Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts help guide our actions in the world, O Holy One; for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
I was on my morning walk yesterday; trying in vain to do what I try to do every fall at least once: catch a leaf from a tree before it hits the ground as it was being carried off by the wind. For some reason, I have not been able to catch a single leaf yet this year. Several times yesterday the leaves swirled around me and I tried to catch them only to have them slip out of my grasp to be carried further away.
As the leaves slipped away, a metaphor came to me: sometimes when we reach for something, even trying our best, we simply cannot quite get that far. The same is true with people, careers, relationships, parenting, politics; even hopes and dreams from every sphere of our lives. When those times come, and our hopes and dreams slip away like the falling leaves, what can we do? What kinds of responses do we make?
Sometimes, at those moments it seems the going gets toughest. One response may be rage and anger at the goal just out of reach, or the feelings of injustice. Another response might be a heightened period of creativity fueled by funneling our energies in positive ways. Other times, we may wax philosophical and realize this is but one moment in a time of stretching and growing, learning and yearning; leading us through a period of rest knowing that eventually, we can try again to reach that which is set before us to learn.
The same is true of our lives of faith. One question that seems appropriate at this juncture of our current chapter of life might be: What happens when life in the public sphere crosses over to tough times – does our life of faith have a way to fuel our response, acting in positive ways?
Whether you are happy or unhappy with last Tuesday’s election results, perhaps we can be encouraged with these words from the Desiderata:
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others… Nurture strength of spirit to shield you… do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars… whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive [God] to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world…”
We also have two excellent nuggets from today’s lectionary in 2nd Thessalonians: First, go about your work diligently. To that, I might add, go about your volunteerism, enjoying your retirement, celebrating long-term friendships and making new ones. Continue to dedicate yourself to spiritual enrichment by going to church, reading the Bible as well as other uplifting and challenging texts to keep your mind sharp; after all, both you and we may need sharp minds in the time to come.
A second nugget from today’s text is this: do not weary of doing what is right. What is doing right? For those of us who take discipleship seriously, striving to live our lives in the footsteps of Jesus by definition leads us down the path of a higher standard; especially when the going gets tough – perhaps for some of you that is now – when we may be facing a difficult time ahead when our highest civic examples may be wanting.
I urge you exceed the challenge of living by example what it means to be children of the Light. Living a higher standard by example includes embracing the teachings we have from Jesus and his Judaism that echo across the hearts of several major religions; teachings such as: “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” (Luke 6:31) “Love your neighbor as your self,” (Leviticus 19:18) and perhaps two of my personal favorites: “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8) and “Live well, live wisely, live humbly, it’s the way you live, not the way you talk that counts.” (paraphrasing James 3:13 in The Message )
When the going gets tough, what will your response be? For me, I will strive to live by example, to reflect the True Light that is coming into the world, speaking the truth when I see it, loving my neighbor as myself, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. Maybe, if I can possibly do all that, others may take note of it and ask what is it about me, and just maybe, if I am brave enough to say, I will be able to point out the way of everlasting, the higher standard by which I strive to live my life. In the end, I hope at least that I am able to somewhat clearly reflect the love of God; and, in the ultimate end, perhaps that is all we can pray for each of us as God’s witnesses in the world.
Amen? May it be so.
 Excerpts from the Desiderata – Max Ehrmann ©1952?