A new year has been marked in the calendars of mankind. Time has been broken into pieces so that we can organize it to form associations with one another through work, play, sickness, health. We set aside times in the future where we promise to be, where we promise to give of our time for that moment, hour, day.
Time has become slippery during the last two years of our lives. It has slipped and slid and merged into one rolling river, the tide pulling us along to some end we do not see. Our children reflect our own confusion over the chaos of our lives, the meaningless moments of waiting, masking, meeting mandates and following confusing rules that seem to end in a dead-end, all the while contradicting one another.
Should we make resolutions in this new year of time? Or is it a futile enterprise?
In these years of darkness, confusion, crime, and chaos, we reach for the light. If we can shine more light upon the swift current, the fast moving river that carries us into the future, then we will understand better who and what we are, who and what we have become. We will understand better and with this understanding we will see meaning and purpose to it all.
Reflecting on this morning in our Berkeley chapel, I sense that Christians are given a gift that others must create or do without. Christians are given a map of the rivers running through time. We are told which ones are good and which ones are evil. We are warned of the rapids coming around the bend and what we should do to prepare. We are warned of waterfalls and cliffs that plunge into the dark abyss.
In the last century, modernity declared that God is dead, a fiction of our (deplorable) imagination. With this denunciation and burial, modernity gazes into the abyss, the endless endings, the fearsome silence, the falling through the sky into the depths of nothingness.
I knew this meaninglessness once as a young college student listening to lectures on the insanity of Christian belief and the order to embrace existentialism. A friend showed me another way. I began to pray for faith. I began to read apologetics (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity) with an open mind and heart, searching for reason to believe, but expecting none. Prayer opened my mind and heart, for I had made that first step, not a leap, but a baby step, my arm reaching out, my hand waiting for God to clasp it, waiting for God to see me and catch my freefalling fall.
St. Luke tells of a woman who touched the hem of the robe of Jesus. She wanted to be made whole. She reached out, hoping, praying. I reached out too. I wanted to be made whole too, although I didn’t realize it yet.
When we reach for Jesus he reaches for us. But we must want him to. And to want his touch we must open ourselves, bare ourselves, burn away all pride and control. For pride and control are walls that divide us not only from others, but divide us from God.
I have wondered over the last year, how easy it has become for many public figures to lie about matters of life and death for mankind, the future of freedom and democracy. My bishop of blessed memory often said he couldn’t lie because he wasn’t smart enough to keep track of the lies. Perhaps this is what we are seeing in the public square today – men and women who come to believe their lies, for the narrative they create must continue or be washed clean, like erasing letters on a chalk board. One lie begets another and another and another, covering tracks and making falsehoods appear to be true. The narrative is carried whole from one institution to another, from one network to another, from one citizen to another.
I have found that when I go to church I am more likely to scrub my conscience and face God with abandon. Worship does this, allows us to experience God, the God of Abraham, Moses, and Elijah, the God of kings and prophets, the God who became one of us, robed in flesh, named Jesus, the God that offered himself to me and for me, to die a painful death upon a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem, the God who rose from the dead for me, so that my emptiness could be filled forever, my cup running over with goodness and mercy.
And so I sing with the others in the chapel to the sound of the thundering organ. As I sing, I lay my heart and soul bare, open to the miracles of the morning. And there are always miracles, too numerous to count.
It all began with an unlikely step of faith, a little baby step, a step I didn’t think would make any difference. And yet, one step led to another that led to another, so that my own narrative, my journey on this river of life, is full of joy.
And it gets better each year, this amazing journey. At the age of seventy-four, I have no regrets that I chose this river. For the Church has been my ark, and we have sailed together, I in her womb of life with those who travel with me. We are the family of God, precious in his sight. We are his bride.
And so, as I embark on this year 2022, I watch and wait and see what Christ has prepared for me, for his people, for his bride the Church. The watching opens my eyes so I can see better, and I find I am in a pool of heavenly light. The waiting opens my heart so I can love better, and I find I have dear brothers and sisters all about me.
I pray for those caught in the darkness of lies, for it is a deep and fathomless abyss, a hope-less narrative. The remedy is to take that small step toward the light of truth, to say yes to God. The remedy is to be open to Christ working his will among his people. This is a narrative of love, of epiphany, of astounding joy.