I asked one of our parishioners the other day, “How are you feeling?” Without any irony, he answered, “Six inches above ground.” He quickly added, “Which is better than six inches below ground.” I totally agree with him. I believe there are just two options, as Bob Dylan reminds us, “Those who are not busy living, are busy dying!” So, we go on! Sometimes leaping with joy and sometimes dragging slowly to the goal. We go on because life is beautiful when you stop to observe the rhythms of nature, the kindness of strangers, the laughter of children, the wisdom of the elderly, the creativity of artists, the passion of chefs and cooks, the generosity of friends, and the sacramental life of the church.
There is beauty all around us, if we are willing to open our eyes to the many ways in which God blesses our lives every day. Even a small blade of grass can tell us more about God than many theology books. There is a young family who lives directly across the street from us, and I am often doing dishes by the sink as their beautiful children (three under 8 years of age) play freely on the street. Seeing them out there, not a care in the world, reminds me of innocence and beauty. They also remind me never to lose the child-like wonder that allows all grown-ups to see God’s love for us in the simple and mundane acts of our daily life. Children are born with an innate ability to be amazed by everything that happens around them. I pray for this sense of wonder and amazement every day.
The opposite side of that sense of amazement and gratitude is suspicion, mistrust, and paranoia. A wise man once said, “When you wake up in the morning seeking to find the evil in people, you will always find it.” It is a matter of choice and as Christians we are called to lead lives filled with optimism and hope. Even the grouchiest of people sometimes surprise me with indescribable acts of selfless love. So, I try hard to withhold judgement. I rather sin by having too much empathy than by withholding love and respect from others. I don’t believe that people are intrinsically bad, nor do I believe in perfect humanity. What I do believe is that I often don’t have the whole story and that even grouchy people deserve a word of comfort and a smile.
As Christians we go on not because our lives are perfect, and we have no pain, but because we know we are not alone. God has the power to use our pain and afflictions to lead us where he needs us to go. We trust he knows best. We go on because we are people of hope. We know that God is in control of our destinies, and everything will be okay for those who trust in Christ. We go on, we celebrate, we laugh, we cry, we embrace, we kiss, we forgive, and we love. We go on, and we live passionate lives that give glory to a God who is passionate and who loves us passionately! We go on because we are a part of a larger narrative and God is using our life to write the next chapter in the great drama of salvation history.
There are some who go on because of hopeless stoicism. They have no choice but to go on. They don’t believe in the resurrection, and for them life ends when we die. As a result, they assume a stoic lifestyle that encourages them to “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die.” They know this is an insufficient goal for their existence, but they lack the hope many of us take for granted. The endless pursuit of more often leaves them empty and isolated from the world, but even billionaires need a reason to get up in the morning. The pursuit of more is a satisfactory goal for them, at least until they have to face their own existential anxiety. They too will one day have to seek answers to questions that keep us all up at night. And without hope, those answers are often extremely hard to find.
Saint Dunstan’s is a busy church where members engage in life and ministry fully and joyfully. We celebrate, we eat, we pray, we serve, and we worship in community because we are called to live in community. God creates us in community, calls us to form communities, and sustains us in our faith and hope through the wonderful gift of community. We go two-by-two through the highways of life. We minister together and we depend on each other to lead healthy and spiritually fruitful lives. It is easier to see God’s love for us when we are surrounded by people who love us and would go through any extent to be there for us.
Therefore, dear friends, if you feel isolated or alone, reach out to a friend from church. I assure you that on the other side of the line you will find someone who is deeply grateful to be alive and who knows life is better in community. You can also contact your clergy. Both Deacon Beth Anne and I would love to speak with you. We also love doing home communions and enjoy a good cup of tea or coffee. Please know that you are not alone.
I also believe that “Life is better six inches above ground.” May God continue to bless you,