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Boulder Strong?

Psalm 130, Mark 3:20-35 and Everybody Has a Heartache: A Blues by Joy Harjo

Sunday June 6th, 2021

Good morning and thank you again for worshiping with us today on this glorious weekend, now in June, for what is in our tradition, a day where we share communion and also the second Sunday after Pentecost.

As we come to this time in our service, as you are comfortable, I invite you to take in a few deep breaths and to simply notice your heartbeat. For those who are here, to notice the creek sounds…. And as you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer and centering from Psalm 19. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

When most of our brains were still foggy and the lumps in our throats so present, that all we could do was to just keep breathing, the signs started to appear. Small squares and big squares, in front yards and along sidewalks, on stickers and flags, on wooden fences and store front windows- in yarn and pain and chalk, with a light blue background and blue letters all in CAPS or with a black background and huge white letters, there it was, there it is still is, everywhere- #boulderstrong.

While I appreciate the intention as I understand it- to remind us all that we are still here, that we can be resilient, that we have remained even with pain and heartbreak, that we are survivors, even after the worst thing, it sort of annoyed me, that we, were now just another city, in a long line of them, that found ourselves in the wreckage of broken glass and broken dreams, reduced to a hashtag.

The list is long.

It feels a little like a slogan slapped over our negligence. And as I have pondered it, don’t these incidences of mass violence in fact show how weak we are? How fragile we really are? How frail we are? How much failure has brought us where we are?

As a collective, we have been cowardly in front of the gun lobby? In our conversations with our neighbors and friends, with our family and co-workers, fearing discontent or disconnection, we have failed to frame this as a matter of personal and public safety, putting rights over responsibilities, to keep our children alive.

We have been debilitated, lacking creativity and courage, seeming to accept this blood stained status quo that is the United States of America. We require a license to drive a car, but not a license to drive to a local store and purchase a weapon of war.

I am guessing that #boulderweak would not be as enticing a hashtag, but if every city in this country mowed down by massacres, had to wear and show this slogan boldly until we changed our laws, might that be more honest? #Boulderweak

It was in the hours after the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon that the slogan "Boston Strong" appeared as a hashtag on Twitter and then spread quickly. It came from a T-shirt created by then Emerson College students Christopher Dobens and Nicholas Reynolds. They said their main inspiration was a combination of Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong campaign and the 2016 recruiting slogan from the Army. #armystrong

So especially given the history and the roots of this slogan, I find myself asking again are we strong like that?

Because if we mean the kind of strength that comes from a colonialist sense of power, that involves coercion and cheating, lies and shattered lives, weapons and war, do we want to be strong like that? And here’s another question, maybe more of a theological question, do we need to be?

What I mean, is that, what if it is in our lowest points, our painful places, what some might call our weak places, in our individual and collective lives that we are actually made strong?

In 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, we read, “ I appealed to God that it would leave me, but God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power[c] is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Maybe this is pointing to what in my experience, are the times, when we are honest about how down we are, how separate we are, how weak we are, that is how we find the strength to get where we need to go?

What if true strength can only come, when we first acknowledge our fragility and failure? Maybe there is something that feels like a power that comes from what the world calls weaknesses and weak places?

What if it is when we show and share our shortcomings and heartbreaks instead of covering them with slogans that we can heal?

What if it is when we dare to admit the places where we are captive to the wrong powers that we can truly feel fully alive?

What if we first must confess where we have been seeking to be strong, for the wrong reasons and from the wrong places that we can feel happy and whole?

The story you heard from the Gospel of Mark is a literary gem where Jesus is responding to all kinds of accusations with a set of images where attempts to show what means to be strong and how something divided against itself is weak and will not be able to stand, whether it is a whole kingdom, a household, or even one standing against Satan and the powers and principalities that care little for human heartbreaks.

Jesus goes on to use another image of a strong man’s house and how it cannot be taken over, unless the owner is first tied up. He speaks of the pain caused by all that is working against God’s restoration and love in the world and he condemns all held captive by Satan. Scholar Nibs Stroupe writes that, “Satan does not mean a personality with a red tail, but it does name a demonic power that is actively engaged against the compassionate and reconciling love of God…he called out our captivity to the powers of evil signified by Satan, powers that continue to seek our allegiance.”

Think of all of our “Satan-soaked allegiances” -The power of the myth of the construct of race. The power of patriarchy. The power of militarism, materialism, mass illusions of what it means to live in freedom… The power that comes from profiting off of lobbying and loss of life.

What if it is in our lowest, our painful places, what some might call our weak spots, in our individual and collective lives, that we can truly be made strong? But what if that also means first acknowledging our fragility and our failures? Daring to admit the places where we are captive to the wrong powers that we can truly make our way to what feels like paradise here and now?

The words from the poet Joy Harjo remind us of the truth that every one of us has a heartache and a heart break and a blues. “We will all find our way, no matter fire leaping through holes in jump time, No matter earthquake, or the breaking of love spilling over the dreck of matter In the ether, stacking one burden Against the other — We all have a heartache.

And maybe we don’t need to hide them? And maybe we shouldn’t? Because what if it is when we show and share our shortcomings and heartbreaks instead of covering them with slogans that we can heal? From our history? And from our present captivities?

Maybe this is what our ancestors meant when they wrote, there is a power that is made perfect in weakness? May it be so. Amen.

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