One of the things that I noted during the sermon at Noah’s funeral was that we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in this world. This is a world of flesh and bone and spirit. It’s got heaps of tragedy…and armfuls of love. It brings moments where we suffer, and times when we soar. It will surely bring moments where people let us down, or life doesn’t pan out as we wanted or expected. Life in this world has moments where we can’t see the way, but there are also glimmers of hope for those who have eyes to see. At the door, after the service, a gentleman stopped me and said, “Thank you for reminding me that we don’t live in a perfect world. But we live in our world. And it’s the world we’ve got. So let’s live!”
I’ve been visiting around the community and one family in particular could give a laundry list of medical catastrophes that would make your head spin. Their life is a veritable whirlwind of hospitals, tests, doctors, and surgeries – and that’s just for themselves let alone their family and friends.
When we look at the news in our own lives, or in the world at large, it’s easy to pine for the “perfect”. We sense so much senseless tragedy and needless suffering, so we ask the inevitable: Why?
Why, indeed? Science can tell me how the Sun formed. How its rays radiate our universe with life giving and dangerous radiation. Science can tell me how the earth came to be. It can tell me how the stars reflect their light through billions of years, playing the greatest of tricks on our eyes. We’re actually watching the past events of the universe that have already unfolded. The starlight we see is so fast, it’s old by the time it reaches our eyes. When we look to the stars folks – we’re watching reruns.
But asking why is another question altogether. Why stars? Why a sun centered universe? Why is there an earth at all? Why life? Why not life? Why not life without suffering? Why am I? Why must I suffer!?
Most people at least whisper “why” when tragedy strikes. Lots of folks pin the why of the terrible on God (the almighty does have rather large shoulders) although it might be nice to think of how some of the blessings in our lives could be credited there too. Why is a dangerous question because it leads us into unpredictable territory. If I ask why, and ask it deeply, what will be my answer? Most people stop short at asking why in the face of tragedy and put a firm period thereafter. It’s enough to ask it. I prefer to follow why with a comma – a well positioned pause that begs us to leave the grammatical door open. Why, the conversation is just beginning! Why, is the holy ground of God. No one said we could readily grasp the holy or infinite presence of the universe.
So, why not a perfect world? In my mind, that’s because perfect is an altogether human invention.
To be perfect mean the absence of flaws of any kind and when I say flaws, I mean anything that causes hardship or suffering. There would be no shape, no substance to anything. You wouldn’t need love – there would be no pain or hatred. You wouldn’t need tears or laughter, they would have no cause and effect. There would be….nothing. Life as we know it simply wouldn’t be necessary nor possible in a perfect world. Life itself, is messy and beautiful. Life itself, is born of suffering and hope and struggle and the search for peace and meaning. In order for there to be life, there couldn’t be perfection. Unless you have eyes that see a redefinition of what we mean by “perfection” in this absolutely confounding and cosmic universe that if you let it, will surprise and surpass your imagination every time.
It’s fair to say on this last Sunday of Advent, life has not been perfect for Ruth and Naomi. It’s been hell. Last Sunday we saw how even when it looked like the angelic host might break out a mighty chorus, it all fell flat. There was another man more closely related to Elimelech and Naomi’s kin. He had first dibs on any legal proceedings surrounding the land that could yield a harvest of n