Pancake batter and eternal life

Psalm 24, 29 (Morning)

Psalm 8, 84 (Evening)

Job 38:1, 18-41

Revelation 8:1-8

Matthew 5:21-26

Psalm 8 (The St. Helena Psalter:)

O God, our Governor,*

how exalted is your name in all the world!

Out of the mouths of infants and children,*

your majesty is praised among the heavens.

You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries,*

to quell the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,*

the moon and the stars you have set in your courses,

What are we that you should be mindful of us,*

mere mortals that you should seek out?

You have made us but little lower than the angels,*

you adorn us with glory and honor;

You give us mastery of the works of your hands,*

you put all things under our feet:

All sheep and oxen,*

even the wild beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,*

and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

O God, our Governor,*

how exalted is your name in all the world!

Perhaps the biggest mystery of all is where our tiny individual human lives fit in all of creation. Mostly, we tend not to think too hard about that mystery. Instead, our tendency is to admire creation in the present moment. Our Psalmist certainly is admiring the awesome beauty in creation and feeling the human obligation of stewardship of it.

But thinking about “our place in the vast universe” is difficult, because it bumps up into those ponderings about unanswerable things like “eternal life.” The harder we think about them in concrete terms, the more difficult they seem, and the easier it is to simply disbelieve. Over the years I’ve come to recognize that a lot of people who say they don’t believe in God are really saying, “I don’t believe in a version of God I grew up with or I used to believe in that I don’t like, or that I can’t believe God is like this particular version that is portrayed through some Christian churches.” Yet they will talk about “fate,” or “karma,” or “that everything comes out in the end.” They “meditate” instead of pray. They might say they don’t believe in God but sort of dabble in quasi-Buddhist thought, thinking it’s about “self-thought.” (This one particularly makes me chuckle because they don’t realize the overlap between real practicing Buddhists and Christian mystics is very blurry, indeed.)

Really, it seems like the only way we can really think about our place in the universe, or about eternal life, and get any satisfaction at all, is metaphorically. Nature and creation are so awe-inspiring when they fill our senses, they overwhelm us–and that’s probably okay, because they call us to be there in the present moment. The metaphors come, I think, in our quiet times, and when we least expect them.

Recently, one came to me while I was, of all things, mixing up pancake batter. The mix was a little on the old side, and I was dealing with the lumps. It took a while, but with a fork I had eventually managed to smoosh out all the lumps in the dry batter and have a nice, golden smooth pancake batter.

Then it hit me. Perhaps all of creation, and that nebulous thing called eternal life, is simply like a pancake batter that is constantly being stirred and used, and our life is like one of those lumps. We roll around in it for a spell as a dry lump in the finite space of our life, but eventually, we will be gently folded into the batter, without a trace, and become part of what is poured out to feed the world. Everything that is fed into the world eventually ends up in the ground, and grain comes from the ground and eventually ends up as flour and goes back in that batter. When I think about those who have gone before me, and my grief in mourning their passing, I suspect I am merely expressing sadness that I no longer recognize their lump in the batter.

What are the metaphors that bring you peace and comfort when you ponder creation and eternal life?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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