4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 (NRSV)
Stretch out my life and pick the seams out
Take what you like but close my ears and eyes
Or watch me stumble over and over
I had done wrong you built your tower
But call me home and I will build a throne
And wash my eyes out never again
But love the one you hold
And I will be your gold
To have and to hold
A lover of the light
– “Lover of the Light”, Mumford & Sons
In the middle of winter, it can seem like things are bleak. The days are shorter, it’s cold and cloudy, the sun doesn’t seem to shine as much. Plus, in Cincinnati, we seem to get a lot of “in-between” weather. Doesn’t really snow a lot, but still cold and wet. We long for spring!
In our lives this past year (2013), we may have experienced things that have been bleak, dark, and we may have felt like we are in an “in-between place” as well. We may have been sensing that a change is necessary, we have longed for the warmth of hope, just as we may have longed for the hope of warm sunshine in the spring after a long winter.
I believe our worshipping communities, our churches, may also at times this past year have felt like they have been a place of searching. As a collective group of persons, it seems like we have been in an “in-between” place. We dealt with (and continue to deal with) hard budget decisions, we have seen folks come and go, and we have experienced hurt and pain in relationships.
Yet, we are still a Church universal called out by God and we look forward to a new year filled with hope and expectation of change, healthy change. As Jesus followers, or as “children of the Light and Day” as the above Scripture passage says, we should not be surprised when darkness comes. It happens all around us and we not immune from darkness, evil, and pain…within our churches and within ourselves.
Yet, darkness does not win out, we are not consumed by it. Darkness flees at the slightest beam of light. And as events and occurences in our lives as persons and as a church or exposed to the Light, we can see clearly who we are as persons and collectively. We may not always like what we see, but the Light not only exposes us, but can transform us.
I like this Mumford song, “Lover of the Light”. It is hopeful. As the writer grapples with his shortcomings, he still has hope and proclaims to be a lover of the light. And as a lover of the light, he can and will change.
Friends, as we live into the present moment within our lives and in the Church, may we be lovers of the light. May we look around at the darkness in our communities and go there so that we can be children of light in that darkness. As I walk around our communities where I live and talk to folks and listen to them, I see so much potential for the church to step in and be the Light that shines in darkness. We can be in our communities addressing so many needs right at our doorstep and even inside our doors, while also providing a context for genuine friendship to folks that need to know that they are not alone.
But, this takes some bold moves. We can no longer have communities of faith cloistered away, hoping to avoid the darkness around us. We must be a church that thinks in new ways. We need to become the church springing out of the communities we serve. This will change our theology, our worship, our traditions, and it will change us. To be light, we have to live, love, and listen to the folks in the communities we live in order to have opportunities to build genuine friendships…not so we can “pack our pews”, or “leverage our relationships” to build a program. Our intent should simply be to connect with folks, to live life with them, to be in community and work together towards better communities, and to love well while receiving love from other imperfect folks and from a God who exhibits this love and loyalty to community in so many ways and ultimately Jesus, the Light of the world, who became one of us.
May it be so in 2014, may we all be lovers of the Light.