Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
When I read today’s gospel (John 16:12-15) about the unbearable and began preparing this sermon I thought to myself, This gospel is exactly what we need to hear. We are living the unbearable. I also thought to myself, And it’s the last thing I want to hear. I can’t take any more unbearable.
We are now nineteen days (a haunting number) since the Robb Elementary School shooting. Some days it feels like a lifetime ago. Other days it feels like yesterday. Regardless, every day every thing feels to me unbearable: big things and little things, things related to the shooting and things unrelated to the shooting, the events and circumstances going on around me and all the stuff going on within me. Everything feels unbearable. I suspect you might feel that way too.
Some losses are irreparable. There is nothing to be gained from the pain. There is no view long enough to eventually say, “It was worth it.” Nothing can compensate for what has been taken.
The darkness of May 24th and its wake of suffering, grief, and loss are overwhelming and unbearable. That darkness has left me in tears. I cry a lot these days because of that darkness.
And the light carried by and revealed in the messages of love, compassion, and support, the prayers, presence, and generosity that continue to pour out and shine on Uvalde are also overwhelming and unbearable. That light has also left me in tears. I cry a lot these days because of that light.
Where there is great suffering there is also great love. And hope is never more real than when it is sought, expressed, and embodied in the darkness.
Darkness and light are two sides of the unbearable and we are experiencing both the unbearable darkness and the unbearable light. So did Jesus. If God is anywhere, God is in the unbearable.
In the unbearable darkness of Lazarus’ death “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). And so do we weep. In the unbearable darkness of Gethsemane he wrestled with who he was and who he would be; his values and the things that really matter and are most important; his alignment with a power, strength, and hope beyond himself. And so are we wrestling. In the unbearable darkness of death he offered forgiveness, compassion to others, and commended himself to a love stronger than death. And so must we.
The unbearable light shines in the unbearable darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5). In the unbearable light of his transfiguration Jesus said, “Get up and do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7). In the unbearable light of his resurrection he said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19) and “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And in the unbearable light of his heavenly throne he said, “See, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
“Making all things new” is the only response to the darkness and irreparable losses of our lives. It’s what we see Jesus teaching and doing throughout the gospels. And it started “in the beginning” when “darkness covered the face of the deep” and “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:1-3).
“Making all things new” is what we hear and pray in the liturgy week after week: “In [Jesus] you have brought us out of error into truth, out sin into righteousness, out of death into life” (Book of Common Prayer, 368); and “To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy…. And rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new” (Book of Common Prayer, 374).
Making “the whole creation new” is our hope and prayer in the unbearable darkness. I don’t know when it will happen, how it will come about, or what it will look like, but I know this: You and I have a role in making “the whole creation new.” It’s what a Trinitarian life looks like. We take our place with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as co-creators making “the whole creation new.”
As painful as the unbearable darkness is and as much as I’d like to avoid or escape it, I don’t want to run or turn away from it. And I hope you don’t either. Though we are wounded and broken hearted, we are not our wound or our broken heart. We are more than what has happened to us.
I don’t want us to be defined or possessed by the unbearable darkness, I want us to allow it to soften our hearts, open our ears, and sharpen our vision to the Spirit that guides us “into all the truth.” So what do we do?
Stay awake to the unbearable darkness. Anything less is a denial of or a capitulation to the darkness. Pray and dream with your eyes wide open. What do you see? What do you feel? Where does it hurt in you, others, Uvalde, our country? Let your grief give rise to compassion and your anger give rise to change.
What are your prayers and dreams for “making all things new” in Uvalde and in our country? And what is your role in them? What will you and I do to bring about this new creation?
Amen and amen. Thank you Michael. May all of you there indeed find and be apart of making all things new. God be with you.
This is painfully beautiful, thank you. We continue to hold the people in Uvalde in our hearts and pray for some relief from the suffering and despair. We pray for our lawmakers. We pray for this country. We share your pain and pray in the darkness.
Beautiful. Very powerful
I pray for you and all in your beautiful country
Michael, thank you for this reflection. God is always present in the darkness—is the light we hold on to make it thru the days of darkness. Prayers continue for all🙏🙏🙏
Dear, dear Michael, Again, I am moved by your wisdom and integrity as you share your own pain and voice with those of us who join you in grieving and unbearable sadness. Your Spirit-given wisdom speaks truth and challenge to us. My prayers for you and Cyndy, as well as for Uvalde and our world continue. I continue to pray for your comfort and sustaining as your live through these unbearable days. And the message of Resurrection and the Presence of the Holy One as we walk through these days is poignant and powerful. Thank y ou.
Saw this quote after reading your sermon and thought of you and Cyndi,
“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
Mike, this is wonderfully crafted. I can only guess at how much you all hurt, but in my experiences, it’s more then you ever imagined. Your supportive message is balm to those who ache with loss. Thank you for being so open about your own feelings.