Sunday, September 27, 2009

Get out your Kushner

Tonight's sundown marked the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It has been a long personal tradition of mine to reread one of Rabbi Harold Kushner's books during this season. He is primarily known for the best-seller When Bad Things Happen to Good People, but he has written more than a half dozen other books equally insightful in interpreting the Old Testament texts for our modern lives.

After Pastor's sermon today on the stumbling block of "if only," I was inspired to reread Kushner's book on the life of Moses, titled Overcoming Life's Disappointments. In a chapter titled "A hard road, not a smooth one," he writes:

"It may be that instead of giving us a friendly world that would never challenge us and therefore never make us strong, God gave us a world that would inevitably break our hearts, and compensated for that by planting in our souls the gift of resilience. It was in the harshness of a desert that God, through Moses, forged a band of former slaves into a people on a quest."

He goes on to describe a college writing assignment where the first sentence must be "It is only after many surprises and choices, detours and dissapointments, that I have arrived somewhere I could never have anticipated." Many of us regard our current situation, he muses, with "a mixture of regret and astonishment." From a personal point of view, I certainly never planned to live in north-east Ohio, but I'm loving the beauty of this fall season as the one-year anniversary of our home purchase draws near. It was such a pleasure to read Kushner's thoughts on the surprises of life. Having heard him speak once and having read all of his words repeatedly, he seems like an old, wise family friend.

The Jewish Holy Days (in my understanding) are a time to ask for forgiveness and be forgiven, to plan and hope for a better year ahead. We look forward in hope, setting aside regret and the allure of "if only." In closing, to turn the blog back to my proper topic of music, let me close by quoting the final verse of the old hymn "Be Still, My Soul." (It didn't make it into the ELW):

"Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last."

1 comment:

  1. I suspect that all of us are somewhat surprised at the changes we see all around us. The world is changing faster almost than we can comprehend. We no longer get 40 years in the wilderness, we are lucky to get 40 minutes! Despite the pace, the words of the hymn are still true, because God's time is not our time.