I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them. Ecclesiastes 9, verses 11 and 12.
Today is the day after Halloween. When I think of today, I think of the Disney movie, “Fantasia.” Disney drew a composite of two scenes in that movie. One was a Halloween scene with evil spirits dancing around the fires of hell, reveling in their evil ways to the theme of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” Terror descends on a world powerless to break free from its grip. Scary stuff; not your usual Disney princess fare.
The scene immediately after this, though, is radically different. It is set to Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria,’ which is, I think, the most beautiful piece ever written. Worshippers walk out of the darkness and gather in light, bringing offerings of repentance and good to God. The scene is pastoral, comforting, moving. The darkness fades into light and the light is quiet and powerfully good.
Evil gives way to good. Darkness cedes to light and Satan cedes to God. Hate loses, love wins. Even in the world where Solomon correctly states that ‘time and chance happen to them all,’ the end of all things will not be an ending of hatred. It seems that evil always has the upper hand, is cannier and cooler than faith. Search your best heart, though, and you’ll find that’s just not true. God will prevail. He always does and we will benefit from that.
But that only happens if we let it. To far too many of us, it is still the day of darkness. Sure, circumstances happen. Random storms destroy much of the Jersey shore and that wasn’t preventable, wasn’t something brought on by Snooki or Pauly D or even The Situation. It was an act of nature; we can argue later about nature being frustrated by sin. Let’s just agree, for now, that it was a storm that came about randomly, and not a cause and effect of any person’s actions. Ditto earthquakes, financial crises, car accidents, cancer, and a host of other tragedies that seem to happen just as surely as the good times do.
It’s what we do in response that counts. God’s grace gives us all things, all blessings, and even allows these tragedies. He does that to demonstrate to us how we need to rely on Him, how we need to trust Him in all ways. Don’t be mistaken: God is at work whether we accept it or not; we’re powerless to stop that. We do have power, though, over our choice of whether or not to accept it. You don’t have to believe in God. You can stay in your costume all year, and go around looking for the next big thing, the next free handout. You can party like it’s 1999 even though that was already so long ago. You can deliver all kinds of tricks, especially when you let yourself be mentored by he who thrives on such things.
You don’t have to walk in the light. It’s your choice. You don’t have to believe. Indeed, there are many logical, reasonable people here who can logically, reasonably prove you shouldn’t. It’s your choice. You can choose butter pecan or strawberry ice cream. You can choose to live in Connecticut or Arizona. You can date the girl or not. You can read these words or not. You can believe in Christ or not. Your choice.
Your belief might not prevent or cure your cancer, but it will help you persevere and overcome it even if the eventual outcome is physical death. Your belief won’t help you avoid a bad car accident, but it will help you deal with the aftermath. Your belief won’t prevent the storm, but it will indeed help you cope with bouncing back from it. Your choice to submit to being brought to faith won’t save you from dying here, but it will save you from dying forever. Your choice.
You can still pretend it’s Halloween or you can realize that today is All Saints Day, a new day, a new month, and a new set of challenges and choices. What wise choiceS will you make today?
I like lots of different kinds of music. One day, try contrasting Reba McIntire with Weezer. Or maybe Beethoven with Hank Williams (Senior or Junior, thank you). Or Grover Washington for a Friday night followed by AC/DC on a Saturday morning. But my favorite contrast of all is the one I mentioned at the start of today’s blog. I think Schubert’s composition is the most beautiful music ever written, and I like the way Disney contrasted the two pieces, flowing one into the other. Have a great November – Christmas is next month! – and make wise choices today. One of mine will be to turn up the radio. And I might just go watch that movie.