Last week, a beloved man died unexpectedly and many around campus and around the world are grieving the loss. In his death, Alan Bloom's name joins those of others who have been lost to us through death this last year; Gus Sponberg, Jane Bello-Brunson and Virginia Shingleton. These names are added to others, known to us, whose presence we miss and whose deaths remind us, not only of our own mortality, but also the transience of all things.
The ancient preacher whose ideas are preserved for us in the Book of Ecclesiastes knew this territory well. The transient nature of life was his hot topic. It's a topic that could have led him to despair but for a wider view. In the third chapter, after the long poem about a time for everything made popular in our time by the Byrds, the preacher's contemplation takes this turn: "[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
To my mind, in days of mourning, this dance between the beauty of this transient world and the sense that meaning is located in eternity, all the while acknowledging the mystery of divine will is a blessed dance.
Among the potential rediscoveries waiting for us is the realization of the inherent beauty of life and the blessing inherent in those who join us in our days, if we but take the time to look and see.
On the other hand, we human beings seem to carry an eternal longing through our days. This longing for eternity manifests itself not only in our desire to be remembered, but also in our impulse to find greater meaning beyond the mere moments of our days. This daily thankfulness and eternal longing plays itself in the presence the divine, whose will, the Preacher says, remains unknown in spite of all that is beloved and meaningful.
Students of the Bible will know, however, that this is not the final word. The divine mystery does not remain hidden, but is revealed to us in the person of Jesus. His life is the revelation of divine will for creation. In him we discover that God's end game is redemptive grace, through his own life, death and resurrection. In Jesus, life, which is already beautiful, is eternally transformed into that which is glorious.
This dance of beauty and eternity under divine grace is not without pain, especially in days like these. For most, the wounds of great losses are not quickly healed. Yet, even here into our pain, comes the call to mutual attentiveness, to pay attention to our own and one another's griefs as though we are in the presence of that which is holy.
Oct. 14, 2013
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.