I See Nothing . . .
Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . .
October 26, 2014
Bonnie A. Perry
Oh Gracious Holy One,
Be with us.
In your Name we pray.
Please be seated.
Many of you know or would be able to deduce from some of my sermons that I sometimes struggle with my faith. I wish I had my faith, completely nailed down, totally wrapped up, tightly packaged and readily available for the summoning at a moments notice. But that’s not always the case.
Instead, I feel as if God and I are an old married couple: many days happy and content, other days bickering. And I sometimes find myself exasperated, annoyed, and angry. Then when all else fails, I’ll turn my heart, mind and soul away from God hoping that my cold shoulder and lack of interaction will wound God, prick God’s conscience, and propel God to my flailing self who feels lost and abandoned.
Now, why I think this will work with God when it is resoundingly unsuccessful with humans is perhaps an indicator of my overall level of obtuseness or sadness.
You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Oh how I miss the unhindered faith of my youth.
When I was 16 I went on a retreat that altered the course of my life. On that retreat I wound up telling the priest that I was scared to death of God, because if God knew everything I’d thought, everything I’d done, (and more to the point for me) everything I’d ever said, then I was pretty sure God wasn’t going to like me. So I was afraid of God. The very smart priest asked me if I’d ever told God that.
“Well No.” “If God knows everything then why would I have to tell God that?” The priest just looked at me. So taking one of the bigger risks of my life, having seen a crucifix across the room, I said, I prayed, “God I am so afraid of you.”
Then as some of you have heard me tell, “This thing happened, a warmth flooded my body, starting at my feet and going all the way up to my face.” I couldn’t stop crying and I couldn’t stop laughing. I must have blushed for 45 minutes. And in that moment I knew without a doubt that God in the person of Jesus Christ loved me for who I was and how I was, completely and utterly.” It was then that it went from being my parent’s religion to my faith. I know it happened and I didn’t make it up—because I didn’t know something like that could happen and it took me completely by surprise.
Never since have I had something like that happen. It was a mountain top, life changing experience. That’s the upside. The downside is well –that was 36 years ago.
I miss the unhindered faith of my youth.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Seriously God, another shooting, in another school, with another gun, legally obtained; medical doctors infected and possibly infecting
after offering comfort, care and succor to strangers in the world’s latest version of the plague.
That’s just yesterday’s headlines.
Oh dear Lord—Why?
Oh dear Lord, I’m having a hard time loving you because I’m having a hard time finding you. I need more proof of your presence and your care.
When I find myself in moments like this, when I hear and see my doubts writ large, I then say to myself, well if I were more spiritual then I would have this all dialed in. Maybe—
Joan Chittister, a wonderful theologian and author tells the following story in her book, Scarred by Trouble, Transformed by Hope.
It seems Godfrey Diekmann, a legendary Benedictine liturgist, was out gathering watercress one day in a nearby swamp, when suddenly he found himself stuck and sunk up to his hips. [He was in very real danger.] Eventually he was rescued by being pulled out by a truck hoist. It was a delicate and dangerous business. In the Christmas letter he wrote following the event he said that after more than fifty years of monastic life, “What bothers me is that during the entire ordeal I didn’t have a single pious thought!” Says Chrittister—even when we live in the presence of God for our entire lives, there is no sudden spiritual awareness when the hard times come. P 41 (Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope)
Oh dear, is this good news or bad.
******* ****** ******
On Retreat last February, these thoughts came to me.
Darkness. Sitting in the refectory of the retreat house, I woke early, my neighbor’s service dog was restless through the night, (seriously who has a Yorkie as a service dog?) I woke early and it became clear to me that I needed to see the sun rise that morning. Needed maybe to see the dark disappear. So I made my tea, mixed my yogurt and raw oats together, grabbed a few books and wandered over to the main building. There, in the window-filled dining hall, with only a few perimeter lights on, I sat down and began to think. Maybe pray. Mostly wish. It was dark—in the West was a full moon getting ready to set; in the East the barest of red glows on the horizon. The lights of the cars from the road periodically distracted me, as I wondered where the drivers might be going at 5:30 in the morning on a -8 degree Saturday. Then, in what can only be described as a slightly sappy turn in my spiritual quest Cat Steven’s version of “Morning has Broken” came to me. I quietly sang it. No one was around to hear when remarkably I hit a note or to notice when more expectantly I went flat.
Soon, what I noticed, as the earth continued to revolve and it became a bit lighter was that the outlines of the tree branches interspersed along the prairie were now visible. When I’d arrived in the dark, those branches so clearly visible now were hidden. Their detail and very existence going unnoticed by me. What’s it mean about our ability to know and to see when something so detailed, so clearly present at 6:36 in the morning is completely obscured at 5:40?
In the dark we cannot see all that is present. When we are in the dark, much around us goes unnoticed. And if we were to rely on our senses alone, we would have to say there is nothing there. I see nothing, there is nothing. But then light reveals what had been there all along. So it is with God. I see nothing now, I feel nothing now; there must be nothing. But then, as the world revolves and the light shifts, the barest outlines begin to emerge.
Now I see the snow, the prairie grass and, of course, the trees. All of which had been there all along. Morning has broken.
You shall love your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul.