Tumbling in the Sand
This reflection was preached for the Longest Night service, December 21, 2012. This service is meant to be a service of prayer, healing, and space for sorrow amid a generally cheerful time. Little surprise, in Connecticut of late (especially so close to Sandy Hook) it’s not been overly cheery as we mourn those we know who died and the sheer tragedy of it all … so, I suppose the service was well timed.
These are very familiar texts.
We normally hear them every year at Easter time—the Sunday after Easter.
But today is St. Thomas day and these were the appointed texts for the day
and I kind of liked them.
It’s sort seemed appropriate to me that we would remember Thomas today
on the longest night
when we, like he did,
We wait for the resurrected Christ to show up.
We wait for life to prove itself stronger than death
We wait for some sort of sign that the surrounding darkness won’t finally engulf us
That the incarnation of God matters.
And even as we wait, it’s hard not to doubt in the night.
It’s hard not to doubt in the sadness
It’s hard not to doubt in the shock of violence and death.
It’s hard not to doubt and to barely hear the words of hope spoken around us.
In fact we do doubt.
We cry out on the rampart for God to show up.
We refuse to simply settle for some sort of comforting word meant to lull us to sleep in the dark.
We want an answer
We want a sign
We want something to cling to so that we know that the fragile incarnation makes a difference
that this story of a baby in a manger changes something
that the suffering of God on a cross really makes the world a different place.
So we doubt.
And you know, doubt isn’t really popular.
Even today, when the church or faith does not necessarily dominate the dialoge
You’re supposed to believe or not believe
You’re supposed to buy facts and figures
Everything is supposed to be clear cut, right and wrong.
You’re supposed to have it all figured out.
Even in the argument following the shooting in Sandy Hook,
We all have no doubt about what the problem is and how to fix it.
We have no doubt that those who disagree with us are idiots.
We have no doubts. No doubts about that at least.
But doubt is not a bad thing.
Actually, in the midst of the night
waiting on the rampart
waiting for a sign
Doubt is exactly what we need
It is what cries out to God
It is what demands and answer
It is what waits for the risen Christ for a whole week
It is what refuses to go back to sleep.
And that is what we don’t need to do: go back to sleep.
We do not need to be comfortable with the way the world is
We do not need to be satisfied with the suffering in this life
We do not need to be complacent with death.
We need doubt.
We need doubt to remind us that something isn’t quite settled.
We need doubt to remind us that we are small.
We need doubt to remind us that what we hope for is bigger than ourselves.
We need doubt to seek for God.
And you know, we need doubt in order to see God.
Because, when we have it all figured out and don’t doubt at all
We think God doesn’t show up in schools where there is violence.
We think God’s judgment is found in our judgment.
We think God’s power is our own
And we miss God.
We miss the God who shows up in the stable.
We miss the God who runs with the refugees into Egypt
We miss the God who weeps with Rachel and promises to dry her tears.
We miss the God who cries out for God’s own presence on the cross.
We miss the God who comes and reveals God’s self not in power and in glory and in might.
But with tender wounded hands
and a gentle reminder that
there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
It speaks of a time when the dawn will break
when the violence will end
when life will walk … on wounded–but healed—feet
and the vulnerability of love will overwhelm the hollowness of hate
And our tears will turn to laughter.
Until then, let us doubt in this world of hate and violence that would have us fall asleep
And let us have faith to wait upon the rampart and to cry out for God’s vision in the night. Amen.
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