Psalm 121, Luke 18:1-8 and An excerpt from Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo
Sunday October 16th, 2022
Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Welcome again on this nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost in church land, we have our own timeframe in the Christian year. Thank you for being here for one another, for yourself, for the Great Spirit and for one another.
As we arrive at this time in our worship, I invite you to take a deeper breath, to let ourselves arrive a bit more fully, to make space and bring our intentions together, as we tune in together to whatever word God has for us today.
Gracious God, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our rock, and our redeemer Amen.
Few people now talk about a return to normal. Have you noticed that? Increasingly that is my experience. There seems to be an unspoken recognition that what is, or at least some of what is, might be here to stay for a while. It feels like chaos and uncertainty and unprecedented moments in history, that we are living with, might be with us. And there seems to be an unsaid collective agreement about that.
As Family Therapist Leslie Alderman wrote in the Washington Post not long ago, “I’m noticing that many of my patients are experiencing a deficit of optimism, and are overwhelmed about important issues that are beyond their control.” She went on, “I’m calling it “hope fatigue.”
Okay, no pressure at all but raise your hand if recently you have felt a deficit of optimism and/or overwhelmed by important issues that are out of your control?
So even if you haven’t heard the term hope fatigue before, I bet your body knows it right away. Hope fatigue is being in that state of needing and expecting good things, but without experiencing relief, without the peace or the good possibility unfolding. And medically and technically and as we know spiritually, hope fatigue is causing us to grow weary.
Because we are all tired of hoping, but not giving up on hoping, our hope is going toward whether the pandemic will end, our hope for there to be peace for Russia’s war in Ukraine, hope for our climate emergency, hope for the hearings on the January 6th insurrection, hope for mass shootings to no longer be our normal…
There is much in the world that needs our hope that it is hard to keep up. So it turns out that many of us have hope fatigue. And the moment I saw that phrase, I said “Yes, that’s exactly what I feel” and I think many people feel. According to some therapists, counselors and mental health professionals, this is a large percentage of us that are struggling, not just kids, but adults. And with hope fatigue it’s difficult to stay motivated for the longer view, for the bigger view, it’s hard to keep up with hard relationships and to keep motivated for hard things, so if too many people are weary, down in worry and “suffering from a deficit of optimism” we start to feel it in ways that we might not fully understand. If there are a critical mass of humans who feel this. And I am wondering too if it becomes almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. To be clear, I don’t mean that we cause war with our lack of hope, rather, what I mean is that when we let ourselves become too weary, too weighed down with worry, too hopeless, our imaginations start to fail, and our ability to keep showing up starts to wane, and then big and small worlds start to suffer. And what I have observed is that when we situate ourselves there, our presence becomes limiting. Instead of being a creative force, instead of being a vessel for peace and possibility, we are nearly or definitely destructive, in part because we are too sad or angry to see clearly with the eyes of faith.
Hope fatigue causes us to grow weary and to worry and to experience diminishing inner and outer returns.
And I think Jesus knew this too. Woven into the wisdom from long ago is this same idea. Because that’s just what the phrase “to lose heart” means. In Greek. cháno kardiá, to lose heart, means to grow weary. Because in the terms that matter to us as followers of Jesus, as people of compassion and conscience, losing our hearts is on a path to losing our way entirely, because becoming too weary, often means we can’t see clearly…. And that’s exactly why I believe Jesus started this parable that we heard from the Gospel of Luke in this way. You need to pray and not lose heart! Do not let yourselves lose your hearts whatever unfolds.
Because the next thing that starts to happen when we lose our hearts is that we become driven by the wrong things: driven by fear, driven by worry.
Before Jesus shares a most interesting and subversive teaching about a woman who won’t give up in the presence of injustice, Jesus says pray and don’t lose heart! I suspect that maybe he began that way because both of these are spiritual disciplines that allow us to build and know our capacities to hold what is and also what is not yet. And doing our inner work of meditation and contemplation and whatever name we have for it, the work of spiritual listening and self-examination allows us to hold that longer view and to claim our power to shape what might become. That is what I believe and live, that we are co-creating with the Divine, co-building what becomes. Maybe Jesus said all of that and in that order on purpose? Keep taking time to center in the silence on the bigger deeper thing, so you won’t grow weary and you can keep showing up again and again, like the woman who refuses to be conformed to the injustice around her, holding hope with persistence.
As inflation in the US hits levels never experienced before, I have read and listened to many perspectives on why this is happening and why this is happening like this and why now. And one of the explanations that continues to emerge is, us, many of us, a lot of us, having particular expectations, shaping what is unfolding in part because of our fears. After supply chain strains, demand shocks and extreme corporate gains, it turns out that part of why this is happening, is our expectations. Isn’t that wild? I have learned of this thing called Inflation Expectations, which means that prices end up reflecting, in part, what we expect them to be. Does everybody get that? So could it be that with both economics and the systems that underlie the cosmos, that we are a part of co-creating what comes into being? Isn’t that a game changing idea?
What if we have a lot more power that we are using? What if keeping our hearts intact is claiming and using our power to shape what becomes, to influence outcomes toward love and justice, toward the common good and good for all creation? What if we don’t need to feel optimistic every day to know that we can breathe deeply and find joy and keep praying and paving a way for what is not yet?
As we heard from the poet Joy Harjo, “Send each story to the heart, Each word before you act or speak.” I hear that as an invitation to claim our power to shape what becomes. The parable says the woman kept coming, and as you heard, it says she was a bother, that her persistence was wearing others out. Not one of us can show up like this all the time, but we can take turns, being that persistent bothersome voice for justice so we don’t grow weary, so our hearts remain intact. Beloved of God, our faith, our hope, our expectations can literally and already are building realities. So do not lose heart and together may we bring more heart into the world… May it be so. Amen.