And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea….And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.
—Revelation 21: 1, 4
I have been thinking for a few weeks about the notion of things falling away, or giving way, creating room for new “things” to come into place. I have had a lot to consider along that vane: the year-anniversary of my dad’s death, the sudden passing of a client, the retirement of the St. John’s organist who had been one of the “friendly faces” I’d been accustomed to seeing, and bigger still, the departure of my mentor for a new calling as an interim rector in Alabama. In many ways, I have seen this transitory period as having similarities to my experiences as a teen-ager when I announced before a congregation of people that I wanted to be confirmed, and then seemingly the bottom fell out of my life and I was absorbed in death and doubt and loneliness.
But this time, there is a difference. Because this time, the confirmation of my faith that has taken place over this past year has roots that are deeper and better cared for and aren’t likely to get washed away in the storms of change. This time, my focus is not on the people and placing my faith in people, but maintaining my faith in a God who continues to pursue a relationship with me, and has the one desire that I (and all of humanity) will stay in that relationship.
So it seemed fitting that last Sunday during a Choral Evensong at St. John’s, the final service led by Mtr. Lee Shafer at our church, that the choir sang the above words from the Book of Revelation. Now, normally when I think of Revelation, I laugh and joke that I think its author, John Somebody, must have dropped acid and was tripping when he wrote all this stuff down. But, in the context of the music, and the moment, these words resonated in me, and brought tears to my eyes as I took in the message. Yes, God will wipe away these tears. The former world, as I knew it, is passed away…and a new world has emerged. In fact, the reshaping of the world as I see it has changed in so many ways at this point that I sometimes scarcely recognize the many years in which I lived in eternal death. And, for me, this new way of being in which I strive to stay in eternal life has so reworked me that I perceive and experience life with the freeing knowledge that even in moments when I think I’m alone, I’m not. Having chosen to accept the invitation to live, I have chosen all that comes with that. And that means going through the up and down cycles of living. And even when things are on a down swing, I have also accepted that as the temporal will change, so the eternal will remain constant. How cool is that? I’ll tell you: very!
And so my tears were sorrowful and joyful, both the sadness of seeing things change and go away, and the joy of knowing that I am still loved with a depth and breadth that can not be fully articulated. As Mother Lee might say, “It’s the both/and”.
My journey continues with the promise that the boat in which I find myself floating has not overturned. And when the time comes to step out onto the water, I will be able to do it by always remembering where to fix my gaze. As long as I keep my eyes focused, my ears alert, and my heart open to the light and the love, I will be fine.
O Trinity of love and power,
Thy children shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them wheresoe’er they go;
thus evermore shall rise to thee
glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
--Eternal Father Strong to Save, Hymn 608