Thursday, December 31, 2009

On Flicking Your BIC: Christmas Eve Sermon

In Chicago, in the summer time every year, the city hosts a Blues Festival. Thousands of people turn out for this festival; they gather in Grant Park and listen to some of the all time great blues musicians in the world. People like Coco Taylor, BB King, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells....

Now this is a festival for the blues; a festival of sorrows, if you will; because the blues were invented to help people deal with the pain in their lives. In other words, this is not the kind of crowd that stands up and flicks their lighters and holds them aloft during the concert, is what I’m saying.

So about a hundred years ago, or more precisely some time back in the mid-80s, Rose and I were at the Blues Festival and we were sitting behind this young teen-aged boy; he was all alone at the concert; and by the looks of him – all freshly scrubbed and carefully dressed - we knew he was from the suburbs. But it was clear that he had been to a rock concert before, because half way through the performance he got out his BIC lighter and flicked it and held it up in the air.

And this young man did not appear discouraged when no one else flicked their BICs. For the entire remainder of the concert, he kept at it, holding up that lighter and looking over his shoulder with a hopeful look on his face, waiting for that magical moment when the entire crowd of thousands would be waving their lighters and swaying side to side, inspired by his example.

And as the night wore on, the look on his face grew only more and more determined; he didn’t give up – not until the very end, when the final chord was struck. And as the applause died down my heart went out to him, that lonely hero of hope; that brave soldier, shining his light against the darkness, come what may and no matter how silly he seemed to a jaded and cynical world of blues.

Since those days, the world has only grown more full of the blues; it seems to me that the world needs that young man now more than ever.

But some days, if you look hard enough, you can see that little BIC lighter out there. When the nights are darkest, the stars are their most brilliant.
It was in the middle of one of the darkest moments of Israel’s history that the prophet Isaiah caught sight of that light - but it wasn’t a little flickering BIC that he was describing when he said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

The year was 735 BC; the kingdom of Judah was facing annihilation by Assyria – the greatest power in the known world. What hope could they have? The prophet Isaiah saw the look on the king’s face; he saw that the king was without hope and that he was more aware of his weakness than of his strength. And so Isaiah spoke these words to help King Ahaz get things in perspective. Don’t forget, Isaiah was saying, that the Lord your God is a great God; don’t forget the promises that he made to us. Keep your hope alive, Isaiah was saying. Assyria is nothing compared to the kingdom promised to us under the house of David.

But the king didn’t listen to Isaiah, and instead basically gave away his kingdom to the Assyrians.

Isaiah must have felt a little like the young man at the blues festival, looking out over a sea of darkness: am I the only one around here who is willing to hope?

When the nights are darkest, the stars are their most brilliant. I imagine it was a dark night, indeed, in that little town of Bethlehem so many years ago, when the star appeared from the East. The people of Israel were desperately poor, living under a brutal army occupation. Torture and terrorism were commonplace; and hope was in very short supply. And yet, in that darkness, the star appeared.

On the night of September 11, 2001, I was among a few religious leaders invited to address a crowd of over 12,000 students who had come to the center of campus to pray. Somehow, there were enough candles for everyone – the Catholics brought them. Where they got their hands on 12,000 candles I will never know. And while we prayed for peace on that very dark night, the candles were lit – at the front of the crowd, first, and then spreading toward the back until it looked like a vast galaxy of stars.

If you were alive then you might remember the pit in your stomach; the sense of panic just beneath the surface; the fear and the grief and the uncertainty. But as those candles were lit; when we took in the sight of just how much light can be thrown against the night when people decide that it is time to hope – well, it was a sight to see.

But toward the end of the prayer vigil we ran into a slight problem; we hadn’t quite thought through a fitting way to end it; as the last prayer was spoken there was a moment of uncertainty; the crowd started to shift their feet; no one wanted to leave. And that’s when a priest among us on the stage took a step toward the crowd, and in the silence and the confusion, lifted his candle high above his head.
I don’t believe I will ever see anything more beautiful than the sight of all 12,000 of those candles lifted up. It was, to me, as if an angel appeared over a sea of shepherds, and said, “Take heart. Do not be afraid.”

There are days when I read the newspaper and my memory of that voice seems very distant indeed.

Just yesterday there was a crowd of Muslim pilgrims in Iraq, reverently marching to a holy shrine in Karbala. They endured five separate bomb attacks; 47 pilgrims were injured; five were killed.

In November, 88 Iraqi civilians died at the hands of terrorists. The good news is that this is the lowest number of civilians killed since the invasion in 2003.

In Mosul, Christian churches have been bombed six times during the past month. Three people have been killed so far, including a baby.

It’s enough to make you forget the voice of that angel, speaking words of peace.

And so tonight, when I hold my candle against the darkness, I will be praying for the victims of warfare and terrorism, wherever they may be, whatever their creed.

Tonight, when you hold your candle against the darkness, what will you be praying for?

Closer to home, we have our own challenges. Many of us are reminded, every Christmas, of what we have lost. We can’t stop thinking about Christmases past, when times were better: when we were healthier, when our beloved families were still intact; when our loved ones were still counted as among the living.

When I raise my candle tonight, I will be praying with my brother, who on the other side of the earth is praying that this will not be his last Christmas. I will be thinking of my Mom, and all the ways she made Christmas so special; and I will be thinking of our beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, who died last Christmas.

Tonight, when you hold your candle against the darkness, what will you be praying for?

Many of us have lost jobs, some of us have lost our homes; some of us are struggling against addiction or depression. Tonight, when I raise my candle against the darkness, I will pray for my loved ones’ economic relief.

What will you be praying for?

Let your prayers be heard tonight; this of all nights – because Christ comes to a homeless couple living in a barn – to give us hope even in the face of poverty; Christ comes to us in fullness and light, to heal us even in the midst of our illness. Christ comes to us in wartime, to teach us how to find peace even in a world of violence and desperation.

Let your prayers be heard tonight - of all nights.

Sometimes I wonder about that young man, that hero of hope who held his BIC lighter up at the concert. I wonder if he ever found the courage to flick his BIC ever again.

Sometimes, when things haven’t gone our way, we will decide never to hope again. We might think we are alone in a vast sea of cynical people, all of them battling the blues, and we might decide just to join them; give up on hope; not embarrass ourselves again. But maybe what it means is that we’ve been flicking our BICs in the wrong place; maybe instead of a blues festival, we might try flicking our BICs somewhere else – like maybe in a church. Maybe it wouldn’t feel so different if we surrounded by people who have learned to pray rather than to complain.

Maybe that is what brought you here tonight. Led by your own star to this sacred place; surrounded on all sides by other heroes of hope.

Tonight, when you lift your candle, you can trust you are not alone. So let that hope that is within you, that uncreated flame of God that burns inside you, raise you up. Join your voice with angels and archangels; proclaim the goodness of God; and rejoice that here, in this place, Christ our savior is born.


Note: at the end of the worship service, the lights went out and we all lit our candles while singing "Silent Night." At the end of the hymn, I stood at the altar and silently raised my candle. Gradually, everyone else did also. It was a gorgeous thing to see.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gospel Truth - Hard Truth

Advent 3, 2009

In my sermon two weeks ago, I talked about all the themes of repentance and coming apocalypse that are contained in the readings for Advent; after the service one of our members said, “You know, I never noticed that before. And to be honest, I just ignore all that stuff anyway.”

I suddenly got a vision of John the Baptist 2,000 years ago; it’s a clear, sunny day in a village in Galilee and he arrives in the town square and starts fulminating with this sermon we hear this morning. A group of shoppers gathers around him and listens politely while he wades in on them: “You brood of vipers, the wrath to come, the winnowing hook, the ax laid at the roots…”

When he’s done there’s a moment of silence; the crowd blinks, someone says, “Eh,” and everyone walks away.

“Who was that guy,” someone says? “Eh, who knows? Some guy, talking crazy…”

In other words, what I’m getting at is that we tend to hear the sermons we want to hear; we tend to believe what we’ve decided to believe ahead of time. When someone comes along with an inconvenient truth – some fact or bit of evidence that doesn’t fit with what we already have decided to believe, we will simply not notice it – literally in many cases. Social psychologists call this “confirmation bias.”

We all do this – no one’s immune. The other day our deacon, Pamela, told me that [name of delicious candy withheld] – which happens to be one of my favorite foods – have, of all the candies, the highest quantities of insect parts inside them. She even told me the story of how, on two successive occasions, she bit into one and found – well, I don’t want to spoil your breakfast, but it’s like the old joke: what’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?

Half a worm...

Now, I have no reason to think she made that story up… but on the other hand, you know what? “Eh!” I’m not giving up my favorite food.

We hear what we want to hear – and if we are unfortunate enough to be stuck in church while the preacher goes on a John-the-Baptist rant about broods of vipers and winnowing hooks, we’ll just wait him out and then say, “Eh.”

It’s a tricky thing, being a preacher – you hate the idea of people saying “Eh” while you’re preaching… you want people to actually hear the truth of God as it has been revealed to you… you know that it doesn’t do anyone any good to get all John-the-Baptist-y on your people because it’s only going to drive them away – but on the other hand there is this truth as you understand it; and you’ve made a sacred vow to represent that truth.

How much to challenge, how much to comfort – a tricky question. It’s especially tricky because we’ve learned a few things since the days of John the Baptist. We’ve learned, for example, that anger and shaming almost never helps a situation. Neither does fear. John the Baptist had no problem pointing his finger in anger, scaring them into listening, shaming them into repentance.

But even the gloomiest of the gloom-and-doom prophets tended to balance their messages with visions of sweetness and light; it’s as if they knew, intuitively, that anger and punishment only gets us so far. Even Zephaniah, as gloomy a prophet as ever there was, has this section that we read this morning (Zeph. 3:14-20), full of exultation and joy and the promise of a better tomorrow.

I think it’s this knowledge that anger and fear and shame only get us so far that leads some of us to dismiss the judgmental words of the prophets so quickly – maybe a little too quickly.

Some of us grew up in households dominated by an angry, punishing person. The image of John the Baptist yelling and ranting only serves to reignite the traumatic experiences of our childhood and we have no hesitation to dismiss it.
Of course. That makes perfect sense.

Except, of course, the truth is that whatever John the Baptist was angry about, it had nothing to do our childhood traumas. I wonder if for some of us a different response might be possible; I wonder what might happen if we were able to not get triggered by our own issues and consider whatever it was that John the Baptist was really angry about. Maybe we would discover that it was something that we, too, were angry about – and rightly so. And this then would invite us to explore our own issues with anger.

Most of us have anger issues of one kind or another. The anger of the prophets might just alienate and frighten us. But there is such a thing as healthy anger, isn’t there – when it is expressed appropriately and safely? Of course, we are Episcopalians – we are, if nothing else, polite unto death. But there is such a thing as righteous anger, like the anger of the prophets.

I don’t mind saying I get angry. I get angry over the way our immigrants are treated; I get angry when people I love can’t get basic health care; I get angry at the millions of dollars the drug companies are spending to keep it that way. I get angry that no one seems to get angry anymore.

Maybe you have your own righteous anger. I hope you do. The Bible is clear: anger at injustice is no sin; righteous anger is a blessing.

And Jesus, also, is clear: shame and fear are never helpful.

When Jesus comes across the mob about to stone the adulteress – this is the ultimate act of shaming, isn’t it? - he says, “Those without sin: cast the first stone.” (John 8:7)

He doesn’t shame anyone; not even the people with the rocks in their hands. Instead he points to the fact that we all sin; we all are in need of repentance.

I knew a man back in Boston – a good man, a member of this big prestigious church I was going to at the time. He lived in a nice house in a wealthy suburb outside Boston; but he had a shameful secret, which was that he grew up in a violent home. He was physically abused often by his angry and shaming father; and as an adult, to his enormous grief and shame, he found himself hurting his wife.

Then one day his priest – a mentor of mine – got a call from this man’s wife. So he paid them a visit. This priest was a gentle man. He didn’t threaten and he didn’t scold. He made sure that the wife was safe; and then he made sure the man understood three things: first, that his secret was out; second, that there was no need for shame; and third, that help was available.

Somehow that priest told the truth in a way that the man could hear; and on that day three things happened: he confessed his sins and asked for forgiveness; he moved out so he would no longer be a threat to his wife; and he started getting some help.

This was the good news gospel truth for that man and his wife: that they were not alone – everyone is imperfect and there is no shame in admitting that, no matter how nice your house is – and that there was a way out. They did not need to be trapped in their cycles of anger, shame, and loathing. They were blessed.

Sometimes the good news is hard news. But this is the good news of Jesus Christ: that no matter how much shame we feel, we are blessed. No matter how loathsome we think we are, we are loved. In our deepest failings and our worst sins, we are forgiven.

This is what gives us the courage to face our failings. That’s all that God asks of us: that we take a breath, and confess the truth of our lives, ask for help, and accept the help that is offered. God takes care of the rest.

This is the Good News: it is what inspires Paul to say these words of joy:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hope in a cynical age

Sermon: Advent 2 (Year C)
December 6, 2009

Last Friday, David Brooks in the New York Times wrote about the difference between how Democrats felt during the presidential campaign and how they feel now. He said "Many Democrats are nostalgic for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign - for the passion, the clarity, the bliss-to-be-alive fervor. They argue that these things are missing in a cautious and emotionless White House."

Well, I don't know what Democrats Mr. Brooks has been talking to, but his remark got me thinking about hope and disillusionment; and about John the Baptist.

Some of us have experienced the ups and downs of hope and disillusionment more than once in our lives. In the 1960’s, baby boomers like me experienced an almost eschatological hope – a hope so strong and so widely shared that it seemed to be driving history and leading us to a kind of ultimate fulfillment – and then we all experienced deep disappointment when the ideals of that time didn’t materialize.

It’s no secret that I was a child of the sixties – and I literally mean “child.” In February, 1964, I was 7 years old and my life was permanently changed when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. From then on, my siblings and I spent hours strumming tennis rackets and listening to Beatles records.

The summer before I turned into an official teenager I saw a news report about Woodstock on the CBS Evening News and I thought that this really was the dawning of a New Age - that the entire world was about to break out into a giant festival of peace and love. It seemed that this force for goodness was so massive, so irresistible, that soon we would all be singing our way back to the Garden.

Four years later I was somewhere north of here, hitchhiking along a country road looking for a commune I had heard about. A guy with long hair – a hippy, I thought, and therefore completely trustworthy - stopped to give me a ride. I'll never forget my confusion when it turned out the guy was a complete jerk –ill tempered, cynical, and inclined toward not very nice criminal behavior.

How can this be, I thought. He's a hippy ... But he's mean! How is this possible? It took me a while to make sense of this: that anyone could grow his hair long.

Disillusionment. Whether it came in the form of Martin Luther King’s assassination, or Altamont, or just some trash-talking creep with long hair, disillusionment is as much a part of the 1960s experience as was the Age of Aquarius. And yet, we don’t talk as much about it. By the time 1980 rolled around and the former yippee Jerry Rubin was found working on Wall Street, the heady days of Woodstock seemed like a hopelessly naïve, and sadly distant, dream.

In our readings for this morning you might have noticed the Canticle which took the place of the psalm. This is the famous Canticle 16, the Song of Zechariah – John the Baptist’s father. And it is as exquisite an expression of Woodstock idealism that we will ever hear in the Bible.

Remember the context of this event. It has been 500 years since there last was a prophet in the land of Israel – 500 years since the spirit of God raised up a leader who could convincingly speak for God with words of power and truth. The land of Israel has been occupied for far longer than that – a nearly unbroken chain of disasters as army after army occupied the land - Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and now the Romans – who are just about breaking the back of the people.

But now, stories of a coming divine intervention are being told again – subversive stories, whispered at the risk of being arrested for sedition. As in days of old, the people are beginning to hope again. This Canticle, sung with glee by John the Baptist’s father Zechariah at the time of his birth - is a song of hope – an outpouring of hope after 500 years of despair:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; He has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David…. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, to set us free from the hands of our enemies, Free to worship him without fear…”

And with hope comes resistance against the Romans – mostly rag-tag groups of guerilla warriors who wage hit and run operations against the foreigners.
Most of these guerillas were religious zealots, inspired by the prophecies of old and ready to believe again that God would bring a new covenant to his people along with a Messiah to restore the fortunes of Zion by chasing out the oppressors. The guerilla warriors got their ideas from groups like the Essenes, those spiritual athletes who famously preserved the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The core of the Essene community was based in remote parts of the desert, far from where the Romans could find them; they were the original desert monastics, spending their days in study and prayer and fasting and rituals, including a ritual with water that may have been where John the Baptist got his idea. They may not have been warriors themselves, but their preaching throughout the land of Judea certainly inspired the warriors, who were desperate for something to hope for; eager to believe in a Messiah who would overthrow the Empire.

Scholars believe it is highly possible that John the Baptist came out of these one of these communities.

We have an extremely rare, independent historical record of John the Baptist, written by the historian Josephus, who himself led an uprising in Gallilee. As a prisoner of the Romans he was an eyewitness to the final destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

According to Josephus, John the Baptist was extremely popular and successful as a preacher; so popular, in fact, that Herod worried he would lead an uprising. So Herod had John the Baptist arrested and killed.

Little did Herod know – that once that hope was unleashed, it could not be crushed so easily.

Hope is a dangerous thing. It can make us wildly naïve; it can inspire us to do stupid things; it can set people up for profound disappointment. And it can inspire a people to do things they never before thought was possible; it can change the course of history.

These days, it feels to me that hope is the most important thing in the world. And something of a rare commodity. It is so important for us to believe that we can meet all the challenges that confront us. Hope is so instrumental in our ability to turn the corner on all of our challenges: the economy, the environment, health care, you name it. And there are so many voices of fear and doom trying so hard to drag us down to a place of disillusionment and cynicism.

And for those of us who have been deeply disappointed by big hopes in the past, it is easy for us to give a little too much credence to the voices of fear and cynicism. But positive change never comes about from cynicism.

If it is true that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, it is also true that hope is our only hope. It need not be a naïve hope; there is such a thing as a realistic hope. Once we get in the practice of hoping, and in the practice of being disappointed, we can actually learn from our hoping, and we achieve what Reinhold Niebuhr would have called a realistic hope.

We are a religion of hope. For all of these centuries, we have been telling stories of hope. And when our hope is fixated on a very particular end, often times we’ll be disappointed. But hope is not about the particular thing we think we’re moving toward; no, hope is far deeper than that; hope is the very life of our soul; hope is this engine within us that is fed by a living God; hope gives us the capacity to stand up, look to the future, and address the challenges that are coming our way with a positive and fearless energy. That’s what hope is.

I would say that hope is the presence of the Holy Spirit within us; it is that which has, over the centuries, given our particular religion its momentum and force; and in this season of Advent it is a particularly compelling thing for us to focus on.

So during this season of Advent, I invite us into a deeper exploration of the sources of our hope; so that as life’s ultimate disappointments come our way, we have the strength and the courage to meet them head on, with joy and with trust.

Somebody say, AMEN.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting Beyond the Santa Claus God

Sermon Nov.29, 2009

Last week I was at one of our local establishments on 4th St. with my friend, the Buddhist Unitarian pastor. I was quite pleased to find beers on sale there that are named after Christian theological concepts: Redemption, Salvation, Consecration Temptation, even Perdition.

I said to my friend, “Aha! This proves that my religion is better than yours! My religion is so great, they named their best beers after our central concepts.”

He replied, “No, this proves the opposite - that my religion is better.”

“How’s that? Nothing of your religion is represented here.”

“Exactly.” he said. “It’s a Zen thing.”

So anyway I was happy to learn there was plenty of Redemption on hand and that it was reasonably priced. Hoping he’d take the hint, I bought my Unitarian Buddhist friend a pint of Perdition. He drank it down with alarming equanimity.

So this is the first Sunday of Advent – the season that teaches us all about the discipline of spiritual waiting. Henri Nouwen called it “active waiting” – the kind of waiting that involves paying attention, especially to what is changing in us, to what is being born, and to what is becoming possible.

This is the kind of waiting that pregnant women know so well. During Advent, this sanctuary becomes a kind of womb; we pay attention to the terrifying mystery of all that is changing within us and around us. We sense that there’s something big happening. God is looming somewhere – or is he lurking? We dare to trust the possibility that as terrifying as life may seem, God is in the change.

In the Bible readings during Advent, there’s a lot of talk about apocalypse – like our reading from Luke this morning.

I hope it isn’t absolutely necessary for me to say this, but I suppose it is important that periodically I remind us that Episcopalians do not tend to think of the apocalypse as a real historical event that is going to happen on some date certain. Not that there’s anything wrong with believing that, of course, and there are perfectly faithful Episcopalians who do hold that belief. But it’s safe to say that for most of us, the apocalypse makes more sense as a metaphor for how we experience God breaking through.

This morning we hear the story of Jesus telling his disciples about the day of apocalypse:
People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:26)

Most of us know something about “fear and foreboding.” Cancer diagnoses, financial catastrophes, teenagers – we all have had our own little apocalypses, our moments of divine catastrophe, when the veil is lifted; those moments that find us on our knees, begging for a miracle, asking “Where is God in this?”

And sometimes we get an answer: Wait.

And then, in a prayer, in a dream, out of the corner of our eye, we sense it coming. There’s ozone in the air; a flash of lightning on the horizon. We sense the possibility that there might be blessing in what we were sure could only be catastrophe. On that day, Jesus says, “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)

And just to be clear now, I’m not talking about beer anymore.

I’m talking about active waiting.

Our children learn the discipline of active waiting very well during Advent - because there is no event more actively waited upon than Christmas. Our children are living in keen anticipation, counting every day ‘til he comes “in a cloud (well, okay, in a sleigh) with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27)

When I was a child during Advent the first thing I would do every morning was go to my Advent Calendar and peel off the little door for the day. Inside there would be a little chocolate surprise – this is why I love Belgian chocolate so much - and there would be a little picture and a Bible saying, and then, stepping back, you could take in the whole calendar and see the progress you were making toward the day of his coming.

And for four solid weeks we would be singing that song of Active Waiting: "Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not shout I'm telling you why...."
Thanks to Santa Claus, Advent and Christmas has become a little religion unto itself, complete with its own sacred scriptures, scrupulous rituals, moral codes, and pantheon of deities (Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, all those elves and reindeer).

In fact, I think that if Santa Claus didn't exist, we would definitely have to invent him. Now, I know some people complain that Santa Claus has become more important to our children than Jesus – and I agree that’s troubling. But on the other hand, any religious cult that inspires a 5-year old to make his bed is not all bad.

But at some point we grow up and find other reasons for making our beds. In my case, it’s my marriage - which I wish to preserve.

I heard Karen Armstrong the other day, talking about her new book called The Case for God. She said that Christianity’s problem is that so many people learned about God around the same time they learned about Santa Claus. When we’re children, God is just the big Santa Claus in the sky; and then we grow up, our ideas about Santa mature, but our ideas about God don’t.

I think she’s absolutely right; I see this all the time: as long as our lives are going well and we’re getting our little gifts under the tree, we think God likes us and we like God. And then one day we wake up and we’ve got a lump in our breast and it feels like a lump of coal in our stocking. And we say “Hey! What’s the deal! I’ve been good! Where are my gifts?” And when we don’t get a satisfying answer we blame our Santa Claus God, and we blame our religion for having lied to us.

This is perfectly normal. The truth is that we all cling to the god of our childhood as long as we possibly can; we can spend our entire lives listening to grown up sermons and reading the gospels, the pages of which are packed with stories of a grown-up God, and we will nonetheless continue to believe in a Santa Claus god until we have our little apocalypse, and we are forced to find a God that is appropriate for grown-ups.

Most of us are here because this is where we’ve found that grown-up God.

Many of you have been asking about my brother, who has been enduring his own little apocalypse recently in the form of some rather aggressive brain tumors. I want to thank you again for all the prayers and cards and inquiries about him. Just to give you an update, he survived the surgery well, which removed one tumor; there’s another one that they couldn’t operate on; thankfully it hasn’t grown since he began chemo and radiation treatments. But we were sorry to learn that two more lesions showed up in the last brain scan.

This is my brother’s apocalypse; and because we are connected to him by our love, it is ours as well. By our love, we all share in one another’s apocalypses; and collectively, globally, through hundreds and millions of individual apocalypses shared in love, the great cosmic revealing occurs. The entirety of human experience stands before God as if on the plains of Megido; the trumpet sounds; the veil lifts; we hold hands and lift our heads; and our God bears down upon us like the seven horsemen. Our illusions disintegrate; and what we find on the other side depends on our ability to express our love; hold fast to one another and to the blessings we find here, and to trust.

And so we stand with all of humanity: we raise our heads; we pay attention to the good; we honor our relationships; we find our redemption.

By so doing, our post-apocalyptic God – suitable for grown-ups - is born.