My friend Rabbi Debra Kolodny sent me the text of A Sermon for Passion Week by Briallen Hopper, a faith blogger and divinity student (you can read Hopper at Huffington Post -- I'm certainly going to from now on!) and the sermon so moved me that I want to share it here. Here's how it begins, with a text from Lamentations (which in the Jewish community we read on Tisha b'Av) and with some of Hopper's own words:
“Thus says the LORD:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.
Thus says the LORD:
Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the LORD:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future, says the LORD:
your children shall come back to their own country.”
It’s been thousands of years now,
but Rachel is still weeping for her children.
She’s still refusing to be comforted.
But she’s not in Ramah.
Right now Rachel is in suburban Minnesota.
Her son Justin bravely came out at age thirteen and endured merciless bullying for two years.
He killed himself last August.
Rachel found his body.
Rachel is also in Indiana.
Her son Billy was called a fag at school.
His classmates told him to kill himself.
And so he did.
Rachel found his body too.
Dan Savage, who shared the sermon with the internet-at-large, called it a "mashup of an It Gets Better video and the Passion of the Christ." Warning for content relating to rape and violence against women and GLBT people; if reading this is going to be harmful for you, please guard your boundaries as needed. But for those of us who are not triggered by this material, this is, I think, a sermon we all need to read. Hopper writes that we like to talk about "justice," but
"Justice" cannot do justice to the stories
Of the people who come through our doors
Reeling with pain,
Trapped in cycles of trauma,
Covered with scars and bruises in their spirits or under their clothes.
I know this to be true, and my heart breaks reading the stories Hopper tells. But she also offers a powerful way of thinking about Jesus as one of these wounded children, and at the end of the sermon she also offers hope.
If this sounds like something you can bear reading, here's the link: A Sermon for Passion Week. Thanks, Briallen, for this powerful example of how to preach.