Pearl Harbor and the Wilderness

Mr. Bryan Spoon, Seminarian

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Today marks the remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day.  December 7th, 1941.  A day that lives in infamy.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor left two battleships completely lost, almost 200 aircraft destroyed, and over 3,500 people killed or wounded.  It was the event that launched us into World War II and brought the United States into a serious wilderness.  Many of us in this room lost family in that war.

Both of today’s readings from best prices on cialis Isaiah and the Gospel of Mark remind us about the wilderness.  Throughout history the idea of the wilderness has evoked many images.  The wilderness can mean a lot of things.  It’s generally a pretty rough place.  It can be a dry scorching desert or a desolate place of darkness.  The wilderness can also be a place of isolation.

Perhaps the most difficult wilderness there is, is a spiritual wilderness.  I believe sometimes we all feel isolated or desolate in our relationship with God.  We ask ourselves or we ask God, God where are you?  Where were you when your people called out for help during World War II?  Where are you even today with the many problems that we face?  This spiritual isolation or desolation is what St. John of the Cross called, the Dark Night of the Soul.

Mother Teresa, was one who confessed severe spiritual dryness and isolation or a Dark Night of the Soul.  Caring for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta India, she experienced some of the worst human suffering imaginable.  She often asked where God was amidst all the suffering.  Sometimes she felt that in this extreme suffering that she was without God.  Mother Teresa once confessed, “the darkness is so dark, and the pain is so painful. –

But I accept whatever He gives and I give whatever He takes. People say they are drawn closer to God — seeing my strong faith. – is this not deceiving people? Every time I have wanted to tell the truth – “that I have no faith” – the words just do not come – my mouth remains closed. – And yet I still keep on smiling at God and all.”  These words show that a woman who was a mountain of faith, also had serious doubts.  People revered for sainthood often become purified by the public or put on a pedestal as if they didn’t have doubts or difficulties in their life.  Mother Teresa realized that even in darkness God can be present and be purifying us and those we touch with our lives.  Mother Teresa wrote that “If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of darkness.  I will continue to be absent from heaven to light the earth of those in darkness on earth.”

We lost Bishop Mark Dyer to cancer last month.  Bishop Dyer had the privilege of working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.  You might have had a chance to meet him when he was here at St. Timothy’s last year for Liz Tomlinson’s ordination.  He would tell us stories about his time there with Mother Teresa.  In his youth, Bishop Dyer had been asked to come teach the Gospel of Luke to the Missionaries of Charity there in India.  I remember him saying, what was I going to teach these women?  They were caring for the poorest of the poor.  They were living the gospel!  One of his most memorable stories was about how they also taught him to live the gospel with them when he was in Calcutta.  When he was there, a man suffering from leprosy staggered into the center asking for healing.

Bishop Dyer was just a young priest at the time, and in a panic he didn’t know what to do.  He asked one of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity what he should do.  He said to the sister, “what do I do?”  She looked back at him and said, “what do you do?”  He said he went back to that man with leprosy, approached him, and laid his hands on his head, praying for God’s healing.  He said that at that moment that he offered the man with leprosy human touch, he truly felt God in a profound way.  Mother Teresa once said, “the biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”  In this situation, there was also medication available for the leprosy, but in that particular moment, Bishop Dyer decided to let the man feel wanted and loved rather than feel like he was in the wilderness.  Mother Teresa also once said, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love….The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”

There have been times in my life, more times than I would like to admit, that I looked for God in amazing signs or wonders.  As if God had to speak in a thunderclap or on the wings of an angel.  Who of us hasn’t done as Elijah did, going out in the wilderness looking for God’s voice?  Did Elijah hear God’s voice in the gush of wind, or in an earthquake?  No, the Lord did not speak to Elijah in an earthquake; neither did he speak in a fire.  God spoke rather in a still small voice.  A whisper.

Sometimes the smallest acts of charity, done in love, can offer the resounding word of God to us.  In the smallest act of love, we can be transformed.  We can hear God’s voice call out in the wilderness through acts of love.  We can even be transported out of the wilderness through small acts of love.

A good way of illustrating how we are transported out of the wilderness and into a new location can be seen in the way Greek was used in the time of Jesus.  In Biblical Greek, one did not say they believed in God, but rather that they believed into God.  The word (into – “εἰς”) is a preposition that signifies location.  We literally move out of the wilderness and into a new location with God.

As members of the body of Christ, we don’t merely mentally ascent to the abstract idea of God or believe in some entity that exists in some remote area, we become a part of the entity itself.  We leave the wilderness behind.  In small acts of loving kindness, our minds and hearts are made straight.  We enter the love of God when we offer our love to the world.  We become the voice that calls out in the wilderness inviting others to see the glory of The Lord so that we might all see it together; we become the voice inviting others to strive for justice and peace in the world.

On a day that we are called to look back and remember Pearl Harbor, a day that ushered us into World War II, a day that brought our nation into a spiritual wilderness, we can feel overwhelmed by the darkness that is in our world.  We can become weak and weary.  But even in dark times, we can remember voices like Mother Teresa.  The voice of Mother Teresa was small and it was fragile.  But it was relentless in its love.   And even in her relentless love, she still had her doubts.  She lived through a spiritual wilderness and Dark Night of the Soul.  And like any good saint, we’re going to have doubts too.

But it is such a joy to experience God’s voice calling out in acts of love with this church family.  It is a gift to be encouraged by one another.  Together we can make straight the path of The Lord.  Together we make the rough places plain.  Together our voices call out reminding one another that even in darkness God can be present and be purifying us and those we touch with our lives.

The number of groups or mission activities that go on at this church is extraordinary.  Our voices at St. Timothy’s are crying out in the wilderness and bringing God’s light to the world.  By believing together, we are transported from a wilderness of despair into a family of hope.. from a smile, to a hug, to a listening ear, through each of our beautiful ministries…our voices at St. Timothy’s are crying out in the wilderness and bringing God’s light to the world.  And I am very grateful to be a part of it.

Amen.