Digging Deep for Good News
Episcopal Diocese of Washington
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Bishop Mariann’s Blog
Thursday, November 15, 2012
As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down… When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs." - Mark 13:1-8
For the next three weeks, be prepared to hear Gospel texts on Sunday mornings that speak of future devastation, suffering that must take place, and the need for perseverance and inner strength. Every preacher I know quietly dreads these last weeks of the Christian calendar and the first of Advent. Yet each year we dig deep within ourselves to discern what God is saying to us about faith and hope in difficult times.
I have watched and prayed from a distance as two people I love endure great hardship, one caught in the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the other who has been diagnosed with life-threatening illness. Just a short while ago, neither could have anticipated how their lives would be so drastically changed. No matter what happens next, I doubt they will ever return to “normal” life, as it was before. They are both forever changed. And I am humbled by the graciousness, courage and strength that even they didn’t know they possessed.
There are times in life when what we face is beyond our capacity to change or control. After the reality finally sinks in, that there is no turning back and no way around, the only spiritual response is that of humility---not in a passive sense of giving up, but rather of surrendering to the will of God, a minute-by-minute openness to grace when we have lost our bearings.
Joan Chittister, the Benedictine nun who will grace us with her wisdom on Friday evening, writes of such times: “This degree of humility calls for emotional stability, for holding on when things don’t go our way, for withstanding the storms of life rather than having to flail and flail against the wind and, as a result, lose the opportunity to control ourselves when there is nothing else in life that we can control.”
Jesus writes of birthpangs—the painful herald of new life. God comes to us not in shining armor but in the midst difficult realities we would do anything to avoid. “Where is the Good News?” someone asked in our Bible Study this week. “There is always Good News” another responded, with the confidence that comes only from experience. And that is what we humbly gather to hear and to pray for in this season of increasing shadow and flickering light.
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