Charles K. Robertson's sermon at TOPIK conference

November 18, 2007

The Rev. Dr. Charles K. Robertson, Canon to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, preached during the November 19 morning Eucharist at the Towards Peace in Korea (TOPIK) conference in Seoul. The full text of Robertson's sermon follows.



"How Long, O Lord?"
A Reflection on Psalm 79 and Luke 18
The Rev. Canon Dr. C. K. Robertson

"O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance…they have poured out blood like water…we are objects of scorn and derision to those around us."
"How long, O Lord? How long?"

The words were written over two thousand years ago in a hill country far away…but they are words that have been repeated by countless people in every time and in every land.

The Psalmist watched and wept as invaders swept through beloved Jerusalem, desecrated the holy temple, slaughtered or exiled far too many.
"How long, O Lord? How long?"

The Maccabees watched and wept as a new king seduced the people with empty promises and easy answers, only to bring terrible affliction on them.
"How long, O Lord? How long?"

Fr. Monsour watched and wept as stared at the border into the West Bank, not allowed to cross it to be with his congregation even on Easter morning.
"How long, O Lord? How long?"

Dean Sylvester watched and wept as tear gas flooded into the cathedral in Khartoum, and people ran in terror and confusion.
"How long, O Lord? How long?"

Hollie watched and wept as her precious little boy lay there helpless, his face bloated from treatments that were not working, not yet dead but hardly alive.
"How long, O Lord? How long?"

And in the land of majestic beauty and morning calm that is Korea, a young girl watched and wept as war separated her from the family she dearly loved & missed.
How long, O Lord? How long until peace? How long until healing?
How long…how long…how long?

In the past few days, we all -- Koreans and other nationals alike -- have heard of the deep hurts that have been experienced by Koreans in both the South and the North. The cry of the Psalmist has been echoed in many of the statistics and stories that we have heard shared here. War, division, crime, suicide, a profound sense of helplessness: For all too many, the world appears dark indeed.

We might find ourselves uncertain of what we should we do, what we can do. We know that we must work to make a difference… and so we work. But the task at times seems so great, so overwhelming.

And yet, yesterday in the Sharing House of Nowon, I caught a glimpse of light.

There, with people who have known poverty as a constant companion for so long, I saw hope, not hopelessness. There, I saw beautiful, delightful people who have found their lives valued and improved through the work of the Sharing House.

There, for twenty years, the faithful staff of the Sharing House has provided help for the disabled, for those in need of medical care, for the illiterate, for youth and parents and laborers.

There, yesterday, my companions and I enjoyed beautiful worship and a magnificent feast.

There, together with residents and staff, we sat and knelt, prayed and sang, smiled and laughed.

How could this be? How had hope come to a place where hopelessness could easily have reigned supreme?

The people's answer was clear: God was in that place, shedding enough light to help them see both their gifts and their duty right there, right now.

In the Gospel story we heard minutes ago, a blind man sits by the roadside as he has sat so many days and probably years before. Sitting and begging, waiting and hoping. "How long, O Lord, how long?"

Along comes Jesus, who puts the crucial question to the man: "What do you want?" The blind beggar's response is immediate: "Lord, I want to see!" Jesus's response is equally direct: "Your faith has saved you."

Make no mistake: this is not a story about magic tricks and wishful thinking. The blind beggar is not naïve. His struggles are real, his situation quite difficult.

No, this man finds wholeness and healing not because he simply believes God can, but because he trusts that God cares. That God truly cares about him. That God is present even in the darkness.

Because of this, the blind beggar is blind no more. He sees what he must do and does the only thing that makes sense: He follows Jesus.

Before, he sat day after day as the world passed him by. Before, he was a spectator only, helpless, hopeless, simply surviving, hardly living.

Now, he would follow Jesus, speaking the words of Christ to a world still helpless and hopeless, finding strength to do the work Christ would give him to do.

Now he would follow Jesus, like so many women and men ever since. Like the women and men of the Sharing House. Like the women and men who strive for peace and unity in the Korean peninsula. Like the women and men who choose to trust that God not only can, but that God also cares, truly cares.

Several years ago, on Easter Sunday, I received a call that my mother had suffered a major stroke and was lying in a state somewhere between life and death. As I found my way to the hospital, I saw my father standing there, shattered, helpless. I did not know what to say; no one seemed to know what to say.

Just then, a chaplain entered the room, walked straight over, took my father's hands in his, and quietly said: "You're not alone. God is here."

This is the ongoing message of the gospel in the face of human suffering and helplessness. "How long, O Lord, how long?" We do not have easy answers for the complex problems we face.

But this we can know: You and I -- we are not alone. God is present. God is here. God cares…truly, deeply.

And because we know this, open our eyes and follow Jesus, knowing that one day we will complete our hard work and hear God say to us, "Your faith has saved you. Your trust has made you, and your land, whole."

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