Speaking of Religion: living with uncertainty
I'm not a fan of uncertainty. I mean, I am REALLY not a fan of uncertainty.
None of us are, I suppose. And if you're reading this on Saturday, well, you're still in the middle of uncertainty. If you're reading this on Sunday, the uncertainty is gone. If you're reading it on Monday, well, either you just finished shoveling, or you can't stop laughing. All depending on how this uncertainty plays out.
As I'm writing this, AccuWeather is telling us we're going to see between one and two feet of snow starting around 9pm on Saturday.
But time will tell. Right now, we're still uncertain.
The uncertain things of life can tire us out. As we come face to face with questions whose answer we just can't know, sometimes we find ourselves getting tired of even asking. We no longer want to listen to the options. We're not open to the possibilities. We're not wired to do well with the unknown; worse, the unknowable.
I was at a funeral this morning down at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales. The friend we laid to rest was a dynamic and vibrant spirit. She had many friends, and the church was packed, and Father Bob gave a nice homily (on the uncertainty of life and death, as it happens). At the reception afterwards, I spoke to a few people who came to the reception, but not the funeral mass. I was in a suit, which is unusual for me, so they naturally asked me, "Were you at the church?"
"Yes," I replied.
Though I didn't ask, they responded to my affirmative with variations of "I'm not into that," or "I knew it would be packed," but I believe the underlying message for each of them was the same as what one person told me: "it's not for me."
Facing the uncertainty of who we are, how we came into being, and what happens to us after we pass on from this life, many people decline to choose: neither faith, nor disbelief, but rather the choice to live in the uncertainty. Neither "I believe," or "I do not believe," but rather, "it's not for me."
I don't know what they meant. Not for sure. I don't know if they meant that funerals are not for them, or church is not for them, or organized religion is not for them, or faith is not for them.
Either way, my reaction is the same.
We have been given a mighty gift in this world. Our creator loves us so powerfully that God chose to become incarnate among us, to step into our pain and suffering, and live as we live. God chose to become part of what it means to be human, ensuring forevermore that we would be able to put our trust in a God who fully comprehends what it means to live in human uncertainty.
God chose to become a person, and in that person God gave each one of us the opportunity to meet God face-to-face, to share our life stories with the one who came to understand, and to experience the unshakable redemption of God's love that we call grace.
And, friends, it IS for you.
Because of Christ we don't need to live in uncertainty about who we are, because through Christ we experience the embodied love of God, a love that can't be shaken, a love that will never falter or fail.
And it IS for you.
Even if you don't feel like it should be. Even if you don't understand how it COULD be.
God's love is specifically for you, just as you are, for your entire self.
We may not know what's about to happen Saturday going-on Sunday with the snowpocalypse that may or may not be about to drop a winter's worth of mess on our heads (or, possibly, a couple flakes on the sidewalk). The answer to that uncertainty will work itself out in time. But in this uncertain world there is something we CAN count on, something we CAN know, for certain:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. [John 3:16, NRSV]
The world. Not parts of the world or some of the people in the world. But the entire world.
And so friends, you can be certain of this: whatever else may come, God's love endures, and God's love IS for you.
Rev. Stephen Dale is a pastor of the United Methodist Church who has been appointed to Bennington to plant a new community. He can be reached at email@example.com, or (802) 440-0217, or at https://www.revanchorman.org.
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