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Saturday, November 21, 2009

H. Paul Santmire

Today I came across a blog by Lutheran theologian H. Paul Santmire, author of Nature Reborn (Theology and the Sciences). There aren't many posts but one of them was a sermon and I thought I'd post just the first part of it ........

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Are You Living In the Valley of the Shadows?
Come to the Mountain –
Then Come Down to the Feast

A sermon by the Rev. Dr. H. Paul Santmire
University Lutheran Church, Cambridge
The Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost
October 12, 2008

It’s a pleasure and a privilege to stand here in this pulpit, where I used to stand, with some frequency, forty years ago. It was a wonderful trip.

Today I invite you to concentrate on three texts from Holy Scripture.

First, this phrase, which you know well, from the 23rd Psalm, appointed for today: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...” (Ps. 23:4)

Second, from our first lesson, the prophet Isaiah: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines...” (Is. 25:6)

Third, from our Gospel, where Jesus picks up Isaiah’s image, the great feast: “Look, my banquet is all prepared.... Come to the wedding.” (Mt. 22:4)

These texts suggest this theme to me: “Are you Living in the valley of the shadows? Come to the mountain. Then come down to the feast.”

I.

First, the valley of the shadows. I don’t have to tell you too much about this.

Last week a gathering of which I was a part, including some folks from this congregation, explored together some of the striking meanings of the fine 2007 novel by Don DeLillo, Falling Man.

I thought I had had enough of 911, but I was swept along by this book. It is indeed a 911 novel. But it’s much more. It’s a novel about 911 as a metaphor of our times. The tone is set, when the main character, Keith, stumbles out of one of the towers on 9/11, and eventually finds his way home, where his estranged wife, Lianne, tries to pick shards of broken glass out of his dazed, dust-covered face.

I think that that book does tell the story of these times, as well as yours and mine, remarkably well. Are you living in the valley of the shadows? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear you answer Yes.

I’ll leave it to you to read the novel, if you wish, if you haven’t already done so. To fill out the picture, I want to set another book by its side, which in its own mundane way also speaks of the valley of the shadows, but more from the perspective of someone who wants to believe.

Around the time when I was hanging out in this pulpit, a Catholic publishing house issued a thin, but provocative volume called Letters to God from Teenagers.. This is one of those letters, which I have kept on file all these years. I take this to be the voice of one who also lives in the valley of the shadows:

Dear God,
Where are you? I know you’re supposed to be everywhere, but there are times when I just can’t seem to find you. I see good and honest people getting hurt and dying. I see people who don’t have enough to eat. Are you there with them? It just doesn’t seem fair that people should have to suffer like that. I know that you suffered and died on the cross for us, and maybe I’m a little selfish, but it just doesn’t seem right.
There are times when I really need someone, and I want to reach out, but I don’t know if you’re listening. How can I learn to hear you better? What am I expected to do and become? I want to be able to do the right thing.
Your friend,
Susan

Are you living in the valley of the shadows? If so, what can you do about it? .......

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