Look around. The leaves are dying and falling to the ground. The days are getting shorter and the darkness is getting longer. Halloween has come and gone. November is here and Christmas is still a long way off. It seems to me that I would expect some words of comfort in these dark times. Yet the readings this time of year are hardly comforting. They talk about the sun being darkened and the moon losing its light, stars falling and the heavens being shaken. These are words of distress and tribulation.
But maybe these images have something to say to us today and aren’t simply speaking of a future time. Look around. These are distressing times. There are plenty of trials and tribulations facing us. We face personal trials. Our community has its own struggles. Our nation seems to have more challenges at home and abroad than we can handle. Look around.
The readings for the next several weeks do speak a message of comfort, but not the pious platitude that “everything will be all right” or that “its not a big deal.” The scriptures do not ignore the fact that our world is messed up. Look around. But the scriptures do promise that in the midst of this mess God is near. He is “at the gates” during these troubled times. These images of distress can also convey a sense of expectation. When it seems like the world is falling apart, look around. God is waiting at the gates with a word that will not pass away. “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” Look around. God is here, even in the middle of the mess of our lives. Look around!