Sermon Text: A Gray Season
The Church is not fond of change. Sometimes it seems like the favorite slogan of the church is, "We've always done it that way." There's that sad old joke, "How many church members does it take to change a light bulb?" And the answer is, "CHANGE????"
But I've got a change to suggest. Today is the first Sunday in Lent. The color of this season is purple. I'd like to change it. I'd like to make the color of this season gray.
Life has its seasons. Some are harder than others. Some of our seasons are like the desert -- dry as dust, and lonely as hell. And I use the word "hell" on purpose...hell is the space of desolation and isolation.
In church, every season has its own color: gold, red, green, blue, and now deep purple.
Life has its seasons. Sometimes the season of life in which I find myself is a gray season. A gray time is when life is dry as dust and lonely as hell.
For many of the people of my parish church, this is such a season. This has been a hard winter so far. Many of my parishioners -- many of you -- are in the midst of struggles and sorrows. I ache for you.
And maybe our color should be gray. For some of us right now, life is dry as dust and lonely as hell. Mark's Gospel says that Jesus has been there. Jesus has been in the desert, where life is dry as dust and lonely as hell.
So when we feel like that, we are not crazy and we are not alone. Jesus has been there...for us and with us. According to Mark, after the baptism, the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert.
Now, that's a strong word, "drove." The Spirit threw him out there, pushed him out there, out there where it's dry as dust and lonely as hell. Jesus has been there. You are not crazy and you are not alone.
The desert can be a scary place. The lack of water is a threat to survival. And in the time of Jesus, dangerous animals were there: lions, leopards, wild boars, bears, jackals. Jesus was out there, where the wild things are.
But Jesus was not alone. Mark's Gospel says that "angels came and helped him." An angel is a messenger of God. A human being can be an angel....you know that. God sometimes sends messengers just when we need them.
I've had angels in disguise visit me. Like Jesus, I have not been alone in the desert. Angels have a way of showing up when we need them. We might get a phone call or a text or an email at just the right time. We might get a visit from a friend at just the right time. Maybe a friendly stranger offers help at just the right time. We will not be alone in the desert.
Jesus has been there, and left tracks for us to follow. Angels showed up to help him. And it can happen for us, too.
Mark's Gospel tells us that Jesus walked not only in peace and joy. His way was also one of testing and challenge. We see that in his time in the desert. There are trials and heartaches along the way. Any real human life has wilderness times, desert times. But you're not crazy and you're not alone.
Yes, it is pretty tough sometimes. Life can be a desert, dry as dust and lonely as hell. The Buddha was correct when he said, "All life is suffering." But you're not alone. Jesus has gone through that desert ahead of you. He left us tracks to follow. He found help in the desert, and so can we. Maybe there are dangerous animals out there, but angels are out there, too.
Some years ago, a friend of mine told me about taking meals to her widowed father.
Sometimes she would stay and eat with him. Other times she had somewhere else she had to go. One night she took supper to him, and he seemed to want her to stay. But she had an appointment she could not miss. He was okay with it, but he did say something interesting. He said, "Eating dinner with someone makes the food taste better."
Isn't that the truth? Eating with someone makes the food taste better. Eating alone all the time is not a good thing.
This Eucharist of bread and wine we celebrate every Sunday is our family meal. We never eat it alone.
So life has its desert seasons, dry as dust and lonely as hell. Too many of the members of my church are in the gray time. You're not crazy when you realize this. But Jesus has been there, and angels are out there.
So be kind to yourself. You know the Great Commandment Jesus underlined: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." That implies that you should care for yourself as you would care for your neighbor. Some of us are kind to others but forget to be kind to ourselves. Be kind to yourself, especially if you are in a gray season now.
And you can be a friend -- an angel -- to someone you know who is in the desert right now.
Above all, remember this: You have a friend with you. You are never alone.
Jesus has been there...for us, and with us.