The Continuing Epiphany

Within this bitter century, while smoke choked the air and blood ran down, we had thought the Spirit buried under the debris of despair. But God is alive: The Spirit moves in green growing things.

Within a dark consciousness lulled by dreams of power and destruction, we had thought the light of wisdom extinguished. But God is alive: And wisdom is rekindled in luminous minds.

In our arrogance we had faltered and fallen, pursuing idolatrous goals. But God is alive: And vision inspires men and women anew.

In our hearts we rejoice that the Spirit abides, Wisdom shines, and Vision beckons again. God is alive: Hope is reborn. --Arvid Straube

In the words of my colleagues, Earl Holt and Jan Knost, "we must address the darkness, both outer and inner, through which all of us must walk. Moments of grace do come, but not easily. Most often only those who realize the darkness will realize the grace."

I despair for the world: It is so terribly dark without, filled with suffering.

Within this bitter century, while smoke choked the air and blood ran down, we had thought the Spirit buried under the debris of despair.

Too many people, too many children working in sweatshops, too many children who are refugees, orphaned by their parents, children with vacant stares and hunger swollen bellies.

Within a dark consciousness lulled by dreams of power and destruction, we had thought the light of wisdom extinguished.

I despair for all of us: It is so terribly dark within: Frightened people so desperate for meaning they blindly follow madmen into senseless suicide and homicide. Desperate people who develop addictions that rob them of dignity and life. People in pain from illness or accident.

In our arrogance we had faltered and fallen, pursuing idolatrous goals.

And yet, and yet... No matter how dark it is...something, somewhere always sings. And we must keep the faith.

God is alive: Hope is reborn.

Jesus told those who were considered beyond redemption, who were in pain because they thought their sins had made them unacceptable. "You are not lost, return to God, and God will welcome you with open arms."

Keep the faith...

Those whose only faith is in money and power laugh at the meek. They laughed at Jesus who they so readily crucified. They laughed at Gandhi and Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, Jr... But Gandhi brought down an empire that had thought itself invincible. Oscar Romero defied governments and hierarchies, spoke the prophetic word in the face of evil, and did justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. prevailed over the Bull Connors and all those who refused to heed the promise of our country.

Keep the Faith...

Hitler reviled the Jews, the Gypsies, and the homosexuals, and did his best to eliminate all of them. He made a devil's pact with Stalin to divide Poland and then turned upon Stalin. But Hitler's Reich was destroyed and his name has become synonymous with evil. He is the one who is now reviled.

But in the early years of that conflict many in our country doubted if we could prevail against Hitler"s armed might. We fought, lost, and fought again, without any guarantees or certainty that we would someday prevail. In the end, we prevailed.

Keep the faith...

All of us at times have experienced a dark night of the soul. Perhaps the cause was a betrayal by someone we had entrusted our heart to. Perhaps we had betrayed ourselves. Perhaps we had been abused, robbed of our dignity, damaged in our body and in our spirit. Some of us at times have been deep in that dark, cold well of despair. But yet, with the help of others we have found the light, come out again into the warmth of life and love and laughter and friends.

Keep the faith...

Think of Jesus on that fateful night. He had finished what he believed would be his last supper. He was expecting to be arrested at any moment. He withdrew to a garden, accompanied by his friends to pray, to test his understanding of what was expected of him in the days to come. He prayed that he might be spared the agony he thought awaited. It was not. He died a painful and humiliating death, abandoned, yea, even denied by those who had just the night before had shared his last meal.

The Romans knew how to deal with troublemakers like him. They were wary of charismatic leaders with the ability to stir the people, perhaps even to defiance or rebellion. They killed him with little concern, confident that the example they had made of him would be more than enough to scatter his followers and destroy the movement his parables and ways had inspired.

They were wrong. Even though Peter denied him three times before the dawn, the movement flourished, inspiring its followers to face lions with courage, kings with impunity, and to spread the word of hope and faith far beyond the empire of Rome.

The renowned psychiatrist, Victor Frankl, endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi Death Camps. Reflecting on what he experienced, he concluded that it was his faith that life has meaning that helped him and others survive. He quotes the German Philosopher Nietszche, "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."

But Frankl also concluded that we can't capture life's meaning in so many words. It doesn't really matter, he writes, what we expect from life. What matters is what life expects from us. Instead of asking what life means we need to consider what life is asking of us. Life, so to speak, is questioning us. The meaning of life depends on how we answer that question.

I was questioned by life when I became a father. What would I do? I could have walked away, but I chose to stay and raise my child.

I was questioned by life when I was asked to return to the ministry. I could have continued my career as a computer consultant, but I chose to return to full time ministry.

In each instance, my decision was based on what it meant to me rather than how it would affect me. I kept faith with what I wanted my life to mean.

Life is constantly asking us to make such choices. It is as if we are being called to meaning. But it is easy, particularly when we are suffering as Frankl was that meaning is just an illusion,

If Jesus didn't have faith that the suffering he would soon face would have meaning, wouldn"t he have fled into the night?

If the soldiers who fought against the Germans didn't have faith that their suffering was meaningful, would they have fought as hard?

If Gandhi didn"t have faith that his suffering was meaningful would he have continued his fasts?

These are all dramatic examples. Fortunately, or unfortunately, most of us aren't called to make such sacrifices. But the smaller, less dramatic choices are just as meaningful. The effort a teacher makes to reach a difficult child. The effort a social worker makes to assist a client. The extra step a worker takes to make sure a job is well done. The time and effort a volunteer gives to something they care about.

All involve a sacrifice, perhaps all that is sacrificed is a little convenience or time, but it makes a difference. It means something. It is not in vain.

The darkness is real that we all have to walk through. Sometimes it is as dark as the shadow of death. We are tempted to despair, to abandon hope, to betray the meaningful for the expedient.

But, no matter how dark it is, how desperate the situation, keep the faith! Choose meaning. Choose life.

That is what Easter means: The triumph of life over death, of hope over hopelessness, of meaning over despair.

Keep the faith and Rejoice, For God is alive: the Spirit abides, Wisdom shines, and Vision beckons again.

The Continuing Epiphany

Craig C. Roshaven Delivered March 30, 1997 at First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church 1959 Sandy Lane; Fort Worth, TX, 76112