Sermon-October 17, 2021
As we move into the second half of the lovely month of October, the daylight hours are shortening and the darkness comes a little earlier each evening. Some of the evening skies have been lovely with the pink and purple hues etched against the clouds as the sun sets. It’s a gift to look out and see the ways in which the skies change throughout each season. And for those of us who love the light, it is a special gift that helps with this time of transition. In just a few short weeks, we will set our clocks back once again and the darkness will descend even earlier. As we move through our busy days, we don’t often pause and reflect about the incredible ways in which God created the majesty of the rotation of the earth, the changing of the seasons, the colors and light which mark the days in between. We don’t often consider what level of genius it would take to conceive of such grandeur and awe. Let us pray, O Holy One, help us to be present to the unfolding of these days of autumn and to see the details in which you created the heavens and the earth. We thank you for the colors of the leaves, mild days, and opportunities to be One with you as spend time in nature. This we pray in the name of your Son, Amen.
In the passage we read from Job today, we hear of God’s response to the many questions or challenges that Job has posed, whether in a spirit of inquiry or challenge to God. Job spend a great deal of time struggling with the hardship and suffering he encounters in his life and he demands to know why. Calamity doesn’t make sense. Hardship doesn’t make sense. Suffering doesn’t make sense. We hear the voice of Yaweh responding by repeating these important and thoughtful questions back to Job. God respond to Job with questions of God’s own. How frustrating it must have been for Job, when God deigns to reply to his pleas…by answering questions…with questions. Some may consider Job disrespectful or unfaithful, but it is interesting that in the dialogue, Yaweh is willing to listen and engage and respond. When we ask God some of the big questions of our own lives or of the unfolding of the world, we may not always feel that we have received any reply or an adequate response, or the kind of answer that we were hoping for. How many of us have found ourselves asking hard questions of God at points in our lives and especially over the last couple of years?
The poet Rilke once advised a young student, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Perhaps that is one of the important tasks of our lives, yes, to ask the questions, but perhaps to find peace with living with these questions while not always receiving the answers we hoped for.
It seems to me that as our daylight hours become shorter and we tend to spend more time indoors, it becomes an ideal time to sit with the questions, or to simply sit and reflect and just be in the presence of God. There is something in this season that beckons us to settle ourselves and reflect. We may wish to turn to some words of inspiration, like those of the Celtic spiritual writer John O’Donohue in his writing titled, Vespers,
As light departs to let the earth be one with night,
Silence deepens in the mind, and thoughts grow slow;
The basket of twilight brims over with colors
Gathered from within the sacred meadows of the day
And offered like blessings to the gathering Tenebrae.
After the day’s frenzy, may the heart grow still,
Gracious in thought for all the day brought,
Surprises that dawn could never have dreamed:
The blue silence that came to still the mind,
The quiver of mystery at the edge of a glimpse,
The golden echoes of worlds behind voices.
Tense faces unable to hide what gripped the heart,
The abrupt cut of a glance or a word that hurt,
The flame of longing that distance darkened,
Bouquets of memory gathered on the heart’s altar,
The thorns of absence in the rose of dream.
And the whole while the unknown underworld
Of the mind, turning slowly, in its secret orbit.
May the blessing of sleep bring refreshment and release
And the Angel of the moon call the rivers of dream
To soften the hardened earth of the outside life,
Disentangle from the trapped nets the hurts and sorrow,
And awaken the young soul for the new tomorrow.
~ John O’Donohue ~ (To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings)
In the book The Circle of Life: The Heart’s Journey through the Seasons, Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr also extend an invitation to pause and welcome the opportunities for reflection in this time of autumn,