Turning the Page

12/31/17 Sermon

St. James Black Mountain

In 1900 the German poet, Ranier Maria Rilke, wrote these lines:

"I’m living just as the century ends.

A great leaf, that God and you and I

Have covered in writing

Turns now, overhead, in strange hands

We feel the sweep of it like a wind.

We see the brightness of a new page

Where everything yet can happen

Unmoved by us, the fates take its measure

And look at one another, saying nothing."

We sit here today just as another year is ending and like the poet

            We feel caught between these two forces.

            On the one hand, we feel as if there are the forces outside us

that the poet calls “the fates” and they are unmoved by us—

“The world is what it is” we say

            And our world gets smaller.

In the last year, I looked at less news on television

and I read fewer newspapers

and I have less conversation about politics.

In part it’s because our political conversations are so toxic

that we go from zero to a hundred in a second

And in part it’s because I find myself too often in the suburbs of despair

                        Things are what they are—I say.

                                    Do I really think I can change Washington?

And it’s not just me.

According the National Center for Health Statistics, for the first time since 1963,

            Life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen for two years in a row.

Anne Case, an economist at Princeton, says

this is a sign of “frustration and hopelessness…

People don’t have the… hope for the future that they might have had in the past.”

Let us remember that to despair is to be unfaithful

            Because despair or hopelessness limits what is possible.

We think only of what we can do

instead of remembering what God has promised God will do.

Remember what we just heard in the gospel?

            “But to all who receive him, who believed in his name

            He gave power to become children of God”

Our sacred story is about the Word becoming Flesh and dwelling among us and in us

            We do not come to this place merely to hear about great deeds long ago

                        As only historians.

            We come here to eat the bread and drink the wine to be remembered to God

                        So that God is in us—so that God gives us the gift of hope

                        So that God will send us into the world to be agents of the Good News

                        To know that 2018 is a new page where everything yet can happen.

In these 12 days of Christmas, let us not dream of the Christmases we used to know

            Let us dream of the world God intends for all God’s children.

            A world where every person has what he or she needs to flourish—

                        Good schools, clean water, medical care, free from addictions and crime

                        No racism—no fear about anyone one.

And an end to division—to mistrust—

to suspicion about someone else’s motives simply because they voted differently.

            There is room at the stable with the new born Christ for everyone.

The bright page of history turned with the birth of Jesus

            Because God is not above us – removed and detached

            But here—now---inside us and all around us

            Beckoning us to partner with the divine to turn the page

where everything yet can happen.