The following two versions of the same sermon were composed for the Holy Trinity Brussels’ evening service on 6 September 2015. The second version is the one that was given, and the first is one that was a draft. The reading is from Acts 17:22-34.
“Believing in Christ’s resurrection…does not mean affirming a fact. It means being possessed by the life-giving Spirit and participating in the powers of the age to come.” — Jürgen Moltmann
The scandal of Christianity is a scandal of singularity. Such singularity that resists all universalisation, all reason, all genres and species of logic. Christianity departs from all ‘sacred logic’ that separates “the world” from “the divine” — the gods no longer live above, there is not an order of intelligible, immutable forms: God became flesh, and entered into the depths of that being, into death. God did this in a singular human history, in a singular human personality, in Jesus the Nazarene.
They’re supposed to be safe there but they’re not. They’re vulnerable. Say the holy words. Remember Issa. — Homeland, Abu Nazir
Are you a martyr? This word carries with it certain connotations today. These are not necessarily the best or most loving connotations. Especially in the wake of terrorism and jihadism in the twenty-first century, martyrdom is associated with killing (often suicidal) for a religious cause. Or it is associated with dying, being killed, for belonging to a certain religious group, persecuted, often times, by a different religious group. But it was not always defined in this manner.
“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life … the way of Nature… and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy… when all the world is shining around it… when love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace… ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes.” — Mrs. Obrien in The Tree of Life
Does the world have hope? And how do we see it? To paraphrase the above quotation, which is itself a paraphrase of a quotation from Leibniz, there are two ways through life: the way of entropy and the way of hope. I use the word entropy because it captures the cosmic scale of how the way of nature plays out. Everything moves to dissipation, heat-death and ultimate darkness. But that is merely one way. There is another.
vagabond: (adj) having no settled place or home.
Do you ever get that sense? You know, the one where everything goes strange. Nothing feels real or settled or at home; you don’t feel at home, even in your own home? Or perhaps you’ve experienced its brother-feeling: standing on an outcropping above a beautiful landscape, or hearing a piece of music that brings you to tears and you don’t know why. Something beautiful strikes you, both as other and as home. A home you’ve never entered, but one that you are always on the way to? And you get this feeling, this longing to be anywhere but here?
Grace makes little noise.
When was the last time that you were silent? When was the last time you heard that thin, sheer sound of silence? If you live in a city, it might have been a while. If you live in the country, it might have been a while. We fill our lives with noise, with music, with radios and smartphones and commentaries. When was the last time we stopped? When was the last time we were silent and experienced silence?
“O, I die, Horatio.
The potent poison quite o’ercrows my spirit.
I cannot live to hear the news from England.
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice.
So tell him, with th’ occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.” — Hamlet
But is it? In now, my third consecutive post about death, I want to turn from its violence and its solace, to the fact that it is not the end. I want to talk about resurrection. I want to talk about the unknown, the music after the silence.