In this edition of Reconciling Thoughts, Bishop Brian offers a reflection on a passage from Ecclesiasticus from the readings at morning prayer that speaks to our particular time at the end of both the calendar and liturgical year.
A reading from Ecclesiasticus 43:23-33:
By his plan, he stilled the deep and planted islands in it. Those who sail the sea tell of its dangers, and we marvel at what we hear. In it are strange and marvelous creatures, all kinds of living things, and huge sea monsters. Because of him, each of his messengers succeeds, and by his word, all things hold together. We could say more but never say enough. Let the final word be, “He is the all.” Where can we find the strength to praise him? For he is greater than all his works. Awesome is the Lord and very great, and marvelous is his power. Glorify the Lord and exalt him as much as you can, for he surpasses even that. When you exalt him, summon all your strength and do not grow weary, for you cannot praise him enough. Who has seen him and can describe him? Or who can extol him as he is? Many things greater than these lie hidden, for I have seen but few of his works. For the Lord has made all things and to the godly, he has given wisdom.
Hello, East Tennessee friends. This is Bishop Brian. I’m speaking to you today, on Wednesday, November 4th, and the passage of scripture that I just read from Ecclesiasticus is part of the morning prayer lessons from the daily office on this day. We are living in a time when the church celebrates all saints and all souls, and we reflect on those who’ve gone before, who’ve animated the faith, who’ve taught us the faith that we are living out now and into the future.
What is powerful about this passage that we just read is the sense of uncertainty, of weariness. Where is God in that big sea? Where is God in that world of danger? And what we hear is we can try to describe it, we can try to say enough, but we can never say it all, and so what we end up saying is God is the all. And also, we have a deep and abiding sense from this passage that there is still so much hidden in our lives, so much hidden in the story of God, and it’s a story that is just beginning.
We are living in a time at the end of a remarkable and hard year of 2020, as we continue to live through COVID-19, as we continue to live in an uncertain economy and an uncertain world. But what is certain from this passage is that the story of God is just beginning. It might feel like we’re at some kind of end, some kind of middle where we are weary, but this passage reminds us that just like John on the isle of Patmos in exile, even in that island of grief, he encounters a vision, a vision of a number of people that cannot be counted, who are all a part of the story of God.
So this is a time to catch our breath and to know as we go into this winter, we will continue to be a people, entered into the vision of God that is just beginning, that is just beginning in our midst. As things end, things also begin. As things die, things are also being born. So lean into this vision today from Ecclesiastes.
As your bishop, it’s remarkable to think that we are completing three years together in this journey in East Tennessee. So we are just beginning this work, and I am excited to be working with you, with the clergy of this diocese, with the leaders of this diocese, as we prepare for a convention in February of 2021, as we continue to make plans for how God is moving in our midst. The story of God with us is beginning. We give thanks for those saints who’ve gone before, for the souls who’ve gone before, but we know that God’s work in our midst is not at an end.
God is with us. Amen.