A few days ago, members of the Spiritual Life Commission (SLC) met to discuss our parish theme for the coming year. The SLC is an important part of our common life. They plan the annual retreat, which usually takes place in Delaware. They work on both the Advent and Lenten Quiet Days. They organize the daily reflections for Lent, and the Wednesday Evenings at Lent series. Another important ministry is the Book Club, where they pick a book, read it, and then meet to discuss. Quite recently, they concluded a book discussion on Zoom, and they plan to next read The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life by Emmett Fox. Please be on the lookout for more information soon, as you are all invited to join us.
Before we meet as SLC, members of the commission are invited to send thoughts, scripture verses, or ideas about what the theme should be for the coming year. I am so glad that we had lots of thoughts and verses to choose from. This time, after much prayerful deliberation, members of the SLC settled on a theme for the coming year: Be God’s light that shines in the darkness. I thought it was such a powerful representation of what we need to BE, especially considering all that is currently going on in our world.
For many people - myself included - I feel like we are in some dark place. One of my professors in college defined theology as looking for a black cat in a dark room. The point he sought to make was that it is impossible to search and to find what you are looking for in a dark place. For that reason, we always, always need some light - even if a little bit of it - to help us find what it is that we are looking for.
One of the forms of darkness in which we find ourselves is the pandemic caused by COVID-19. Over the past several months, we have seen our world turned upside-down. As a parishioner remarked this morning during our Virtual Coffee Hour with the Rector, we do not know when spring began, or when it ended. Some of the important plans or celebrations we had planned for the year have been cancelled. We have had to celebrate the lives of our loved ones on Zoom. A parishioner has requested that I bless their marriage, but to do so on Zoom so that family and friends who were supposed to have traveled from Nigeria and elsewhere could still be a part of the service, as they have had to cancel their actual wedding plans.
The reality is that we wake up, by the gift of grace, each morning. And when we do, we see the sunlight shining through our windows, giving us some light and comfort for the day. But there seems to be little to look forward to. And even if you are lucky enough to look forward to something, as meaningful as it may be, it often evokes tears and consternation. Another parishioner, for example, shared a story about not being able to touch her older grandchildren, or even hold the newest grandchild. There are some that have had to see their grandchildren come by their homes but have had to stand by the roadside, and simply wave at them and express their love distantly instead of having them come in to the home - the place where the story of their lives actually began. You want to hug your grandchildren. You want to touch them. You want to look forward to all the summer travel. You want to look forward to being with friends and loved ones. You want to look forward to being at the beach, or perhaps by the lake. You want to do some of the things you are used to doing in the summer. But alas, it feels like we have been surrounded by thick darkness - one that renders us impotent because we cannot see the black cat in the dark room. We need some light.
For many of us, the emotional and psychological toll has been devastating. Many are those who are struggling to thrive amid living. Many are those who have lost jobs or have had significant cuts to their income. Many are those who are railing under the heavy burden of taking care of themselves and their loved ones. Many are those who do not even see the sunlight pierce into their rooms because they prefer being asleep over being awake to face the rigors of the morn that awaits them. A parishioner who works in an assisted living facility recently shared a story about how the management of their company decided to turn the entire facility into a COVID treatment facility. As novel as the plan may have been, however, the hospitals are keeping their COVID patients there because there is no elective surgery. And because the hospitals are keeping their COVID patients, the census at the assisted living is running low, and so management have had to split hours among all their employees so that each can earn their keep. They, too, are covered by the sort of darkness that consumes energy and reduces them to people who become disconnected from themselves.
In the midst of all the darkness of this pandemic, we have had to deal with another darkness that has plagued our lives for so long, yet none seem to have a clue as to how best to deal with it. As a result of the killing of George Floyd, racial tensions have flared up and have led to daily demonstrations across the country and in the world. As a result of the needless deaths of others like Rayshard Brooks or Ahmed Arbery, we have had to confront the darkness of systemic racism.
Look around you, and you might feel a cover of darkness. Therefore, our task this coming year, and always, is to BE God's light that shines in the darkness. Do not let the weight of this darkness dampen your spirit, for your task is to BE the light in that darkness. To BE is an active verb. It is intentional, because we need you to BE - to console, counsel, mourn, walk, share, uplift, motivate, and love.
When I was a little boy, I learned a song, Brighten The Corner Where You Are. I don’t remember where I learned it, but I have always been moved by its invitation to brighten; that is to say, to bring light wherever I might find myself. BEing that light may take many and varied forms, but I have no doubt in my mind that darkness cannot comprehend the light within you, a light that has the capacity to bring transformation to both our individual, and communal, lives.
Jesus said something about light. He once said, "I am the light of the world. And who ever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." He also said that no one lights a light and puts it under a bushel basket. For those who follow the light, and for those who light their lamps but do not put it under the bushel, there’s always an opportunity to shine with the brightness of God’s light that is in you.
Remember, there are days when you can be a light for others. There are also days that others may be a light for you. So long as there’s light, there is hope, and that hope comes alive only when we BEcome God’s light that shines in darkness.
Change is always made possible when that lights shines radiantly. You can BE that light, for God created you not only to bring light, but to shine that light.
If you would like to join, or want more information about the Christ Church Book Club, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org