In Mark’s Gospel chapter 4 verse 35, Mark says:

On that day, when evening had come,
Jesus said to them
‘Let us go across to the other side.’

It is evening; dusk is beginning to set in. We discern only vaguely an outline of the way ahead. Even if what we are leaving is difficult and painful, to “go across to the other side” feels daunting. It means leaving behind the familiar and predictable. We do not know what “the other side” may hold. The journey in “evening” travels through oceans of uncertainty.

This is the human condition. In some aspect of our lives, we are always crossing over “to the other side.” Life never allows us to be completely still. Jesus calls us on to something new.

The call may only be to adopt a new attitude, to make a shift in awareness, or to come to a deeper understanding. But, at times, I may be called to make a radical shift in the external circumstances of my life. Always, if I am alive, I must navigate some unpredictable transition, finding my way “across to the other side” in the evening.

In my life, at this time, going “across to the other side” means giving up something I have done for the past forty-two years. It means leaving a community I cherish and in which I have been nourished for thirty-five years. I have no idea what lies on the others die of this uncertain “sea” called “retirement”. I do not have a plan; there are no maps or navigational aids reliably pointing the way through this transition.

The community in which I have shared so many of the meaningful events of my adult life is also thrust into an uncertain space by my retirement. Who will replace the old familiar voice that has sounded from the pulpit since 1987? Who will break bread and call the community together to celebrate the gifts of grace so abundantly evident among us? What will leadership look like moving forward?

I will not be there to join in seeking answers to these questions. The way ahead is filled with unknowns. Who will guide us as we step out into the “evening” and seek to “go across to the other side”?

Eleven days ago on Sunday 20 February during our 9:00 service Sharon led the prayers with her usual touching sensitivity. At the beginning of her prayers that morning, she read a poem/prayer by the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Teilhard’s prayer offers profound guidance for the journey into an uncertain future.

Each Monday through the six weeks of Lent this year, I hope to reflect briefly on a portion of this poem in search of wisdom for navigating a season of transition. Here is the whole poem:

Patient Trust
A prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955)

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
To reach the end without delay
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
To something unknown,
Something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
That it is made by passing through
Some stages of instability –
And that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow
Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
As though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
Acting on your own good will)
Will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
Gradually forming within you, will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
That his hand is leading you,
And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
In suspense, and incomplete.