Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2013.02.16 Leaving God?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air."

Emerson was born in Boston (1803). His father, who died when he was eight, was a Unitarian minister, as were many of Emerson's family members before him. He was a quiet and well-behaved young man, not an exceptional student. He graduated in the middle of his class, studied at Harvard Divinity School, and got a job as a ministerial assistant at Boston's Second Church. Not long after his ordination, he was married. He was happy at home and in his work, and soon he was promoted to senior pastor.

All was well.

Two years after Emerson was married, his wife, Ellen, died of tuberculosis, at the age of 19. He was devastated. He began to have doubts about the Church. A year after Ellen's death, he wrote in his journal: "I have sometimes thought that, in order to be a good minister, it was necessary to leave the ministry. The profession is antiquated. In an altered age, we worship in the dead forms of our forefathers." He took a leave of absence and went on vacation in the mountains of New Hampshire. By the time he returned, he had decided to resign from his position as minister.

I don’t know whether Emerson left professional ministry, or whether he left some ideas that should be left.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

In this 21st century, there is much doubt and query about God, religion, ministry, church, et. al.  It’s not new. Myself, I have no plans to divorce God, if you mean the One whose love is immortal and available to everyone. Or the Church I love to hate—it still offers me Jesus, some grounding prayers, sacraments, and a community that will bring me casseroles—and pray. 

If you doubt and fear and are uncertain, so?  Speak your words honestly in prayer and in conversation. Many gods and god-ideas live and die, and pass us by. And ministries evolve.

A word from Goethe in a portion of his poem “Holy Longing.”
    “And as long as you have not experienced this,
     To die and so to grow,
     You are only a troubled guest on a dark earth.”