A few months ago, the confirmation class and I were talking about when the Rite of Confirmation would be scheduled. I told them it would be next February. One of them made a comment about doing before the end of the world predicted by one man as October 21. Someone else said that at least it was before October 2012 when the Mayan calendar runs out and some speculate that is the ancient Mayan view of the end.
I chuckled at the thought of the priorities expressed. It also raised the question about how we view end times. Do we anticipate an imminent end like predicted for the spring then October of this past year? Is it something that is neither here nor there for us? Is it something we don’t see as God caused but rather something we bring on ourselves with our weapons of mass destruction or our neglect of the world which supports our life? Is it only a personal thing that comes to us individually?
It’s a truism to say , “How we view the future says something about how we live in the present. How we live in the present helps shape our future.”
So here at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 how is it we view the future? Is it a view with hope as with the birth of a child? Or are we fearful of the future for the child? What do we see on the horizon? Is it the dawn of a new day? Or is it emptiness as the poet John Crowe Ransom, “A cry of Absence, Absence, in the heart.”?
Here we are at the beginning of winter. Christmas is a memory and the decorations are put away. “The kitchen table is once again the kitchen table” as the poet W.H. Auden says. Looking at the empty branches
of the trees through the gray light of a late sunrise or an early sunset can bring a wintery chill.
News of a family member or close friend facing a debilitating, life robbing illness can bring the wintery chill to the soul which cries, “Absence, Absence” and God seems so distant. We long for the warmth of summer, not only in our bodies but in our souls. The warmth were life makes sense. Where the “living is easy.”
And yet, it is into this season, which theologian Karl Rahner calls the winter of the soul “when doubt pleads for time, when despair intrudes, when death scourges.” (From A Cry of Absence by Martin Marty.) comes the empty branches of another tree in the shape of a cross. It is from this cross that comes the cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In the depths of the winter of our soul, like a star in a dark sky, comes the glimmer of hope from that cross, the hint of warmth like a light in a window promising warmth on a cold night. One has gone before us and out of the cold darkness of death brings life.
We may not know that warmth but we have the hope which enables us to say “Yes” even when facing an empty horizon and to live into the future. It is the hope which enables us to say and live, “Though I walk through t he valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil for you are with me and you comfort me.” This is Emmanuel, God with us, not only in our birth, but in our death, and in a new birth.
So come and join the other searchers who are searching the empty horizon where a blustery wind may be blowing and together we may know that “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of our life and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
A blessed 2012,
Pastor Ron Kempe