Dear Friends in Christ,
Cold New England nights are perfect for puzzles. Whether enjoyed in quiet solitude, or gathered with children or grandchildren, friends and family around the table; the challenge of putting the pieces together is pure fun. Jigsaw puzzles are for all ages – a great “leveler” – as they invite us to connect with one another across ages and physical abilities; a way to play together. Working a puzzle can also be a meditative experience, everyone working in silence, or a time of gentle conversation and listening, as our hands and eyes are moving the pieces into place.
The end result is delight! The picture is complete and we are satisfied not only with the process of solving the puzzle together but we rejoice in the restoration of the “whole picture.” It is neat and complete; no longer a mystery; no longer are we worried that a piece may have dropped, and been eaten by the dog or swept under the couch. Order is restored, the picture is finished, every piece in its place and we can see it clearly and be satisfied that our work is done.
One of the reasons so many of us enjoy solving jigsaws, crosswords, Sudoku’s, and other playful puzzles, is that they provide a temporary experience of clarity and mastery. They give us a glimpse of order and answers in a world where order and answers are not actually our lived reality. Human life and experience, individually and in community, is the opposite of a neat, well-defined story or picture. Our lives are mysterious and unpredictable, often messy and confusing, as they unfold from the miracle of birth to our final breath. As people of faith, we believe that each of us is made in the image of God, and there is nothing more mysterious than God!
As well as we know each other, as much as we desire to know ourselves, our partners, our friends and family, parts of all of us remain a mystery, known only to God. St. Paul reminds us that in our earthly lives, “we see in a mirror dimly.” It is only upon our death when we meet Jesus, will we see clearly, “face to face.” “Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known,” he reminds us.
So how do we live with the reality that there will always be mystery and complexity in our lives? How do we navigate questions of life and death, sin and redemption, fear and loneliness, hope and change? Where do we put our trust? St. Paul points us to it: “Love.” The Love God has for each one of us. The Love that never ends.
The Holy Spirit, the living, loving breath of God, is at work in each individual life and in our lives as a community. We can trust that God is in all our moments, all our fears, all our prayers, all our hopes, because we are assured that “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
(1 Corinthians 13:7-10)
When we are grieving, hurting for ourselves or others, we pray for healing and reconciliation; we pray for God’s presence in our pain. We can trust that God IS at work in each of our lives in ways we can neither ask for nor imagine. Healing often looks much different than the “picture” we have in our minds. New life appears in surprising and unexpected ways, perhaps in ways we, constrained by our human limitations, could never have anticipated. That is the mystery of God’s mercy and grace. In the end, we must accept that life is not a puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to be lived. We are called to be faithful to God’s promise of love and new life; to look for signs of resurrection and hope, no matter how tiny; to pray with trust and holy patience, forbearance, and humility. God alone knows the full story of our lives, the deep reaches of our hearts.
When we come together in prayer and around the table each week, we are offered a glimpse of the heavenly banquet. We are fed with his Love in the form of bread and wine. We partake of this mysterious and overflowing Love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things”…. for us. May we continue to pray in community, to love, and to trust in the God who created us, redeemed us, and sustains us by his grace, mercy, and love. Amen.