Jesus said to the twelve, ’See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.’ Mark 10:33-34
Jesus tells his disciple’s a third time all that will happen to him when they get to Jerusalem. Like the other times, the disciples don’t seem to get it. Peter got rebuked after the first foretelling. The disciples were arguing about who is the greatest after the second one. Now, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, ask Jesus if they can sit on Jesus’ left and right, in glory. In modern terms, we call their response “tone deaf.” They haven’t heard a word that Jesus has said.
Jesus’ words should cause grief but instead they lead to these weird discussions of glory. Grief has been on my mind a lot lately. Our congregation has had many deaths recently, as well as other deaths during COVID that we didn’t get to grieve in the usual way. Personally, I’ve had a couple of losses recently that have been added to our congregational grief. I actually said to Sarah just this past week that I am worried that I haven’t had a chance to grieve these losses fully. And, it’s not just death that we grieve but also the changes that have taken place over this time of COVID. For me, when grief builds up and hasn’t been allowed to have its place, I can break down. I can get physically sick or I can struggle emotionally.
Bethesda also needs to grieve and I don’t think this is something that we are particularly good at. For example, Judy recently retired as our church librarian after 21 years and within a couple of days some people expected a fully thought out plan for what would come next. It’s ok to grieve. We need to spend time in, as one author calls it, “the liminal space.” We have to celebrate what was, allow ourselves time to grieve, and when the moment is right, begin to dream about what will come next. Making plans too soon thwarts this necessary process. My observation is that there are a number of things dating back five, ten, fifteen, even 20 years or more at Bethesda that have not been fully grieved.
When this happens, the emotion, the grief, the anger, the denial, etc. can come out unexpectedly. And, it can be frightening for the one on the receiving end of the emotion. Often it can be a newer member who unexpectedly steps on this long buried landmine of unresolved grief. As you might imagine, they end up shocked and confused by the experience.
Each All Saint’s Day, we have the opportunity to remember those who have died in the past year. But this year, we will also make space for other less tangible griefs to be lifted up; grief that you might feel about this congregation that you love; hidden landmines that finally need to be dug up from the ground so that it is safe to run around and explore without fear. As Christians, we do great harm to ourselves and others when we deny that things die. We do great harm when we don’t spend the long days in the tomb, in the liminal space. We do great harm when we jump to resurrection, and don’t experience the grief that comes naturally. To do so, is “tone deaf.”
God’s Peace, Pastor Steve