Today’s image is a traditional Greek orthodox icon.
The line that leaps out at me while reading and pondering today’s lessons came from the Collect of the Day. “Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life . . .,” it reads. Here are three big takeaways that might fuel a host of sermons: that God is almighty, that knowing God is necessary, and that this knowing does not lead to everlasting life but is everlasting life.
As I take in the devastation wrought by the Pandemic and by climate change, racism and a global narcissism, I do wonder about God’s omnipotence. “Where are you?” has been my constant prayer. And I have been reminded that all our ills are at root human-made, and that we are reaping what we have sown in so many arenas. God shows me that God is with us in our suffering. God inspires us in our brave deeds, our generosity, and our care for others. God inspires the creativity we really need right now to address all the things that are killing us.
But, more than that, in the moments of my life as they tick over, God has simply shown me God’s presence. In the Way of Love of Bishop Curry, he calls it “Turning.” God infuses the world, and at every second we have the opportunity of noticing God, turning to God. God gives us little nudges in things like the beautiful light illuminating a flower petal, the smell of pine trees on a mountain slope, or even the constant, subtle beauty of water emerging from a tap. (Don’t spend too much time on this last one: the world needs us to be careful with our water.)
I cannot presume to know God, but my life-long task is to turn always in that direction. There have been days, months, even years when I’ve neglected this. My life is always thrown off in those times. I focus on the wrong priorities, strive after the wrong satisfactions.
Turning to God does not necessarily bring rapturous enlightenment nor even an emotional high. I’ve heard people who do Centering Prayer compare it to sitting on the porch with someone they love. There’s a companionable silence in which one can rest.
But what about this “whom to know is everlasting life” phrase? I’ll be 70 years old this year, I’m overweight, and I have respiratory issues. COVID-19 has been a real threat. So I’ve become very conscious of my mortality. And, sure, it causes me a visceral anxiety to contemplate the end of my life. But the more I know God, the more I know what kind of being I am. I will not be ended by death. I don’t know how I will go on; whether my personality will be subsumed in something greater or the part of me that thinks of me as me will still exist. I don’t know what it will be like. But I know my existence is not confined to this life.
Christ has promised to be the guide into the life beyond life, and so I put my trust in him to lead me. I pray with the whole church, today: Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.