A Sermon Preached + St. Stephen's Episcopal Church + Calling Christ Out of Our Tombs

March 16, 2016

Saint: Patrick
Daniel 3.14,24-28
John 8.31-42


Every time I hear the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego two songs come to my mind. The first is an 80s Christian Rock Classic (if there is such a genre) by the artist, Russ Taft who has the prophets singing on the chorus, "We won't bow to your idols!  We won't bow, no!"  Russ Taft had an amazing feathered mullet and he enthralled me. 

The second is from the VeggieTale version where Nebuchadnezzar is a giant hairy pickle (I refuse to psychoanalyze this) who doesn't want to go to church and only wants to eat chocolate bunnies all day long.  "The bunny, the bunny, oh I love the bunny, I don't love my mom or my dad just the bunny..."

Our readings tonight are filled with big bad dudes vs. the small good guys.  This is an ancient dyad that is pervasive in our human myths and also throughout our Bible stories:  Moses vs. Pharaoh, David vs. Goliath, Jesus vs. Religious Leaders/Roman State. Power vs. love. Maybe you have a similar relationship structure in your own life.

This structure appears right before a time of renewal is about to occur which will create a sacred geometry of a whole person/family/community.  

Cutting edge research on healing PTSD  reveals that this same dyadic structure exists within the inner world of the psyche where there is a trauma injury.*  One part of the psyche grows really big to defend the still developing inviolable spirit.  This part both protects the inviolable spirit, and also attacks it and treats it like a slave to a master bully.  When the spirit tries to expand within the psyche, the protector/persecutor works to frighten the soul to stay in a small "safe" place.  Because  injury happened during the soul's expansion, any growth is now perceived by the protector/persecutor as a threat.  It's a disorder similar to red blood cells that start to attack themselves.   All of this happens like an automatic reaction.  The research shows that it seems beyond the human will--much like we we don't will a scab to appear--it just happens as a basic biological response to injury--only this injury is not always so visible and plays out in the emotional fields of all of our relationships.

After studying some of this in college and after my master's degree, I began to see how what is happening within the private world of a trauma victim is also happening in our culture at large.  We are living in a traumatized society.  And naturally, one powerful force rises to rule with total control and  fear, and other small seeds of hope start to rise to balance and heal the injury.


I was struggling to keep the promises of my  baptismal covenant recently, "to seek and serve Christ in all people," when a certain political candidate would insight violence and I wondered: Can I really seek and serve Christ in him?  My former boss and cartoonist, Rev. Jay Sidebotham used to say that Christ comes to us in all people--but sometimes he comes very, very, well disguised.

I recalled that his appearance on the world scene is a symptom of a larger trauma (what do you think the big ego is veiling?) and I jumped on the internet to find a baby picture of this guy.  I find this one:  he is about my son Dylan's age, he is pushing his shoes around in a wheel barrow.  My mother's heart softened and I knew I could easily love that child.  Now I could clearly see Christ in him.  Maybe I will print this picture and light a candle and honor the Christ that is so well disguised.  

I try to imagine the opposing force of insecurity and total vulnerability in equal amount to the push for power and control and suddenly I am in awe of the vast chasm of injury.  There with the wound, I can find compassion again.

Seeing the wound and facing our pain, is something that many of us--especially men--have been raised not to do.  (Many boys were raised hearing, "big boys don't cry" and "take it like a man." Basically don't feel.  Some say anger is the only socially permissible emotion a man can have.)  Here is a further injury to our collective. 

When we know we are wounded we can tend the wound.  But the first step is looking.  And it's the most courageous first step.  

Buddha reminds me to hold my Angry Momma with compassion.  

Buddha reminds me to hold my Angry Momma with compassion.  

The religious leader's who were talking to Jesus couldn't face their wounds.  They couldn't or they refused to see that they were living like slaves.  Waking up in our lives and being brave to face the illusions to which we cling is a challenging task.  But take heart, for this is the realm of big miracles.  The mystery of the parted veils, each leading deeper and deeper into the divine.  When we realize that we are not created to live like slaves in fear, the Divine comes closer and closer to us and says, "yes--let me lead you out of this and deeper into me."  

This week I was also reminded that the person I struggle to have compassion on most of all is myself.  I have this little plastic woman with holes in her head--you fill her with water and the steam billows out of her head and she cleans your microwave.  She has her hands on her hips and a really mean face.  I call her my Angry Momma.  I haven't used her to clean the microwave yet.  Instead I placed her on my  large Buddha candle holder as a reminder that I can compassionately hold my own Angry Momma.  Here is another common trap in our healing:  when I blow it--I have a really hard time forgiving myself.  I get stuck in feelings of guilt and shame.  Christ becomes so well hidden in me.  And that's another illusion--that somehow we are disconnected from Christ when nothing can ever separate us, not even death.  So when we look carefully, and compassionately at the wound, we will also see Christ's love rising.  Christ's love is big enough for traumatized political candidates and Angry Mommas everywhere.


St. Patrick wasn't born in Ireland.  He was brought there as a slave.  It was during these six years that he had an awakening.  God drew close to him and he drew close to God.  The divine is often born in slavery, in difficult times, in stress, because it seems the divine is always about freeing the captive and bringing new life.  This is why tyrants fear (and hide from) the life of the soul-- they know at a deep level that they have set themselves up against the one power of the universe that will be their ultimate defeat: love.  Only what they don't know is that love will not work to destroy them as they did to Love.  

Love will love us all the way back to our authentic selves.  

I'm so grateful for the Celtic Spirituality that has been grafted into Christianity.  The Celts seemed to understand a long time ago something that we are still trying to grasp.  They honored harmony in song and in nature.  I had the opportunity to visit Ireland in 2006 and I was blown away by the reverence the people had for the land.  Roads often winded about circling a small hill of trees.  I asked the guides why this was so and he replied, "oh those are fairy forts."  The people protected their ancient sacred sites.  They built their communities in harmony with them.  It made me sad to think of all our straight roads in the US and the sacred sites that were demolished in the process of dominating the land.  The Celts knew the dance of power-with.  Their intricate art shows us the power and beauty of interconnection.  

One of the first places St. Patrick began his ministry was at the Hill of Tara, where the royal lineage of Irish kings were crowed after they married the Goddess which connected them to the land.  A large stone still stands here today and the legend goes that the stone would sound when the true king placed his hands upon it.  It's an inspiring picture of humanity working in harmony with the earth.  

When I was there I had the opportunity to climb Crough Patrick.  Humans made pilgrimages up this sacred mountain as far back as 3000 B.C.  I cannot describe the deep peace my body felt as I stood on this holy site.  In the mountain a treasure of gold worth close to $400 million dollars rests.  Recently someone wanted to dig it up.  The local community voted "no."  I experienced an inner transformation in the presence of such deep reverence for the earth and her sacred history.  My body buzzed for weeks after my travels.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit another sacred site in Wimberely, Texas that linked to the ancient Mayans.  I stayed on 15 acres of sacred ground that resounded with deep, deep peace.  I have never felt so home, so far away from home.  The golden honey rocks called me close to the ground.  I could feel the earth's warm hum, the expansion of her deep grief and her even deeper love.  I left with a hunger to create a sacred piece of land.  In the meantime, my body, my home, my work, are the sacred land I've been given to tend.  

Sacred sites show us what is possible when we live in harmony with the earth.  Healers know that the body's energy channels light up on sacred ground.  Even spending ten minutes standing on the earth with bare feet balances the body.  There are big wounds to see as we face the way we treat the earth.  And also so many opportunities to create sacred space, to consecrate the land and work to bring balance back to creation.

If we have the same God as Jesus, then we would not want to kill creation, we would love all.   This is our work.  To hold onto love in the face of tyrant kings and Angry Mommas.  Just as Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb last week, we are called to go and do likewise.  Where Christ is well disguised, we pray, Come Christ.  In hopeless faces, Come Christ.  In tombs of pollution, Come Christ.  In a world full of trauma, Come Christ.  

And may we take heart and know when we stand trembling before mad power, that God comes very close to us and we come very close to God.  We are never alone; there is always a part of us that exists in harmony with a beautiful force of creation and all of the saints who have gone before us.  We are in harmony with Love.  We just need to tune in and turn it up!

And may we remember when we find ourselves standing in the fires for Love, that the fires are not for our destruction, but for our complete and total transformation.

I will close with St. Patrick's Breastplate:

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to harken to my need:
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ deep within me,
Christ below me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right hand,  Christ at my left hand,
Christ as I lie down, Christ as I arise,
Christ as I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.


*See Donald Kalsched's work, The Inner World of Trauma and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk's Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute.