Der Vasken's Sermon on November 12, 2017

Nov 15, 2017

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

"He speaks not, and yet, there lies a conversation in his eyes."

These words were written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow well over one hundred sixty years ago.  Most of us know that Longfellow, the great 19th century poet, lived only a two-minute walk from our church here on Brattle Street.  His home is now a museum run by the National Parks Service.  So when I walked past his beautiful yellow home a couple of weeks ago on my way into Harvard Square and I saw this quote displayed on the announcement board next to the entrance, it caught my eye.  "He speaks not, and yet, there lies a conversation in his eyes."

One hundred fifty years later, these words ring true every bit today as when Longfellow first wrote them. He wrote these words after his wife died. He wrote them to remind us that we all carry invisible wounds on the inside.  So many of us walk around with these invisible wounds that have no visible markings on the outside but are hurting us--even tearing us up on the inside. He is talking about our invisible wounds--the wounds that come from defeat or failure or broken hopes or feelings of inadequacy. 

How many of us know of people, who have been hurt by others in life, who have been hurt by rejection, or morally taken advantage of, or disappointed and permanently wounded by someone they trusted completely?  And when you look into their eyes, you notice that their eyes have dimmed.  They have been hurt too often and too deeply and now there is an inner darkness in their eyes.  These are their invisible wounds.  They are hurting on the inside.

I read this short story once about a man, who went to see a doctor one day.  He complained to the doctor of anxiety, of a lack of appetite and of constant sleeplessness.  The doctor examined him and found nothing wrong.  He found the man to be healthy so the doctor concluded that the man needed to find ways to relax.  He shared with the man modern techniques of relaxation that would assuredly help his condition, but he, also, told him that laughter will lift his mood greatly.  

The doctor shared an article he had read earlier that morning in the local newspaper about a popular circus that had just come to town with its star performer--a famous and legendary clown.  This clown was known for keeping the crowds rolling in the aisles with laughter.  "Go see that legendary clown," said the doctor.  "He'll make you laugh like you haven't laughed before and that will help cure your sadness and anxiety."  "No," said the man, "I can't do that.  He can't help me."  "How do you know," asked the doctor, "until you give it a try? Go see him.  He'll help you leave your sadness behind."   "I can't doctor," repeated the man.  "I can't do that.  You see...I am the man who plays that clown.  I am the legendary clown that you read about."

Laughing on the outside but crying on the inside.  This is the effect of the invisible wounds that many people have.  "He speaks not, and yet, there lies a conversation in his eyes."  So let me wrap this up.  Sorrow hits every heart.  There isn't anyone alive today who hasn't felt sorrow at some point in his or her life.  But here is the answer as to how God can help us through days of sorrow.

The Gospel tells us that when we let God sit on the throne of our heart, life begins to glow from within.  Life begins to glow with a new purpose and a new joy and a new reason for existence.  It's the presence of God in our lives that produces this kind of glow.  It's the presence of God within us that makes each one of us a light that shines the Holy Spirit into our world.  It's the inner presence of God that produces the outer glow in our lives.  What life does to us in the long run depends on what it finds within us along the way.  By keeping God on the inside, He will help us keep all sorrow on the outside.

We should remember that all the water in the ocean will not sink a ship unless the water gets inside.  If God is in our ship, if God is in our lives, then not only will He keep the water out but He will change our lives into a place where we will be able to stand in His presence every day and fact whatever challenges come our way.  "He speaks not, and yet, there lies a conversation in his eyes."  May we all use the light God placed within us to help those around us.

Amen.