Homily from service on June 26, 2022 – Third Sunday after Pentecost
Homily preached by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Sermon preached by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. (Psa 19:14)
In 2008, the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe was released. As most of you will know, I live in a house with my husband and three sons, so over the years, following their lead, I have seen every Marvel movie released – they’re up to more 27…28 movies in the franchise now.
My husband Bill has been to all the same movies, but the truth is he hasn’t really seen them all. The boys have a running joke: any time dad needs a good long nap, we go to a Marvel movie. And he does. He falls asleep every time. I’d say he’s seen about…I don’t know…60% of the marvel film content?…with big gaps in the middle.
This year, two new Marvel films have been released and, before going to see them, Bill has decided to go back and re-watch the material he missed along the way. So over the last weeks, I’ve joined him at the end of the day to catch up on Marvel.
Last week we re-watched the first Dr. Strange film. I won’t go into the whole story, but there is an interesting element in the movie. You see, Dr. Strange is studying to become a sorcerer, and through his studies, he learns about relics. Relics are physical items that are imbued with magic, a magic too powerful for the sorcerers to hold in their own bodies, so it’s entrusted into an object. But here’s the thing: you don’t choose a relic, the relic chooses you. When Dr. Strange finds himself in a fight – as is the case in all marvel movies – for the very survival of the universe, one of these relics chooses him. The Cloak of Levitation. The cloak offers Dr. Strange protection – of its own volition it reaches out and prevents his opponent from stabbing him. It rescues him by catching him when he falls over a banister, levitating him back up to the landing from which he had fallen. And, interestingly, the cloak leads Dr. Strange in ways he didn’t necessarily intend to go, preventing him, for example from reaching for a battle axe on one wall and dragging him back across the floor to select a different, more effective tool for his purposes.
You see where this is headed, right?
I couldn’t help but think of the Cloak of Levitation when I was working through our reading about Elijah, and Elisha, and the mantle that is passed from one to the other. A cloak of sorts. A cloak which represents a power that is bigger than either of these two men. It is time for Elijah to be taken up to the heavens, we are told. As he journeys to the place of his ascension, in a move that is reminiscent of Moses, Elijah uses the cloak to part the Jordan River and pass over. Elisha asks Elijah to inherit a ‘double-portion’ of his spirit – the portion that is allotted to a first-born son. And we only confirm that Elisha has, indeed, received his teacher’s spirit when he takes up the mantle, the cloak, and in his own turn, parts the Jordan to return to Israel.
Unlike with Dr. Strange, where we have no insight into why the Cloak of Levitation has chosen him, with Elisha, it seems to have something to do with vision, with prophetic sight. He asks Elijah to allow him to inherit a double share of his spirit. In response, Elijah says, “It’s not up to me, but…if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted to you.” And then the action picks up. A chariot of fire and horses of fire appear, and Elijah ascends in a whirlwind. Elisha cries out to confirm that he has, in fact, seen – that, in the words of one commentator, that “he has the requisite vision to perceive the reality of YHWH’s activity in the midst of a world held under the illegal and illusory jurisdiction” of earthly rulers [Source, p. 176]. The mantle, his cloak, has found him worthy. He is able to access that power that is bigger than him. He has inherited the prophetic spirit that enables him to call the Israelites back to God.
A world on fire. A whirlwind that appears seemingly out of nowhere and sweeps away a sense of security, leaving uncertainty, confusion, and mourning in its wake. That sounds like an apocalyptic vision that could have emerged from our own world these days.
We started today’s worship with the collect: “Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit…that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you.” // That feels like quite an aspirational prayer at the best of times and almost a hopeless reach right now. Our country is spinning. The world is on fire. I literally had to put pen to paper last week to even keep up with the range of heartbreaking, infuriating, uncertainty-generating items in the news: shifts in the legal framework governing the separation of church and state, restrictions in states’ ability to regulate the use of guns, a seismic shift in reproductive rights, 277 mass shootings so far in 2022 and counting, congressional hearings replaying the events of January 6th, and all of this in the backdrop of a pandemic that has entered its third year, levels of inflation that haven’t been seen in nearly four decades, environmental decline, racial injustice. And I haven’t even mentioned yet that there is a war in the heart of Europe that looks poised to grind on…and on.
Regardless of where you personally stand on any of these issues – and good people can have different opinions, these are complicated, difficult questions – but no matter where you stand, no matter where I stand, we are all living in this chaos, we are all struggling to orient ourselves. We can’t even imagine as a country how we get to that aspirational place of “unity of spirit” or how we work toward becoming “a holy temple acceptable” to God. We need our portion of Elijah’s spirit. As our commentator puts it, we need “the penetrating vision that is required to perceive YHWH’s supreme power and authority through [the] thick smoke screen” of earthly powers.
So how do we do that?
Recently I’ve been spending time reading an Irish poet and theologian, Padraig O’ Tuama. He has inspired me toward what I think is the beginning of an answer to this question…for me. O’ Tuama writes about the beginning of prayer as seeing through our illusion, seeing through the ways we deceive ourselves, seeing through the world’s smoke screen. He calls it “Hello to here,” and describes it this way:
“Where is it that we are when we pray? We are, obviously, in the place where we are. However, we are often in many places. We are saying to ourselves, ‘I should be somewhere else’ or ‘I should be someone else’ or ‘I am not where I say I am.’ In prayer, to begin where you are not is a poor beginning. To begin where you are may take courage, or compromise, or painful truth telling. Whatever it takes, it’s wise to begin there. The only place to begin is where I am, and whether by desire or disaster, I am here” [Source, 15-16].
It is what it is. We are where we are. That is where we start. Name it. Sit with it. Be in it. The chaos, the uncertainty, the whirlwind, the fire. // And then wait with open heart to see what comes.
Because you see, just as Cloak of Levitation chose Dr. Strange, just as Elisha was chosen to take up Elijah’s mantle, we, too, are chosen. Through our baptism we were “received into the household of God” and “marked as Christ’s own forever” (BCP, 308). This, too, is part of where we are. This is our cloak – the power that is bigger than any one of us. This is the source of our prophetic vision. This is where we find hope to aspire to the unity that today’s collect calls us to. This is where we begin.
Here we are. Hello to here.