Sermons

Monday, October 11, 2010

Through a glass, dimly


One of the things I do as a priest is be with people during their transition times.   Birth, marriage, death; baptism, confirmation, hospitalization.  Rites of passage.  To be with them during passages of all sorts.  We all go through these passages and transitions, we know that everyone does, and yet often we find our own particular transitions hard.  It helps to know we are not alone when we are in transition, when we are wishing to peer into the future and imagine what life will be life after.  After the wedding, after the birth, after the stint in the rehab facility, after the graduation, after the shock of being newly single begins to wear off.

Of course, in my work as a priest, others are going through the transitions; I am not.  I am a companion, an observer, a facilitator, but my own transitions are separate from others to whom I minister.  This is as it should be.  Having been through plenty of transitions myself, I feel that I am able to be a partner with others in their times of passage.

Most of us would like to know what the future holds.  What will come next?  How will things turn out?  What do I need to DO about a transition - does one steer or just ride the wave?  We imagine that if we knew how things would turn out, we would know how to make our decisions now.  While there may be a few of us who really love surprises, most of us would not want to be continually subjected to them.  On the other hand, we also would not like for things to never turn out the way we had hoped or imagined.

At the same time, most of us imagine to narrowly, expect too little.  (If we don't, if we try to keep the future wide open all the time, we become overwhelmed, often fairly quickly.)  It's fairly easy to tend toward the safe, the predictable.  Who wants to expect family angst, sudden loss, complications?

For me, I find myself aiming for the non-dramatic, the fairly stable and somewhat predictable only to risk being bored by that, only to risk provoking rebellions (even if they are small and hardly consequential ones).  Life in its complexity must hold out a future that excites me, encourages me to step out into the unknown, to risk in order to reap even while I crave some domesticity that I know can easily degenerate from contentment to contempt.  I know how easily I become restless, and also how easily I can get too far off track and have to find my way back.  (Perhaps with some help from others who minister to me.)

As I look into my own future (it must be that time of the season when the year begins to wind down), I wonder with both curiosity and a little anxiety, What does the future hold?  Can I handle it?  Will it challenge me?  Will it enrich me?  Will I fail?  Will I be happy?

I think it's that last question that's the one really on all of our minds during the times when we try to look forward into the what's next time.  Will I be happy?

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