and death, the hardship and the drastic changes that will follow, and the pain that his passing will cause to those who follow and love him.  And yet, he doesn’t succumb to depression, nor does he try to escape.  His soul is troubled. But as he says to Andrew and Philip and to all people around him, the hour has come for him to be glorified, and to be lifted up, and through this for God’s name to be glorified.  Jesus knows what must happen for God’s glory.

For us, this might be a harder task.  We often face troubles in our lives.  We may feel as though we are suffering, or even suffering shame.  Do we accept it gladly?  Probably not.  We may at times feel that we do not have the same assurances that Jesus did.  We may feel like there’s no point to our suffering and no hope for a better future.  In my own life, I didn’t give birth to my son Ian until I was 40 years old.  My husband Paul and I spent years trying with no success and it was painful and even shameful to feel, for lack of a better word, barren.  But we got through it together, with the support of others.  I did IVF, went through some complicated medical conditions.  Now, for us, Ian is the living sign that I could suffer gladly. What in your life sometimes makes you feel like you are suffering shame?  Do we give up?  Do we succumb to depression?

According to Jesus, we absolutely should not.  Yes, this is a troubling time for him.  Yes it is.  What Jesus highlights is that these troubled times are not the end. That’s the mystery of faith we have proclaimed.  Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. We have been all lifted up  like Jesus on the cross. We will all be lifted up someday, like resurrected Jesus, full of life, after we pass through the troubles and tribulations.  Like the grain of wheat, we will die, but we can also bear much fruit with how we live our lives.  We can gladly suffer cross for life, because our Jesus Christ suffers for life with us and for us. 

Now, that’s a lot easier to preach than to practice.  Let us acknowledge the suffering.  Let us accept it and know that we all suffer one way or another.  It’s a lot easier to say it will pass when it’s not your own.  Acknowledging our own and other people’s suffering is hard work. And it requires faith to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s where our faith comes in.  We just might not be able to do it alone. 

Look around you. The people here at St. Michaels are the ones who help us sit with suffering when the world is dark.  They help us believe by sitting with darkness and suffering, believing that we are children of the light.  They help us believe that it is worth suffering gladly for the sake of life. 

One of my favorite authors, geochemist Hope Jahren, once wrote in her book, Lab Girl.

Quote “Something so hard can be so easy if you just have a little help. In the right place, under the right conditions, you can finally stretch out into what you’re supposed to be. After scientists broke open the coat of a lotus seed and coddled the embryo into growth, they kept the empty husk. When they radiocarbon-dated this discarded outer shell, they discovered that their seedling had been waiting for them within a peat bog in China for no less than two thousand years. This tiny seed had stubbornly kept up the hope of its own future while entire human civilizations rose and fell. And then one day this little plant’s yearning finally burst forth within a laboratory. I wonder where it is right now. Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” End Quote.

For two thousand years, a tiny lotus seed stubbornly kept up the hope. The right place, the right time has not come yet. During the winter, the tree waited faithfully to be blooming. Every time we reach out for hands to pray together, we could be like scientists broke open the coat of a lotus seed and coddled the embryo into growth. So I want to thank everyone here, for all that you do, known and unknown, that being present with others when they are suffering.  Whether you know it or not, you make the promise of Holy Week real for us all.

On this Tuesday of Holy Week, Let us walk to the cross of our savior together. It is too soon to see Easter on Holy Tuesday. Yet with all the confidence of Easter, let us sing like psalmist once again so that “we will hope continually and will praise God yet more and more.”(ps. 71:14) Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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