21.04.2013 74 °F
Homily preached by
The Reverend Hope H. Eakins
on April 21, 2013
on the Silver Whisper in the Atlantic Ocean, leaving Africa
The Gospel story of the Holy Innocents murdered by King Herod occurs in the Christmas story when the Wise Men follow the star to the place where Jesus lay, bringing their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. King Herod is jealous and threatened by the news that a new king has been born, and so he orders his soldiers to kill all the children who could grow up to threaten his throne. The story is in chapter two of Matthew’s Gospel, the good news of Christmas followed immediately by a massacre of little children. Jesus is born and “Rachel is weeping for her children...because they are no more.”
This has been a week of weeping for some of us. There is weeping over Martin Richard, the 8 year old boy killed in the Boston marathon explosion; like the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, Martin is no more. There is weeping over a terrorist attack that brings fear to America once again.
There is weeping over the sad eyes of the African children we have seen this week, children who go hungry, children without health care and education, children whose parents have HIV/AIDS.
There is weeping over the stink of slavery that besmirches us still, evidence of the depths to which we human beings can sink. Thank God for the Bimbia slave port and the Cape Coast Castle and the Elmina Slave Castle because they won’t let us forget how easily we still justify cruelty and brutality and how easily we can ignore it. As you emerge from one of the squalid dungeons at Cape Coast Castle, a church is above you. Right on top of the dank space where thousands were chained, they built a church for people to say their prayers. What did they think they were doing there? They were Christians for heaven’s sake, they were Christians who must have heard that Jesus came to set us free! Didn’t they hear Jesus say “love your enemies” and “love one another as I have loved you;” didn’t they read commandments like, “Thou shalt not kill?”
There is weeping in the world today, and I believe that this is a good thing because weeping is a gift from God, I believe that God wants us to weep because weeping means that our hearts have been moved, that we care, that we cry with the pain of seeing something too big for us to fix all alone, without God and without each other, so we need God and we need each other. Weeping means that we are not running away from the poverty or thinking that thicker walls and better security can stop terrorism or that slavery is a thing of the past. Weeping means that we stand in the place of pain; we stand in the place of pain and feel it so much that we will start to work on the audacious task of healing the world.
For when we stop weeping and pull ourselves together, we find that we are changed by the weeping, changed into people who are more compassionate and more concerned. We become more aware of the blessings that are ours, more thankful for their abundance, and we figure out that there’s enough of everything to go around and that we have enough to share. Our weeping also serves another purpose - it connects us with all of those who have wept because their children are no more, with the mothers and fathers of the Holy Innocents and the slave women whose sons were wrenched away from them and the African mothers who watch their children starve, and the American parents who are afraid when their children go to school because so many students have been killed by guns purchased by people who have no right to bear arms.
When we stop weeping and remember why we wept, we start trying to make the world a better place. We remember what our mothers told us, the simple lessons:
Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you and
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Because if we don’t remember, the weeping will never stop.
When Matthew ends the Gospel story of the Holy Innocents, he quotes the prophet Jeremiah who first told the story of Rachel weeping for her children. It is a story of absolute anguish set in a story of absolute hope. God understands our anguish. God says, “your hurt is incurable, your wound is grievous, Rachel is weeping for her children because they are no more.” And then says the Lord, “I will restore health to you and your wounds I will heal. Out of your cities will come the sounds of merrymakers and you will be my people and I will be your God. I will give you a future with hope.”