Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 4, 2020
Also, Happy St Francis’ Day
Today’s Readings Are:
You can find these readings here.
I once had a book that I never read. It was a CS Lewis book, actually, and it had sat on my shelves for years. I think I had picked it up from my sister. She had a huge collection of Lewis’ books back in high school, and when I went away to college I think I must have grabbed it, wanting to read it, but not having time at the moment. I had it all the way through college, sitting there on my shelf with my Shakespeare and my Tolkien, sitting there and waiting.
All through college it sat there. It sat there while I was on study abroad, and it sat there as I graduated from college. It even came with me to Japan while I was teaching. It sat there and waited, patiently.
I often wonder why I never read it. I liked CS Lewis. I always wanted to read more of his work. But there was always something else to read. There were things to read for school, books about English literature and world cultures. There were books about Japanese language. There was other work to do, friends to see and, in Japan, a whole new country to see. And so I just kept the book around, and it sat there, waiting.
But then something happened. My childhood dog died. We had had Dan for something like fourteen years – we got him when I was ten. He’d grown up with us, saw me off to college, and welcomed me back each time I arrived home, whether that was from an hour south where I went to college or from across the world. He was always there, and he was, in a large part, essentially home for me. And now he had died.
For those of you who have pets, and for those of you who have had pets who’ve died, you know this pain. You know what it means to have a pet who dies, a pet who was home and, now that they’ve passed, home will never really be home again. And here I was, in Japan, and home felt weird anyway. All I wanted to do was rush back to New Jersey, but Dan wouldn’t be there. He had died.
And so I grieved. And in that grief, I don’t know why, but I stood up and took that CS Lewis book off the shelf, that book that had been with me for years upon years upon years, I took it down, opened it up, and read it. And it was exactly the book I needed at that moment.
The book was called “A Grief Observed.” CS Lewis wrote the book after his wife had died. It was a journal of his grief, of his anger towards God, and how God came into that anger and sorrow and healed him. It is a magnificent, heart-rending book, and it was exactly what my rent, ruined heart needed at that moment. Had I read it earlier in my life, I wouldn’t have really understood it. Now I did. Now, experiencing deep grief myself, the book spoke to me. And I began to heal.
We aren’t always good at knowing what we need. We aren’t k always good at knowing what will heal our hurts, what will stave off pain or sorrow. We don’t know how to be happy, not really happy, but we try. We throw ourselves into all sorts of things, from relationships to hobbies to things we watch on TV. We try our best to care for ourselves, to make ourselves happy, to heal from sorrow, and sometimes they work. Often they don’t. We don’t really know what will help, what will heal, what will give joy – but God does.
At the beginning of our Eucharistic service, we pray together a collect that begins: “Lord God, unto you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid”, and that’s a way to say, “God gets us.” God gets our troubled and failing heart. God gets us when we mess up, and God gets us when, somehow, through it all, we just can’t keep going anymore. God knows what we need, even if we don’t.
And God is always offering us that hope and that health, that light and that love. Our collect for today, which we’ll be praying in a few minutes, begins, “ Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve.”
You are always more ready to hear than we are to pray. God, you are always more ready to give to us even when we forget that we need anything at all. God’s like your spouse after a bad day, who maybe gets up a little bit early to cook you breakfast. God’s like a friend who hears in his prayers that maybe you need a hello and so emails or calls you out of the blue. God’s like that fresh, beautiful breeze of autumn after a hot week, or some rain that falls when the sky is orange with smoke. God’s like that book on your shelf that you always think, yeah I’ll get to that one day, and when you finally, for no reason you can think of, take it down to read it, you realize that this is the exact moment you needed it for. God is Jesus Christ, who even though we humans railed against him and hated him and crucified him, even still he prayed for us, and died for us, and was risen for us, because healing is more important, salvation is more important than hatred or anger or death.
Let God in. God’s trying to heal you, let God in. God’s trying to teach you to be good, like Jesus Christ was good; let God in. God is trying to show you a different way of living, a life that’s more about love than about hate, a life that’s more about hope than about despair, a life that’s more about community than about division; let God in. A bird sings when you’re really angry about something so that God can sing in your heart. An old friend calls when you’re in the depths of sorrow because God put it into the friend’s heart to remember you. And when you’re about to say that really ugly thing because you aren’t thinking, there’s God’s voice, saying just what he said at Jesus’ baptism and on the mountain during the Transfiguration: “This is the voice of my Son, my beloved. Listen to him.” Listen to Jesus. Turn again to the Lord.
God is giving. God is hope. God is community. God is salvation. God is calm. God is joy. God is all that is good and holy, for God is Goodness and Holiness. And God is saying, even now, and always and always, Turn to me, turn to my love, turn to life beyond all the wayward paths of this world. And if you can’t right now, if you’re just not listening right now, well, I’ll just keep on calling you, keep on calling out this voice of love and hope. I’ll be here. I am here. I am always here. For the length of eternity which has no end.
So turn, turn to the Lord. Open your heart. Let God’s love in.