1 Corinthians 2:1-12
February 9, 2014
This is my first winter in North Carolina since I was in college. I attended my first two years of college not far away from here, in Murfreesboro, NC. Chowan College when it was a two year school. The two winters I encountered in Murfreesboro were quite memorable.
My first winter, we had one great storm that packed about 20 inches of snow. Classes were cancelled for a couple of days, however that didn’t stop a bunch of 18-20 year old students from going out, late at night and having a blast. There were snowball fights in Squirrel Park, lunch tray bobsledding, and lots of snowmen. In fact, I was a part of a group that built a snowman that stood 6 ft high. In the center of the storm, we were out building, laughing and having a ball.
My second winter was just as exciting but for completely different reasons. The week we were supposed to start exams, we had a terrible ice storm. There was no snow to cover like we had last week here. It was all ice. And with that came challenging times for this old school. The night we were all studying, the campus lost power and in turn, lost heat. In my dorm, our floor took all of our mattresses and laid them side by side in the lobby. There was no way we could study, so we had a big ol slumber party. We woke the next morning to a campus covered in ice, students that were cold and restless, and an administration contemplating what to do, next. We all converged on the steps of the administration building waiting to find out if exams would be cancelled.
They were canceled and we were told winter break could officially begin. Needless to say, we were happy. Then we realized that somehow we had to get home. I was two hours away, on a good day. The fear and trembling parts of our experience began to bubble their way to the top. Imagine if you will, driving on the country roads of Eastern North Carolina, into Virginia. That can be exciting to begin with, but imagine those same roads, surrounded by woods, with towering trees all covered in ice. The weight of the ice overpowered the woods. There were trees and branches all over the place, with no pattern whatsoever. I was with another person and we weaved in and out, circled all around and hoped, without certainty, that we would make it home. No, there was no snow or ice falling at the time. There was no storm to fight, but deep and hidden were our fears and worries of what will happen on the other side.
Now, a few years later, I am in the midst of my first ENC winter with all of you. Last week we had an unpredictable coastal storm, with uncertain amounts that weather forecasters were skeptical to call, there was fear, trembling and panic in all the grocery stores, and many calls out to the community to stay home, take caution and see what happens.
What ended up happening, from my point of view, was a gathering of spirit, joy and optimistic caution. The snow came when it wanted to, schools and businesses were closed and people actually stayed off the roads. What I found in my observation were people enjoying the peace, enjoying the time home, enjoying being together. I saw and heard stories of children sledding, dogs playing, and families being pulled along in trashcans, makeshift sleds and ATVs. And the students of ECU did just as I did in school, enjoyed their time off with mountainside sledding and a community wide snowball fight.
The spirit from within took over and made those couple of days ones never to forget.
In the scripture I read earlier, Paul is working with the church of Corinth, where the people within the church were having days they will likely never forget either. A spirit took over with them, a spirit of anger, division, uncertainty and impatience. Paul had been working with this church, to unify them, get them to come together as one and let go of what is holding them back.
Reading what Paul said, human wisdom, knowledge and circumstances were holding them in this darkness. There apparently was so much conflict and questioning going on with Corinth that Paul came to them with his own fear and trembling, not sure of what he would face. Yet, he came to them to guide them and hope for a peaceful outcome…..even without all the questions being answered. What Paul had with him was a trust in the spirit, not the spirit and knowledge of what they knew (and didn’t know) as humans, but with a faith and trust in the power and spirit of God, even when they didn’t know all the answers.
Paul explains to the church that what they will learn does not come from human will or knowledge. This is God’s wisdom. This is God’s secret and hidden wisdom; His spirit will come from the depths of their soul, their experience and their trust. It can and will guide them through. Paul said to the Corinthians, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, God has prepared for those who love him.” – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” They are prepared, even when they don’t know it.
Paul comes to the people of Corinth, with his own struggles, his own weakness and fear; he comes to the people and says, “I can’t give you the words that will explain the mystery of God, the reasons for the storms, the darkest of days, the struggles, the fear and the anger. I wish I could. The mystery will get you through it.” What Paul explained to the church is that God’s wisdom is so deep that it can only be revealed in time and through the Spirit. That Spirit will come from the depths of God and will grab hold of what can bring light to the unanswerable questions and trepidation and fear.
I am not exactly certain of what the church of Corinth was going through, but what I know is this, the church is made of humans, humans that were all going through their personal struggles, anxieties and fears. Combine all of that together, with wanting to control the uncontrollable, and you have humans that are trying to find the answers to the uncertainty, to the struggles and to the need to put together the puzzles with our own hands. It takes time, maturity, and clarity to even grasp at the uncertainty of life and the mystery of God. Then when we try, it is still inches out of reach. The mystery of God is not within our grasp, but may be found within the depths of our souls, a place where we can’t even see it, but IT’s there.
Just like Corinth, like Paul, and even Jesus, we all have weaknesses, struggles and darkness. We all have our winters to work through.
If you didn’t know, winter can be a season of darkness for many.
Winter brings with it fears and struggles, from struggling to find heat, shortages on food, to people being sick, with the flu, norovirus and other illnesses such as depression. It is known that people who suffer from depression have a difficult time during the winter months. The season brings shorter days, darker nights, cold and brisk temperatures. People who suffer with depression can feel their personal days become a bit darker; some with a few overlying clouds that will hang low for a few days and some will come with massive, turbulent thick dark rumbling depths of darkness. Those with depression fight constantly, on a daily basis, to wake up get out of bed and face the day and whatever it holds. Those with depression fight an endless and lonely battle that faces many dark and wintry nights.
In the midst of winter and other days, many people struggle with times of depression, brought on by experiences and episodes in their lives. Here we are today, right here in this hospital, full of people in their own season of winter. I know many here are going through their illnesses, their struggles and pain. I have told people I sit with that on the darkest days, during the most uncertain times, it will be hard to face the struggle to fight through, and to get up. Some days, people want to give up on it all, when the pain is insufferable, the grief is too strong, the treatments are unbearable. What will be done to get through?
What happens then is something that I can’t explain on a human level. What happens then, what we have to trust as humans, is this…….somehow in the depths of our souls, from the deepest and sometimes darkest places we have never seen, there is a spirit within us, that will help us fight through the days, through the hours and through each and every breath, until we come out on the other side. What happens on the other side, I do not know. Nobody does. But we aren’t in it alone. When you look around, searching in the depth of your soul, you will see that you are not alone, none of us are.
God’s mystery, God’s indescribable spirit, will be right there, to carry us through. When we aren’t able to rely on our own spirit, we have to rely on the very spirit we can trust, and that is God.
One more thing about winter and its wonderful little secrets; I spent 5 years living in Boston. I have seen my share of winter days. We had snow storms after snow storms. The banks that I had to make to get to the car got as high as those snowmen I made in college. We had nowhere to put all the snow. But some of my most wonderful moments came right after a freshly laid blanket of snow had just finished falling.
Before the trucks were out, the people went to work (because snow didn’t stop us from working) I would go out for a walk. Sometimes, I would go up to the cemetery and walk around and feel this sense of peace when I walked through the untouched snow. It was beautiful. It was like a blanket of peace had covered this entire community of grief, hurt, pain and suffering and then wrapped us all in spirit and light.
Then something magical would happen, something out of my human spirit reach and into the spirit of God’s. More snow would start to fall. And as the snow drifted down from the sky, I just stood there and I stood completely still. The longer I stood still, the louder the snow would become. Yes, I could hear the snow as it fell. It was a loud whispering spirit, if that makes sense. Imagine how quiet it had to be, how quiet I had to be, in order for me to hear the snow. And imagine how peaceful and how gracious it felt. Imagine how comforting it was for all who were present to hear what I was hearing, to sense what I was sensing, to fee what I was feeling. Can you feel it too?
My time in that stillness turned into a prayer and I could reach into the depths of my soul, where I would find God, speaking eloquently. God’s spirit would reach out to me through the snow, through the stillness of the ground, through the spirit of the air. I got a moment to glimpse into God’s spirit, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, that we may all understand, somehow and some day. I believe we will.
We will somehow understand the gifts that God bestowed on Corinth that day, the same gifts that God bestowed on Jesus and on you and me. Until then, may we find hope in the hidden secret that will get us through the darkest of days.
May we stand still and listen. Amen.
(c) Rev. Linda C. Moore, 2014