November 26, 2018
“Fog” by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
Anyone remember this poem from your high school English class?
I mention this poem because, while we know that in fact the fog does not come on little cat feet, we also understand the point, and the truth, of what Carl Sandburg is communicating.
Having lived in the San Francisco Bay area for eight years prior to coming to Austin, I know that Sandurg is absolutely correct. The fog does come on little cat feet.
The fog creeps, it stalks, it comes on little cat feet.
Just as we do not take the poem literally, but understand it to be true, so with today’s Gospel. Do not read this Gospel passage like a text book. Read it like you are reading a poem. These are images and metaphors that convey an idea, a truth, that are not literal.
Jesus said to his disciples, that is, to you and me, “In those days ….” In those days. What days? Well, you can read this as a future prediction. But that is not particularly relevant. It has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus originally said this, and it could easily be another 2,000 years before it happens. So, it very well may not be particularly relevant to us. I can barely keep up with what is going to happen this afternoon or tomorrow, much less next year, and certainly not a couple of millennia from now.
But the other way to read this is very applicable to us here and now. And that is to read this Gospel not as a future prediction, but rather as a poetic description of our current situation.
Jesus tells us that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heaven will be shaken.” In other words, this is upset and upheaval at the most basic and fundamental level. If you watch the news headlines this passage can seem like a pretty accurate description of what we are living through. Cosmic upheaval!
There is upset like we have seldom seen in politics. It is crazy what is going on. On the international scene there are wars, famines in several places, strife and upset in many different countries. In society the whole basis of gender is in question. People, especially young people, are becoming more isolated by electronic gadgets. Certainly for the people of California who are in the terrible fires it must seem like the end of the world!
In our Church there are continuing, ongoing, revelations about sexual abuse, about cover ups, about scandals of various kinds, of bishops calling for Pope Francis to resign, of commentators speculating on the threat of a schism in the Church.
It has gotten to the point that some people are dreading Thanksgiving dinner with their families because the conversation may veer into hot and contentious topics of politics or religion or social developments. Am I right?
It can seem that everything is falling apart and going to hell in a handbasket. AMEN?
That is what Jesus is talking about.
What can we rely on? Where is there a sure and firm anchor for us to invest our hopes and dreams? Who can be counted on in this terrible time of flux, of upset, of things falling apart, of the sun darkened, the moon no longer giving light, of the stars falling from the sky and the powers of heaven shaken?
Jesus tells us what is secure. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
That, and only that, is what you can ultimately rely on.
In the fog of this time in our society, our country, our world, our church, even often in our own families and lives, the secure base, the grounded rock on which we can rely, is Jesus and His word. WHY?
Because Jesus has beaten the most disruptive force of all, which is death.
Everything dies, even the universe, but NOT the words of Jesus. Jesus has conquered death, and His word endures. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
That you can rely on. AMEN.