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Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Golden Bees of Holy Week

The Sunday of Passion: Palm Sunday
Christ Church, Milford, DE
April 14, 2019 

The story of the Passion of Jesus takes us deep into the middle of the middle of what it means to be human. I want us all to take a deep breath because we’re going in deeper – to the middle of the middle of you and the middle of the middle of me. That is the journey of Holy Week.

The only way to get to the middle of that mystery is to follow the path of poetry and metaphor and simile. So, stay with me now. I need you to pay attention. This isn’t going to be an easy ride.

As I consider the significance of this day – Palm Sunday – and the beginning of what we Christians call Holy Week, I have been visited by the continued buzzing of piece of a poem called “Last Night As I Was Sleeping” by the great Spanish poet, AntonioMachado.

There are fou stanzas but it is the second stanza that continues to visit me:

Last night, as I was sleeping.
I dreamt - marvelous error!
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And that the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures

If you listen closely – if you dare – you will hear them. There, in the far distance. – a low hum is beginning  deep in your soul.  The hum will grow steadily into the sound of a buzz, which will grow fuller and deeper and louder as the week continues.

Holy Week begins the gathering of the Golden Bees of Heaven.

The Golden Bees of Heaven need you. They need your regret and your grief, the memory of which causes your heart to ache again in the places where it has been broken. They need the sense of loss and anger which have left a sour taste on the back of your palate.   

The Golden Bees of Heaven are especially fond of betrayal and disappointment, but, oh my, how they love the rich, deep, bitter darkness of depression. 

All of these human failures are pollen to the Bees. 

They will buzz all ‘round the story of Holy Week, and wait and watch as the story of the Passion of Jesus draws out the pollen of regret, grief, anger, betrayal, disappointment and depression from the depths of your own heart and soul. 

They will take them – all of these human failures – to their very bodies and carry them to the Queen of Heaven where She will make of them a gift to be wept over and blessed with Her tears.

Then the Bees will return them to us and begin to make of these, our old failures and regrets, brilliant white combs of wax, which will provide the framework for us to find our own salvation.

I know. I understand. This is not what you were taught as a child. God, we were very carefully taught, is the Great Master Puppeteer, and we are Pinocchio with Geppetto-as-God-our-Father, controlling all the strings of our lives.

God is supposed to remember the sacrifices you made – the chocolate or wine you gave up for Lent. If you sacrificed enough and prayed really hard, He – God – was supposed to bring you that brand new bike or those spiffy new shoes or get you on the team or help you pass the test for your driver’s license which would open the door to unspeakable freedoms. 

Later, that same Geppetto-Father-God, you thought, would get you that job. Or, save your marriage. Or, heal your child.  And when He – God – didn’t do these things, you would shrug your shoulders and figure you weren’t good enough or deserving enough.   

That Santa Claus must have whispered something in God's ear which made it to God's Big Book of Failure. And your shoulders slumped and your heart was heavy and you feared asking for anything else. Of God. Or yourself. Or life.

Or, perhaps you repeated the cheery mantra that “When a door closes, God opens a window,” and you would try to get on with a life of magical thinking, hoping against hope to find a Genie-In-a-Bottle of sorts who would help you find the right mystical incantation to unlock the Gates of The Treasures of Heaven as your own.

Or, maybe you would get angry and blame something or someone – sometimes, even God – and never really trust God enough to let yourself really be vulnerable and pray. Ever. Again.

Some of us grow up and come to be spiritually and emotionally mature enough to understand that life holds an abundance of sophisticated irony and paradox and absurdity. That all of these, our human failures, are God’s repeated attempts to offer us the sweet honey of grace and mercy and the opportunity for a new, transformed life.

Ernest Hemmingway once wrote: “The world breaks everyone and afterwards, many are strong in the weak places.”   Some of us don’t – won’t, can't – understand that. 

Yet God is persistent, battering down our hearts with three-fisted Love in the form of mystery and incarnation and spirit – all of which are especially present to us in the midst of the Passion of Jesus in Holy Week.

Antonio Machado’s poem ends with this stanza:

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

We are more able to find God inside our hearts when we get a glimpse of the failures and fragility of our human lives. When we do that - when we are able to look at the absurdity and paradox and irony of life - we awake from our waking dream and discover our marvelous error.

Something is set in motion. The whole field shifts and sets loose some strange mystery which we can neither comprehend nor control. That is the work of Holy Week – to awaken us to the failures of the human enterprise which, paradoxically begin to create the framework for us to find our way to salvation, and open the floodgates of the waters of new life which we taste again as if for the first time.

We are born again and “that which was old is being made new and that which has been cast down is being raised up and everything is being brought to its perfection in Christ Jesus.”

It is Palm Sunday. The Bees of Holy Week are beginning to gather. If you listen – if you dare – you can hear the hum of their buzzing. 

They are here to gather to their bodies our human failures – the pollen of regret, grief, anger, betrayal, disappointment and depression from the depths of our own hearts and souls. 

We will walk with Jesus this week, as the story of his Passion unfolds. We will follow Jesus to the middle of the very middle of our very souls where all of our secrets are kept. 

The Bees of Holy Week will take all our human failures, if you surrender to them and don’t mind if they sting a time or two, and make of them the sweet honey of Easter Resurrection. 

We know the story. We know how it ends. 

The Bees of Holy Week are gathering. 

Let them come.   


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