November 17, 2019
In our beginnings are our endings and in our endings are our beginnings. As we enter deeply into the waning days of light and the last days of the long season of Pentecost, it seems ironic that theologian and biblical scholar Robert Capon names autumn as the season of heaven. Many of you are considering your departure to places of abundant light — I, better than most, can appreciate the desire to follow the sun but with Capon’s prompting in his lovely book The Youngest Day: Shelter Island’s Seasons in the Light of Grace, I find myself drawn to the thought that this is the time of fulfillment. At the very moment it seems our world is shutting down, closing up shop for the winter, Capon sees heaven.
He speaks of the time in the light, the time where we were caught up in the busyness of the day as mere prelude to this time, the autumn when the light has accomplished everything we need, and the harvest is gathered, and all is fulfilled — these are the days of heaven. This is the way of life and death and resurrection, for we cannot begin again without an ending and the ending is to be found in the secret places — in the ground, in the buds not yet visible, in the creatures, big and small who are ready for a time of gestation and in us, who have absorbed the light for these many days, light that now nurtures our bodies, fills our souls and prepares us for something new.
In our endings are our beginnings. It is this that we have lost, it is this that we run from, what we fear, it is for this that Jesus, teacher, healer, Lord, savior and finally Christ came. The baby who became the man who died for us and rose again and continues to meet us in new way, it is this one who reminds us that even in our endings we will discover our beginnings, even in death, we shall be blessed. The gospel is simply the story that links our beginnings and our endings and helps us find heaven, even as the days grow dark and the leaves fall and it appears that all is lost.
I was once told that my greatest spiritual gift was that I possessed divine discontent — I live in a state of expectation that is always ready to be surprised by a new day. It is the gift that allows me to leave the comfortable and known and venture out as a pilgrim on the way to heaven. It is a gift that allows me to see hope, even in what appears to be the final word. It was this that allowed me to imagine that even at this point in my life, I might serve you, here at Grace. In our beginnings are our endings, and in our endings are our beginnings.
This place in spring, summer, autumn and winter is a glimpse of heaven. Like Capon’s Shelter Island, the seasons are magnified in a way that one must simply surrender to the day — we cannot escape this glimpse of heaven nor the reality that this is a time of ending, apparent death and yet there is the promise of resurrection, there is the eternal promise of resurrection.
We are coming to the end of Pentecost, one more Sunday, Christ the King Sunday. Nancy will be with you next week. I travel to Baltimore to be with my son and his family for Thanksgiving and will return (God willing and winter is held at bay) for the first Sunday in Advent.
Today we hear from the prophet Malachi and Luke’s vision of Jesus as Prophet — each sharing apocalyptic views of what is to come, days of disaster and death, death to the evil doers and death to the followers of Jesus. In what I see as an ironic twist, we also hear Paul admonishing some of the believers in the Church in Thessalonia for their idleness in the hope of a quick return . It is a cautionary tale to us who are followers of the Way of Jesus and it is stunning to realize that even in the earliest experience of the church, we find those who see this gift of eternal life as an excuse to opt out.
For us it is a reminder to remember who we are and whose we are. In the cataclysmic days and in the ordinary days, Jesus comes. In our call to be martyred and in our failure to live up to our call to be servants of grace, Jesus still comes and continues to invite us into the beloved community. In these days of grace, these waning days of light, let us see the light within. Let us look at the hymn again, I want to walk as a child of the light.
I want to walk as a child of the light.
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world.
The star of my life is Jesus.
In him there is no darkness at all.
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
In our endings are our beginnings — let us prepare to begin again: Advent is coming. In the darkness of winter, the light will be born and we will begin again. Alleluia, alleluia.