Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On this dark night...

The sanctuary was dimly lit.
The music was reverently offered.
The service was sparsely attended.

I sat next to Arlene's recently widowed husband. I sat in front of a woman who (I believe) has cerebral palsy who suffered a bad fall on Sunday. Across the aisle was Lisa, whose father died just a few days ago. At the end of the row sat my dear friend, who has attended too many funerals in the past six months.

Katherine preached a poignant sermon on how Joseph's best laid plans for marriage to Mary went awry after she told him about her impregnating visit by the Holy Spirit. Joseph could have publicly humiliated her. He could have done far worse. But instead, he stepped out in faith and trusted that the God whose son his betrothed was soon to bring into the world would walk with him through all that was yet to come. The messiness, the pain, the suffering, the humiliation, the fear - Joseph trusted that out of all of that would come hope, a future, and the promised Messiah.

Loneliness, longing, loss, pain, emptiness, anger, fear, regret, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Instead of the song that begins, "I'm every woman; it's all in me,"
I sing, "Like every woman, it's all in me."
All of those emotions, feelings, experiences - it's all in me.

With little or no warning, Katherine said, life can change.
In the middle of the night, in the heat of the day, it happens - whatever "it" is -
and life is never the same.
A job loss. The death of a loved one. A serious diagnosis. A betrayal.

When the tears flow, the fear mounts, and the world takes on an eerily different hue,
we can choose, you can choose, I can choose,
I have chosen to trust the one whose name we call Emmanuel, God-is-with-us.
The one who loves me with a fierce and determined love.
The one who said that darkness cannot and will not ever overcome the light.
The one who promised to never leave me nor forsake me.
The one who promised to catch my tears in a bottle - mine had better be a mighty big bottle.

Towards the end of the Service of Wholeness and Healing, we were invited to walk to the front of the sanctuary, light a small candle and place it on the communion table as a way to honor those we have lost, those who are struggling, and as a symbol of hope and light in the dark valleys we are traveling. Families walked together. Couples held on to each other. The recently bereaved wept. I held back and hugged the woman whose father recently passed away. As I returned to my seat, Gibbs and I hugged as our love for one another and our emotions cascaded down our cheeks.

Each little light on its own didn't cast much light over the table, but together they glowed brightly. Together we glow brightly. Together we will make our way through this night and into the new day on the other side of the darkness. As Ram Dass said, we are all just walking one another home. Together we will walk this lonely, beautiful, demanding, joyful, painful, hopeful life journey all the way home.

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