Well, dear friends, it has been quite a week. Its post-election Sunday, and we go on to… well, we have no idea. Half of the citizens of the US are in grief, feeling shock and anger and deep disappointment, while others are celebrating that they’ve turned the status quo on its head and changes are on the wind. It effects of course not only the citizens of the US, but all of us globally. It may not surprise you to know that I was, and am, deeply disappointed and concerned about the results. The political choice seems to be the exact opposite of the gospel message. But then, the gospel for today kind of shows that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
The author of Luke 21:5–19 offers an apocalyptic vision, with enough trouble, heartache, loss and sadness to make the strongest person quake with fear. Although the masses in Jesus’ time felt oppressed by the Roman appointed Herod, builder of the temple, when the gospel of Luke was written the temple and Jerusalem have been destroyed by Roman might. Luke names the fears, uncertainty, and chaos people are experiencing first hand. Yet, in Luke’s gospel they hear Jesus’ assurance that even when all looks lost, they can trust in the creative presence of God who will help them find their voice. Even when it appears all is lost, God calls us to participate in the healing of the world.
The reading from Isaiah certainly sounds more encouraging, more hopeful, but it comes out of a time of struggle and distress, lives lost too early, homelessness, economic injustice, and turmoil.
But, rather than let this chaos become the basis for despair and hopelessness, the prophet attests that it is precisely in this chaos that God is able to create a new world of wholeness and peace, inviting our participation. It may be helpful to remember that we have always tribal conflict – if not, we wouldn’t have these beautiful passages of hope, where someone can see beyond the name-calling and nonsense, beyond the bloodshed and blame.
How to speak of this without being simplistic, divisive? I don’t know. I am borrowing wisdom this week. David Wilson, editor of the United Church Observer, which came out before the election wrote: “We live in a digital paradox. Never before has it been so easy to reach out and connect with others, and never before has it been so easy to organize ourselves into tribes… Online, we get to pick and choose… Researchers have a nice name for these online clusters – “echo chambers.” …Inside the echo chamber, it doesn’t matter if what’s being said is wrong; if it sounds like your own voice, it’s as good as right. He goes on to say, “This clatter will come to an end this month. One tribe will claim victory, but no one will really win. Everyone lost long ago, when people started hearing only themselves and stopped listening to each other.”
So, perhaps, ironically, I found this other bit of inspiration `online.’ But it does follow the inspiration of our call to worship this morning from the 2nd letter to the Thessalonians – “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”
This comes from Clarissa Pinkola Estés is an American poet, Jungian psychoanalyst, post-trauma recovery specialist, author and spoken word artist and native American elder. I don’t know if she wrote it for this occasion, but it seems fitting and worthy of hearing. “My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”
Beloved ones, let us set sail. Amen.