Heidi Haverkamp’s Homily November 13, 2016

Holy Wisdom Monastery Homilies 1 Comment

The Rev. Heidi Haverkamp

Holy Wisdom Monastery – Sunday Assembly

November 13, 2016; Proper 28C

Luke 21:5-19



It is good to worship God with you this morning, my friends of Sunday Assembly. My name is Heidi Haverkamp and I am an oblate here. I am also an Episcopal priest, currently serving a church in downtown Chicago. It has been my privilege to lead the oblate retreat this weekend and I am honored to Bring the Word this morning with you.


I don’t know about you, but I feel as though the world I know came to an end this past week.


I have preached before on Scripture readings that speak about the end of the world – earthquakes, famine, plagues, signs, and great nations falling. In the past, I have felt strained to make an apocalyptic vision relevant for my parishioners.


The early church would’ve heard Jesus predicting what will happen to Jerusalem, the holiest city of the Jews, a few decades after his crucifixion. The Romans came and tore the Temple to pieces: they took the holiest objects from the sanctuary and carried them back to Rome, they decimated the Jewish population and drove the rest into exile. The Jewish people and the Jewish religion were radically and traumatically changed, forever. Every Gospel touches on the destruction of the Temple – because most of those first Christians were Jews, and what those men and women thought was the Holy of Holies, the center of the world, the hub of cosmic wholeness and harmony, had been annihilated.


A therapist explained to me once that when we experience a traumatic event, it’s as though our brain is shattered like a mirror – broken into hundreds of jagged shards, reflecting light in a thousand directions. We are thrown into confusion. Our body recoils with the pain and looks for ways to numb the wound, or like an injured animal, to lash out with anger and panic. The brain needs about 90 days to integrate a traumatic event, before its shattered pieces can solder themselves back together. That’s a long time.


Jesus says in today’s reading, “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified.” This is a refrain through our whole Bible – “Do not be afraid.”

This week, Pope Francis reminded us that fear makes us cruel.

(We must be careful when we hear readings like the one from Malachi this morning that we don’t hear “arrogant” and “evil-doers” and think it’s not talking about us.)

In the novel Dune, Frank Herbert says, “Fear is the mind-killer.”

I believe it was John Calvin who said, “There is nothing a Christian should fear except God.”

Winston Churchill said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

In scripture my mind turns to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

“Blessed are those who mourn,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

And  “Abba, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

From today’s Gospel, I hear, “Not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

(I’m not sure how we are meant to reconcile this with the previous line, “they will put some of you to death,” but then again, I take the Bible too seriously to take it literally.)


I am trying to slow down my response to the election, because it hasn’t even been a week yet. I can feel my brain and my body are traumatized. And yet I can’t wait 90 days to respond.


I can sit back and listen to the Psalms, and listen to the Gospel, and listen to Christ whisper from my heart’s most quiet places, And then I hear that the most important thing for my life in Christ is not in fact my personal safety or that of anyone else, is not any future security, is not the continuity of democracy, but endurance, and something Jesus calls “gaining your soul.”


Now, as Paul’s Epistle today also makes clear, this doesn’t mean Jesus wants me to stay home and eat bon bons for the next four years while I think about my soul. I believe he means that if we are to maintain our integrity as people who love God, and as people who strive to follow Christ, we cannot let our most important goal be survival: our own survival, or anyone else’s survival, or even our country’s survival, because that’s when fear becomes our motivation. The human brain at its most primal level has evolved to do anything to survive, and Jesus seems to be telling us that this is not his call to us.

To make our best decisions, to act from love and right relationships, to perhaps truly survive – to gain our soul, as Jesus says — we must keep Christ at our center, not fear.


Jesus also says to us today in Luke, “This will give you an opportunity to testify.”  A traumatic event opens in us what pastor and writer Molly Baskette calls a “Holy Spirit Portal.” It opens a wound, but that wound can serve as a new and radical opening to the healing and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. When we are more open, we are more likely to testify – to tell the story of God’s radical works in our lives. To see and tell how our story is part of God’s story of salvation.


My bishop, Jeff Lee, likes to remind us Chicago Episcopalians that walking in the footsteps of Jesus means living out of a love that looks like THIS – (hands spread) – open to the world. A love that casts our fear. Fear means living like this (hands constrained) or even this (wrapped around you).  That is safer, it’s true, but OPEN arms have hands that can testify, embrace, and receive. These are also the arms and hands that look like a cross – because this is what we did to Jesus when he lived from a love like that. And I say “we”, not “they”, today, on purpose. We must not speak of “we” and “they” if we are seeking to avoid fear.


This week, a Temple I held holy was torn down. I am traumatized. My brain and my heart are broken – but they are also changing. This week, I know more than I ever have that Jesus is real. This week, I choose not to turn to fear but to turn to the Resurrection – the crucified body of my Lord was raised up, in power and love. His wounds were still intact, but he was alive.


I want to endure, not to win or get revenge, but to gain my soul and to help my neighbor gain theirs.

I want to choose not to be terrified, but to testify.

I want to hold at my center, not fear, but Resurrection, hope, and Jesus Christ.


May God help us all.


Comments 1

  1. I recently read an interpretation of forgiveness that helped me a lot with the election results. The passage I read said that people mistakenly believe that to forgive some one, or even to love them, that you have to like them too. The author says this is not possible. We can’t like everyone or every thing. But we can forgive and we are absolutely called upon to love. And this author says that mature love is simply wishing the highest good for another. So I thought…. Mr Soon To Be President. I wish you the best. I pray for your highest good. And I thought….who is to say that his highest good is not some incredible conversion to love and goodness. And this comforted me greatly and I no longer felt the sickness and fear that so many of us felt when we heard the election results. Hope this helps someone. Thanks for listening.

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