Rector's Ramblings November 29, 2017
I recently finished up a five-wedding streak; five weddings, five Saturdays in a row. I did the premarital counseling for all five couples, one of my favorite parts of doing weddings, which meant that over the last few months, I’ve spent hours and hours talking with young, energetic couples who are madly in love with each other. Let me tell you, it’s a great way to spend some time. I find that sessions with couples preparing for marriage is one of the forms of ministry that feeds me while I do it. So much of what we do takes energy away for one reason or another, so I relish the things that energize me at the same time I’m engaging in them.
There’s a simple reason for this, I’ve decided. Couples who are getting married are undeniably hopeful and positive. There have been few exceptions to that over the years. Sitting down with two people who are focused on their future – their long-term future, full of hope and idealism about their marriage and their lives, is a lot of fun. The cynic reading this would say young couples are naïve, and point out that perhaps life just hasn’t set in yet. And that may be true; weren’t we all a bit naïve when we were young? Weren’t we all a little idealistic about marriage back at the start? Of course we were, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If we only thought about the challenges and the failures that might be on the horizon, we wouldn’t do much of anything. Instead, marriage is about capitalizing on the love and the positive moments, in order to traverse through the hard times more easily.
Our world is filled with so much negativity. At this point in time, it seems that, despite consumer confidence and a booming stock market, there is an underlying fear of what is coming. I hear quiet whispers about when the other shoe will drop; not if, but when. We hear reports about a looming crisis as automation and robots continue to change our economy. We wonder how long we can go without engaging in another war because they seem inevitable over the last 100 years. Every debate in Washington is couched in warning and doom by detractors and partisans. Even the worries about the natural world, with increasing severity and frequency of weather events (or so it seems!) don’t help us feel any better.
But I get to sit in a room and have intimate conversations with couples about bringing children into this world, an act that is subversive, when viewed through the lens of a cynical and negative world. How can things really be that bad, if smart, thoughtful people are still willing and excited to raise children in this world? Sure, we all worry for our kids and our grandkids. I hear people lament what successive generations won’t see or do, and yet the very fact that there are successive generations is a hopeful reality. The truth of the matter is that the world isn’t getting better or worse, on the whole. It’s dynamic and changing, which means improvement in some areas and decline in others. And then things switch and go the other way for a time.
Frankly, it is the idealism of younger generations that makes me most hopeful for the future. That idealism is what changes the world. It is people who don’t give up and give in who realize they can do the impossible. Isn’t that a bit of the story we’re about to tell in this season? A child, born into a dark world, full of pain and oppression? A child who will show the world what light is, and lead us into a new way of being, one that brings life instead of death? The world has been falling apart for generation after generation, and yet here we are. We’re not gone yet. God is not finished with us yet. The Kingdom of God isn’t completed, and is always in need of new workers and builders.
I feel like we need this coming Advent in ways we may not realize. It feels like there is spreading darkness, a foreboding that leaves everything unsettled. I literally heard the phrase, “What is the world coming to?” multiple times in the last week. I think we need to keep one eye on the horizon, the place the light comes from after the night. We need the other eye on what we’re doing here and now and how we can help, to be sure. But above all else, we need to hear that things aren’t getting worse, simply because it feels that way. God is present in this world, God is acting, and God always acts for good and life; God shows us that all things can and will be made new.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity this season. We get a few weeks to ponder these realities as we gather for our Advent worship and hear the stories of God’s promises, the assertion that the Messiah is coming, has come, and will come again. It’s almost as good as hanging out with couples before they get married. I guarantee that it will give you life, and goodness knows we can all use a little more life these days.
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Collect for Advent IV