Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mirrors, Memory, Memberment: Memorial Day Sermon at Concordia Cemetery, 2016

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad.[b] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19 He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[c] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[d] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. - Luke 24:13-21

Grace to you and peace, from God our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

There was this thinker. He was a French thinker, a psychoanalyst
and philosopher, 
who lived from 1901-1981. 

He was 80 years old when he died. 

Not a horrible stretch, right?

And this thinker’s name was Jacques Lacan. 

Among the things he’s famous for, 
one is that he was the psychoanalyst (the therapist, the shrink) 
of Salvador Dali. 

That’s the guy who painted the melting clocks, right? 

That guy. The melting clocks guy. Lacan was his shrink.

Interesting, right? 


So among the many things Lacan studied and theorized about, 

were babies. Infants. 

“Early childhood development,” right? 

And one of the things that he said about babies, 
is he said that before they can stand upright, 
(that is) before they become toddlers, 
and kinda waddle and stumble all over, 
(toddle, right?)

He said that before that, before they can toddle,  

babies don’t really perceive themselves as having 
what we would identify as a human body. 

He says, instead, 

that baby probably perceives itself as 

a bunch of 

detached, floating around body parts arms and legs and skin.

Because that’s what she sees, laying there in her crib, right? That’s what he sees.

Laying there, looking up: just arms and legs floating around. 

And so when the kid can color, 
(later in life, but still early on),
that’s what this kid draws, right? 

Maybe you’ve seen this in little kids’ art? 
This is what they draw:
An arm here, a leg over here, maybe a head, maybe a smile over here outside the head somewhere, right? 

Lacan says this is a self portrait. 
(Kind of reminds you of Salvador Dali, right?) 


Floating, detached, body parts. 
This is the self-image of a baby.


But, Lacan says, eventually, something revolutionary happens
Something occurs that radically re-centers that baby’s whole life. 

Because you see, (over time, as we’ve already alluded to) 
that baby becomes a toddler
and that toddler is toddling all around, and then falling and then screaming, 
and then getting up and toddling again, 
and so on and so forth, 


the toddler discovers a mirror! 
[mime out the shape of a mirror]

A mirror…

Across the room…

And someone’s in it! 


And so he waddles over, she waddles over 

and leans forward

and kind of like catches herself, catches himself, right? 

[act this out]

and takes a good look up and down at the stranger who has joined him or her in the room… 

Looking up and down, laughing, reacting, mimicking the stranger with delight. 

Until, with time, the toddler discovers, looking in the mirror,

that “this [this image] somehow [this image in the mirror] is me!

That image is my image!
That body is my body. 

This is my body. 

The toddler learns to recognize herself, 
to recognize himself 
as a body, as a person, like other people. 

A body, no longer dis-membered, 
no arms and legs floating in every-which direction anymore, 

(although that is still the image she’ll recall in her early self-portraits),

but rather she is now re-membered. 
Re-membered. (Or membered, we might say)… 
Put together. 

Her members all a part of a body. 

Re-membered, one Body, “this is my body.” 

The toddler recognizes the stranger in the mirror as

And from that moment a sort of “identity” is born… 

And now, suddenly (as a result) seeing other toddlers, other humans, 
the toddler recognizes “that kid is like me,” 

“that one is also a body like me” “I am a body” “we are alike” “we’re kind of like mirrors, too, to each other.”  

And the kid learns to mimic others, to mirror them.
And so he or she grows in understanding of all things he or she might be able to do… If she can do that, he can do that, then I can do that. Because they are my mirror, too… 

And so the kid grows in possibilities and abilities. 

Pretty cool stuff, right? 


So… if Lacan is correct, 

very early in our lives,  

Recognition (of ourselves, of others) has to do with re-membering. A move from a sort of chaos, or void, a face of the deep, to a single body, the flesh—

a lot like the creation story story of Genesis 1, right? 

From the chaos, God created Creation, and God created humans, bodies, like us… 


Today in the Gospel story something really strange happens. 


These two men are walking down the street on the first Easter Sunday ever, right? 

That’s the context of this story. 

(Appropriate for Memorial Day, I think). 

And—these two men—they’ve heard rumors that possibly Jesus had been removed from his grave. Right? The body, they think, might have been stolen. 

Some women were there that morning and said they had spoken to angels, but when the men showed up (of course they had to go and check. They weren’t gonna just believe the women, right?)…

When the men showed up, all they found was an empty tomb.

All they found was

An absence. 

A void. 

A body missing. 

Chaos. Darkness. The face of the deep. 


When Jesus approached them (like a “stranger”), the scripture says,

These men in the story, “They stood still, looking sad (Luke 24:17).”

Because he was missing. Jesus was missing. 

“The body” was absent, its members dispersed. 

Imagine the disappointment. 

He was supposed to be the redeemer!
“We thought he was the one to redeem…” they said, right? 

Gone. Chaos. Void. The face of the deep. Absence. Right? 

And so the disciples do what any of us would do. 

They hide in fear, right? They lock themselves up in a room. 

And the other followers leave town, on some road, looking sad.

Everyone who had gathered around Jesus for healing and feeding and teaching and exorcisms 

now congregated only around his absence, “looking sad,” afraid, locked in a room, or on a road out of town…

They walk, gathered around, mourning. 

He was gone, even his body was gone…

[No niche at Concordia Cemetery or anything. Just gone…] 

And even as they do,

Even as those he loved are gathered around his absence,  

Even there, Jesus somehow remained present, with them. 

Walking and talking with them. On the road. 

Listening to their stories. 

Even if they somehow couldn’t tell it was Jesus. 

But then… 
something revolutionary happens. Right? 

[And we didn’t read this part of the story today—**Spoiler Alert***] 

At the end of the story, Jesus breaks bread with them. 

And then they remember. They recognize him. They see his body. It’s him! Jesus! The messiah! 

Even in his absence, he was present with them.  

Even as they mourned, he walked where they gathered 
in sadness, in fear, in chaos, in the void, the face of the deep. 


On Memorial Day, we (too) gather around the presence of an absence. Amen? 

Because in our memory, our re-membering, our recognition of those whose absence we feel deeply present here among us, 

we notice, that in the presence of their absence, in memorial of those we love, we also recognize ourselves, 

and that with their absence, 

with them missing, a part of us is missing, too. 

We miss them. 

We’re lost. 

Afraid, or on the road to somewhere. 

We feel the void, the face of the deep. The chaos. 

At least, I do, when I think of those I miss…


Who are you remembering today? Who are you honoring? Who do you miss in a way that you are certain you’ll never not-miss that person, ever, again for the rest of your life? 


When we lose our loved ones 
(to war, to cancer, to gun violence, to AIDS or HIV, to whatever disease or affliction takes them…) 

When we lose our loved ones 
we lose a part of ourselves. Amen? 

And we carry that loss. 
That absence somehow makes us heavier. 
It weighs us down. 
It remains with us, abides with us. 

Like the disciples, we stand here looking sad. 

And we should. 

It’s the right thing to be sad in a sad situation. Isn’t it? 


But those we miss, our guides, out mirrors in life,

those that shaped us, the ones we mimicked and imitated, who we cared for, who cared for us, 

who made us who we are,

those whose absence we gather around today, 

to honor, 

to remember, 

to recognize, 

to memorialize 

(this Memorial Day)…


If we look closely into another mirror…

into this mirror…
[hold up Bible] into God’s living Word… 

even as we toddle through the chaos of loss
and separation
and death 

we see a strange image in it,
we see a strange image in this mirror. 

In our recognition of our loved ones
we also recognize that those we have lost, 
those whose absence we carry in our hearts, 
though we love them and miss them still, 
though they seem apart from us, 
they remain a part of Christ, 

They remain a member of Christ’s Body, eternal. Standing in “sure and certain hope.”

When we look in this mirror, we recognize not simply ourselves, 
but we recognize all of us, living and dead, 
are one body in Christ, 
not floating around dismembered,
a leg over her, a hand over here, a smile over here, (whatever) 

but One (just like Jesus prayed for, right?) 
all of us, his body 

Jesus, who in the Gospel was absent from the tomb 
not because he was gone, 

but because he was Risen!
And present with his people on the Way.


As we gather this Memorial Day recognizing those we have lost,

may we be assured that we stand in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection, the Resurrection of the Body, 

and that neither life nor death 
nor anything in all of creation

can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 


And now may the peace that passes all understanding guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord. 


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