Here is an article that I wrote for our church newsletter about living with faith in these tumultuous times. I thought I’d share it here as well.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I didn’t sign up for this. And neither did you. This pandemic is not something that any of us wanted. All of us are now a little like Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings,” bearing a fate that we wish we had never come to us. “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened,” Frodo said to Gandalf. And Gandalf’s reply to Frodo might very well be to all of us now: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” This is the time given to us. And all we have to decide is, what shall we do with it?
I read something recently that helped me (thank you, Sophia Center for Spirituality!), as we live through these rapidly-changing times. It from the great philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who wrote:
“When the sailor is out on the sea and everything is changing around him, as the waves are continually being born and dying, he does not stare into the depths of these, since they vary. He looks up at the stars. And why? Because they are faithful – as they stand now, they stood for the patriarchs, and will stand for coming generations. By what means then does he conquer changing conditions? Through the eternal: By means of the eternal, one can conquer the future, because the eternal is the foundation of the future.”
It seems as though we are all out at sea now, and everything is changing around us. Not just the coronavirus pandemic, but also the long overdue conversation that our nation is having regarding racial justice. Some of the changes around us are needed and important, but even change that is needed and important can still be unsettling.
So what do we do? Look to the stars, Kierkegaard says, for they are faithful. The eternal is what we need in these changing conditions. The waves cannot be relied upon to guide us – we need something more constant and eternal.
We must stop setting our sights by the light of each passing ship; instead we must set our course by the stars.George Marshall
We must set our course by the stars. But, truth be told, even the stars are not eternal. Stars are born, they grow old, and they die, just like us. Even the stars change. They cannot be relied upon. As people of faith, though, we have something even better, and more eternal, and more faithful than the stars. Because we can look to the God who created the stars. We can turn to the unchanging Word that God gave to us. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus tells us, “but my words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). And the one who tells us this, the Book of Hebrews assures us, can truly be relied on, because “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
The truth is that even the stars, like all else in creation, are like grass. “The grass withers, and the flower falls,” Peter tells us, quoting Isaiah, “but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24). It is not the stars that endure forever, but the word of the Lord.
Over and over again, God’s unchanging word reminds us that we do have a star that we can look to, in the midst of these ever-changing conditions; a star that truly is eternal, and that can provide us the foundation of our future. And the “star” that never changes is Jesus, the Word who was there in the beginning with God, and who became flesh and lived among us to show us the height and depth of God’s love. Jesus is the Word that endures forever, who shows us a love that is truly eternal, a love that is the same yesterday and today and forever.
So let us look to this star, in the midst of our rapidly-changing world, to find a foundation of the future that we can truly rely upon. As Jesus himself put it, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock” (Matthew 7:25-25). Let’s build our future on this rock, the Word that endures forever.