Psalm 146, 147 (Morning)
Psalm 111, 112, 113 (Evening)
1 John 1:1-7
Two of our readings today talk about the fear that comes with uncertainty. In Exodus, the future looks pretty dangerous and uncertain for the recently-fled Israelites, and the people are starting to think, “You know, maybe living in bondage in Egypt wasn’t all that bad. We had work, three hots and a cot…yeah, okay, so it was hard oppressive work and all, but maybe this beats dying in the wilderness after all.” In the Gospel of John, the disciples literally can’t even wrap their heads around finding their way without the leadership of Jesus.
Truth is, if we live long enough, we’ve all had echoes of both in our lives. We might have had a Friday like any other Friday except that at the end of it, we were handed a pink slip…or a foreclosure notice…or an eviction notice. We might have made the youthful mistake of thumbing our nose at our previous employer because of the promise of this great new job on the horizon, only to discover we’d been misled…and we’d burned the bridge back where we came from. (also see the previous sentence re: relationships…) Perhaps the person in our family who was always our anchor died unexpectedly, or their divorce from another in the family put a seemingly insurmountable gap between them and us.
In short, we’ve all been there in some way or form, and it didn’t have to come at risk of our physical lives to have the gut-wrenching, petrifying, immobilizing feeling that comes with it. We might even have longed for things “the way they used to be,” even if the way they used to be was pretty bad, and we are now victim to a subjective memory lapse about the reality of our former way of life.
The truth, however, is all things are constantly being made new in some way or another…perhaps imperceptibly at first, and maybe not even noticeable until we’ve journeyed long enough to be able to look back with a little more panoramic view. As our reading in 1 John reminds us, our darkest hours are not capable of dimming God’s light one little bit. Also, as the latter half of our Gospel reading affirms, Christ is present even when we feel he is absent.
Of course, that’s not how we feel in those times, and that’s to be expected. It’s simply human nature, and to morph a phrase that Barbara Brown Taylor uses in describing patterns in Christianity as a whole, I’m pretty much a “lunar” Christian, not a “solar” one. I know in my most fearful moments, it distinctly felt like God either took a powder on me, or worse–that God did not approve of me. No one could have convinced me otherwise at the time. I might add it feels like an especially awful kind of darkness when one is suffering from a rift in one’s community of faith.
The fundamental problem with the dark times in our lives is this: How do we find our way back to the light that is always there, when all we see is darkness?
If there is one message from the whole Exodus story that is applicable to this, it’s the message to keep walking, stay alert and open to new possibilities, and eat what God provides for us.
I was thinking about that in the context of what might be the most-often used prayer in all of Christianity–The Lord’s Prayer. I have to admit, most of the times that I say, “give us today our daily bread,” I’m actually thinking more along the lines of “give me what I need, far beyond one day.” I’m not thinking about the possibility I really might just have the tenuous security of a single day’s feeding. Yet the reality of life is that some days, that might well be all I get. Learning to be content with that takes time, prayer, practice, and an openness that doesn’t come easily for me. I also have to admit that, in those times, my faithful friends who are “solar” Christians, at times, really rub me the wrong way (just as I suspect I rub THEM the wrong way.)
Yet, the unmistakable truth is Christ’s reign needs both solar and lunar Christians, and we are bound together. It might well be one of those solar folks who can help me to even believe in the light, let alone see light again. Conversely, solar Christians suddenly thrust in dark times might be unaccustomed to darkness, and it might take the experience of a more lunar one, one who is more used to gradations of shade and shadow, to say, “You know, it’s dark but I can see a little. Take my hand and you look for the light while I make a little headway for us here.”
Does your faith story seem a little more like a solar one, or a lunar one? How has someone “not like you” been your guide in an uncertain or dark time?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid