One summer day many years ago, when our son Will was little, five or six I guess, I took him fishing. We went to a small river about half an hour from home; a stream where dark water swirled around granite rocks, a place I’d caught fish before. Before leaving, we gathered our gear, and packed some snacks, and then we headed out. It was midsummer and hot, but I figured it would be cooler in the woods and by the water. On the way, we were both excited. “We ought to be able to catch some trout,” I said, imagining myself, the proud father, taking a picture of my son holding up a big and beautiful rainbow trout.
There’s a prayer for evening, which like the hymn “Abide with Me,” asks the Holy for presence and help through the night: “so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness.” We could have a theological conversation about whether the Holy changes or not. My hunch is that the Holy is changing too. But especially this day, I take refuge in what we just sang about, “the earth, forever turning” and I take refuge in the fact of this forever tuning, and how it brings times of light and dark, seasons that come and go; and this helps me, amidst all the changes and chances of this life, to remember that even with its struggles, life is good, and life is a gift.
Something I’ve noticed, in myself and in others, is how easy it can be to spend time and energy thinking about and worrying about and getting anxious about things that I can’t control, and that you can’t control. In our connected world, we’re aware when a tragedy happens somewhere in our country or on the other side of the world. The news these days is increasingly breathless and anxious, like the weather report when a big storm is coming! There’s a lot to worry about!
There’s at least one way that religious communities are different from the other ways people gather together. People tend to be drawn those who are like themselves; in tribes and clans, associations of like-minded people. But faith communities are meant to be a “y’all come,” kind of association, a diverse community of all souls who desire to be in community together. That the hope anyway. Martin Luther King observed that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. But that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Our gathering today is meant to be a taste of that time to come, when as the prophet said, “the lion will lay down with the lamb,” when we will see that our difference need not divide us. That we are all in this together.