Week of Proper 20: Saturday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  An Elderly Woman

Photograph by Chalmers Butterfield

Never Alone

SEPTEMBER 29, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

O youth, enjoy yourself while you are young!  Let your heart lead you to enjoyment in the days of your youth.  Follow the desires of your heart and the glances of your eyes–but know well that God will call you to account for all such things–and banish care from your mind, and pluck sorrow out of your flesh!  For youth and black hair are fleeting.

So appreciate your vigor in the days of your youth, before those days of sorrow come and those years arrive of which you will say,

I have no pleasure in them;

before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds come back again after the rain:

When the guards of the house become shaky,

And the men of valor are bent,

And the maids that grind, grown few, are idle,

And the ladies that peer through the windows grow dim,

And the doors to the street are shut–

With the noise of the hand mill growing fainter,

And the song of the bird growing feebler,

And all the strains of music dying down;

When one is afraid of heights

And there is terror on the road.–

For the almost tree may blossom,

The grasshopper be be burdened,

And the caper bush may bud again;

But man sets out for his eternal abode,

With mourners all around in the street.–

Before the silver cord snaps

And the golden bowl crashes,

The jar is shattered at the spring,

And the jug is smashed at the cistern.

And the dust returns to the ground

As it was,

And the lifebreath returns to God

Who bestowed it.

Utter futility–said Koheleth–

All is futile!

Psalm 90:1-2, 12-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

Luke 9:43b-45 (The Jerusalem Bible):

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he [Jesus] did, he said to his disciples,

For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind:  The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.

But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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This day’s readings pertain to death.  Youth, Koheleth tells us, is fleeting, old age is full of terrors, and death will come for everyone.  Life is transitory; we are born, we live, and we die.  All of this plays out in the context of the sovereignty of God.  The world will continue without us, and we will fade anonymously into the past in time.  Some of us will fade anonymously into the past sooner than others will, but the ravages of time and ignorance will erase memories of even the most famous.

The reading from Luke contains another prediction of the suffering and execution of Jesus.  The text does not tell us of our Lord’s state of mind.  I suspect that the text cannot fill in that blank, not that this absence of information detracts from the text.  Yet I do suspect that Jesus might have had a disquieted tone of voice.  Why not?  It was troubling news.

There is no inherent fault in having a disquieted spirit.  Much of life consists of disturbing events, so inappropriate joy and apathy are legitimate reasons for concern.  And aging is not for the faint of heart, as many people know directly or indirectly.  I wonder how specialists in geriatrics can handle their work and maintain their mental health.

Difficult times are when our faith lives meet perhaps their stiffest tests.  A story (recounted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) comes to mind.  A Nazi guard forced a Jew to clean an especially nasty toilet.  He taunted the prisoner,

Where is your God now?

The Jew replied,

Here, beside me in the muck.

That God is beside us through our terrors and travails is a wonderful truth.  For some people at certain times, it might be their only comfort.  I have known this feeling, and it did not negate the bad situation I was in.  But at least I was never alone.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/never-alone/

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