Monday, March 9, 2009

"As Good As Dead": Sermon For II Lent

Reading "Watchmen" (to catch up with a 20-year-old pop cultural phenomenon as well as plumb its Nixonian resonances), I started having apocalyptic dreams as the story's looming nuclear holocaust resonated with the world's real-life economic nightmare. Friends and fellow worshipers tell me they're feeling oppressed by dread that bad times will get even worse as well as by the private emergencies of sickness and alienation that plague the people of God irrespective of the Dow Jones average.

One friend told me that her limbs felt heavy and weak from constant worry over a problem at home. Because of the scripture readings for this week, her comment reminded me 100-year-old Abram (later Abraham). He and his wife Sarai had no heir. Everybody in town was no doubt gossiping about him. He was exhausted and disillusioned and probably didn't have a tooth in his head. In his letter to the Romans, Paul says Abram was "as good as dead." And yet on whom did God settle the responsibility for building a whole universe of faith? None other than Abraham, father of many nations.

In a riveting interview last week with Terry Gross, Donovan Campbell, who commanded a Marine platoon in Iraq in 2004, said the only way he could do his job was decide that he was already dead, a mind trick that freed him to make effective and indeed moral choices in the most chaotic, amoral environment possible. By the same token, Jesus counsels his followers to accept the inevitability of his death so his (and our) triumph over it (and over all deathly things, including dread) could be revealed.

We're all as good as dead. And yet God wants us to feel safe, free, and bracingly alive. Check out Campbell's book, Joker One. My Sunday sermon is here.

1 comment:

John Whittaker said...

Fr. John,

Good sermon. Sorry we missed it in-person this week, but the Boy Scout Troop 332 Annual Midnight Broom Ball Event, on the same night as the time change, put us out past 4:00 am and proved to be more than a match for the Whittaker household. Actually, Ali was able to get up before 7 and go to work a soup kitchen in Santa Ana as part of her service hours requirement at SMCHS. (This, after the broom ball thing and competing in the 800 race at a track and field event that afternoon, the girl is tough with a capital T.)

Actually, I read the Watchmen when it originally came out. I had to sneak it, as I was a teenager at the time and my folks would never have approved of the subject matter. Interesting timing for the release of the movie.

God bless,