Holy One, Open us. Open us to Love, Open us to Grace. Open us to shared understanding. Open us.
I’d like to talk with you this evening about trauma. If you have your own experiences and activations around trauma, I invite you to do what you need to do this evening to look after yourself. And, I invite you to sit with both feet on the floor, and lets begin by breathing..... and let us pray,
it is evening.
The evening is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is evening after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.
Thinking about the parable of the Good Samaritan, I want to take us down a path that is not the one usually trod. Most of the sermons and discussions about this parable are about the “Good Samaritan”. And rightly so, Jesus actually asks the questioner, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” (Luke 10:36) But there is another character here, the person stripped, beaten and left half dead on the side of the road. And it is this person, the traumatized one I’d like us to hold in love this evening.
And so to begin, I’d like to share an insight I had recently. I suggest, and I’ve since found others thinking about this exact thing, namely, Serene Jones of Union Theological Seminary in New York in her book Trauma and Grace.
So here’s the basic idea; Christianity is a religion that names and honours the continuums between trauma and grace, injury and recovery, loss and new life. We do it each Eucharist as we recall the Last Supper; “on the night he was betrayed,” and we do it every year in Holy Week. We sit in Good Friday in a service of Remembrance of trauma, not just the trauma of the person on the cross, but all of the witnesses to that trauma. All of us who have some inkling of what it means to be helpless, pained and alone. And then on Holy Saturday, because in the face of some trauma, there are no words, we sit in
silence. In large part because there is nothing to do. I recall the wonderful advice I received around pastoral care; “don’t just do something, sit there.” That is Holy Saturday.
And then, slowly the light appears and it is Easter Sunday. There is new life, there are new possibilities. It is a life that does not ignore the past, and a life that is able to take the next steps forward. Importantly here friends, there are then, in any
community, people who are in Good Friday right now. People who are in Holy Saturday right now. And people who are in Easter Sunday right now. And we need to honour where we each are. It is not helpful, regardless of my intention if I am in
Easter Sunday at this point in my life to simply say, to my fellow travellers ‘it gets better.’ Far better for me to stop where I am and meet you where you are. Not with sympathy, but with empathy. Not simply with words, (remember sometimes words are useless), but to hold space for you, to protect you from the elements so that you can
At its best, that is what a Christian community is and does; those of us who are in Easter Sunday (and you have to go through Friday and Saturday to be in Sunday) hold space for the healing of those of us in Friday or Saturday. We are in communion with each other because we can see both the Trauma and the Grace (to use Dr. Jones’ language). We are in communion with each other because we are face to face with trauma, together. You are loved, you are not alone, you do not have to face this alone. We have each other. Now, that is Christian community at its best, and because we are human, most of the time this is a journey of progress not perfection.
And now let’s put ourselves in the body of this person lying naked, alone and beaten in the desert heat. They have been overwhelmed and not been able to stop it. As the sun bakes them, not one but two people walk by and don’t stop to help. Does nobody care? Can no one see me? “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt
27:46) (See also Ps 22)
And then, a stranger, more than a stranger, a Samaritan? The enemy? “Wait, don’t hurt me! Wait, what are you doing, where are you taking me?” This Samaritan lifts me, and places me on their donkey, and takes me to an inn. This word ‘inn’ needs bit of unpacking. In the Greek, it is not the same word as in the Christmas story, as in “there was no room for them at the inn.” That word is best translated as “guest room” or “guest house.” The Greek word here is πανδοχειον pandocheion which translates literally ‘all-are-welcome.’ This is the only use of this word in the entire Christian canon, so it is not there by accident!
In this place, this place of healing and compassion, all are welcome.
Let’s pause and pray at this moment...
The evening is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.
This compassionate Samaritan is holding us, but the Samaritan is not alone either. He calls on community, the inn. He has not taken us to some cave to lick our own wounds, he has brought us into community, where all are welcome; a safe place, a
place of comfort and care. And then the Samaritan pays for the care. Compassionate support always costs the person who does the caring. That is why community is so important, it is not only up to one person, its up to us all, we all share the responsibility of care for each other.
A mentor of mine, Bp Jim Cruikshank used to say, “the most important word in the Lord’s Prayer is, ‘our.’” Our Abba; we are all connected, and we all have a shared responsibility for ourselves and each other. The caregiver and the cared for; we are there for each other.
I think that one way of thinking about the story of the Good Samaritan is that we need to care for each other, especially around trauma. The road to recovery is like the road down from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is difficult, hot and dusty. It is a road we likely should not travel alone. Rather it is a road where community and compassion meet in the service of each other and it leads to an inn where all are welcome.
And so, as we come to close this exploration, let us again, with both feet on the floor take a couple of deep breaths...and
Let us pray,
The evening is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.
The evening heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
In your name we pray.