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2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 and “A Brave and Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou

By Rev. Nicole Lamarche

Sunday February 27th, 2022

Thank you again everyone for joining me here on this beautiful morning…

Okay, you know what I am going to ask you to do. Take a deep breath and let yourself arrive more fully, listen to your heartbeat and give thanks for the chance to worship together in all of the ways that we can. Gracious God, may the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

“We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world

That is when… only when We come to it…” these words from Maya Angelou spoke to me this week. As I awoke to news that it was official, another war, more weapons, more wounding of communities and bodies, I just wept.

“We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world

That is when… only when We come to it…”

But here we are in that place where it feels very much like we haven’t yet come to it- to that brave and startling truth of what could be, of us living into miraculousness together as one human family. The invasion of Ukraine feels like yet one more thing to mourn and cry about and yet still feel helpless, because it’s another tragedy for humanity. And it’s more broken hearted mothers and little brothers lost forever, sacrificed for the idol of nation states. It feels very much like we aren’t living into our invitation to be a true wonder of this world, capable of doing just what is needed, in the big sense, in the global sense.

So I have felt a bit raw and heavy-hearted this week, especially knowing that part of what I signed up for is to show up here and be hopeful. Being a spiritual leader, I am supposed to show up with you and lift you up and help you be renewed. But I had peace when I remembered it’s not just me who does that- we do that for each, we remind each other in big and small ways that it’s worth it to keep going, to keep sharing our gifts for the whole, to keep building a collective hope, to keep trying to do good, to keep caring about being kind when it feels like the whole world is overwhelmed with rage and violence.

And I realize that part of my own sadness and I have heard this from others is about how painful it has been to see what people actually think, to see how people came out in this pandemic. It feels like a group project that we failed- we all had this big assignment to collaborate and cooperate, whether it’s about the pandemic or the war, I have just felt this collective disappointment in us. We have seen for real how little cushion there was, how unsustainable so much of our life is, we have seen now the limitations of our own creations, uncovering all of the fractures in our world- healthcare and systems of education and transportation, internet infrastructure, housing on the list could go, all of it. The dysfunction in our disconnect in family networks and community life. It turns out many Americans are so lonely that it is making us unhealthy, sick and sad and the pandemic has just revealed all of that. Whatever fancy cover there was, was ripped off, just naked and out there, the truth exposed.

In so many ways the pandemic has been a dramatic and Divine-sized unveiling. And I just laughed out loud when that word was in our sacred text for today, unveiled faces.

Just a word about Paul here- Paul is being quite anti-Judaistic, you’ll notice he is sort of making fun of Moses, contending that his way will give freedom, that if they just think like them.

This is the beginning of a tension between the early believers and that separation (from Judaism).

We can situate this text in its time and find value in it but not wanting to do damage as Christians. We don’t believe that we are evolved beyond Judaism or that we have access to something that another tradition doesn’t, so we can just hold that together.

And then just focus on the fact that God was ahead of us, because this scripture was assigned long ago and it talks about unveiling our faces. And I have been thinking about that a lot because that is what is happening right now, in a lot of places, we are unveiling our faces, literally.

I know many of you follow the work of Father Richard Rohr so perhaps you read this earlier this winter, when he wrote, “I’m convinced we are living in a time of unveiling—when reality is being revealed as it always has been and always will be. Systems of evil have become both more brazen and banal, our sense of “normal” has been upended” He wrote about how “A few weeks into the pandemic, some people even began to use the word “apocalyptic” to describe what was taking place. Often, this word is used to scare people into some kind of fearful, exclusive, or reactionary behavior, all in expectation of the “end times.” But the word “apocalyptic,” he reminds us is from the Greek apokálupsis” and it really just means “unveiling.”

So we are in that time.

In that time where we learn

“brave and startling truths”

And there are a lot of tears here in the unveiling, do you know what else is true? This time has stripped it all way and as Richard Rohr says, “When things are “unveiled,” we stop taking a whole lot of things for granted.” Has anyone else felt that? Concerts, dinner parties without a mask on, hugging. He wrote, “That’s what major events like the COVID-19 pandemic do for us. They reframe reality in a radical way and offer us an invitation to greater depth and breadth—and compassion. If we trust the universal pattern, the wisdom of all times and all places, including the creation and evolution of the cosmos itself, we know that an ending is also the place for a new beginning. Death promises a new kind of life.”

But I realize, that’s why we feel foggy in spots and mixed up in this time of unveiling our reality has been radically reframed and some of our modern myths about our human progress have died, so this explains some of our grief. But I have been wondering if maybe we humans needed something like this to be forced to stop and start over? To let go of the unnecessary and to invest in the essential, to love what matters most? What if this is our chance to go deeper? What if death really does bring a new kind of life?

When we turn this heaviness into hope, by knowing that “When things are “unveiled,” we stop taking things for granted” how does that compel us to live differently? What might open up for us?

In many of the communities that I am a part of right now, there is a similar conversation being had, once we grieve what we have lost and let go of the startling truth that some things won’t ever be like they were before, then we get to this place of asking ourselves, who do we want to be now? I think part of what I am finding is that this requires us to slow down and to stop, otherwise we just default to that familiar that was killing us, even though we know that? How can we try on new ways of being?

Maybe that means shifting things around to work less or drive less? Maybe that means moving to be near family or committing to volunteering? Maybe that means giving more money away or giving more of ourselves to a neglected inner life? I think for a lot of us it does mean slowing down so we can show up with a different intention.

It is hard to be alive at a moment in human history where a line has been drawn, there will forever be for all of us and some who come after, a moment in time, where we note that the whole world halted and shifted and some of what was has died.

And yet, what if this great unveiling can be for us a most amazing gift? Because “When things are “unveiled,” we do stop taking a whole lot of things for granted…” So when we are ready and maybe less heavy, we can dare to let go of being sad or mad about losing what was and just maybe the pandemic can be for us something like an invitation that arrived in the mail with bunch of “brave and startling truths:” and one of them is: “We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world…when We come to it…”

So the question for us, when it has all been unveiled and the truth is revealed, and the superficial things have long withered, when we have seen people and powers stop pretending because masks of all kinds have come off, who do you want to be? Who do you want to be now?

I wonder what it would be like if we gave one another permission, to be different? It’s been two years. What would it be like to allow grace for what we have all endured? To allow us to be changed?

Beloved of God, let us never again take this good gift of life for granted, this beautiful day, this place and this people, our friends and family, chosen and given. It’s all been unveiled, and “We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world That is when…We come to it…” so what if being moved by these startling truths is actually brave, what if it’s bold to be changed by this? We have been compelled to live differently, so who do you want to be now? May this be so. Amen.

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