Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14 and Isaiah 45:1-7 and Matthew 22:15-22
Upon Further Reflection...
I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places....Isaiah 45:3
This week, I noticed I haven’t been taking J to the park after dinner to run out the last of his wiggles because it is too dark. The nights are getting longer. I can’t sense when it’s time to make meals. I find myself disoriented when the alarm sounds in the morning, unsure of the hour. Thank goodness for the grain elevator greeting the dawn.
If I were back in my childhood home in this late October, the darkness would be setting in for the long winter even more deeply than it does here. And with the change, came the bare limbs of trees, no longer decorated with the vibrant blasts of autumn leaves. Everything was stripped down: no more lush forest, no more scent of rich soil and blooming things, the land denuded.
One year, when I was old enough to walk in the woods alone, I noticed something. With all the trees stripped to pure bark, you could see across the hillside to far horizons; you could see the outlines of distant ridges that maybe I knew were there all along, but were hidden by the dense foliage of summer. The setting of autumn into the winter meant vistas revealed, it meant landscapes emerging; it meant perspective. Longer nights brought new vision in the little daylight we had.
Darkness also brought the cold. Sometimes by now in Maine, the driveway ruts were hard with frost in the early morning. And it was not uncommon to navigate through snow on Halloween to trick-or-treat. And with the cold came the descent into our inner selves, another reorientation of our vision. Even here in winter, some of us spend more time in reflection, more time inwardly watchful. In a way, like the land we go dark and somewhat bare as we fall into stillness. We find we have changed in a year; we find those around us have shifted. We wonder at the passage of time. We perceive things we did not notice a year ago.
In church come the fall, we experience judgment in some of the harder scripture readings of the lectionary; we are confronted by what we would rather ignore about ourselves. The Word is working on us, laying on a demand of truth…even if it hard. It too is cold and dark and revealing.
Are these then the treasures and riches of the darkness God intends for us: this honesty, this quiet drawing down, this gaze onto the far ridge lines of our lives? What is this pull toward the subtle, secret Presence of the Holy One? What are these emerging distant horizons if not the invitation to rest in the wideness of God’s mercy?
Sermon Notes for Judgment, Mercy, and the Indestructibility of Love
Quotes on sin come from Defense of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord, Article II (I): Of Original Sin. Link to full text HERE.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - childhood classic and masterful depiction of anger an mercy. (Public library and reference HERE.)
Sermon Notes for You Can't Have it Both Ways
"If one believes Caesar is due taxes, then pay; if one believes everything belongs to God, then do not pay" from The Jewish Annotated New Testament. (Reference and public library HERE.)
Thank you, Bishop Gabriel Abdelaziz at The Revival Center in Templeton for your enlivening comments on transformation and touch!