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 this crazy winter that we are having in Cincinnati, one day snow, the next day sunny and 60, it can seem like things are bleak. In Cincinnati, we seem to get a lot of “in-between” weather. We long for spring to get here and stay!
In our lives this past year, 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.
Maybe the change we were hoping for did not materialize, or the change that happened was not what we had in mind. Maybe the shock of unwelcomed change has left us in a place of grief, numbness, despair, and/or situational depression.
Yet, change can also bring growth, expectation, hope. I know that has been true in my life the past year. Right now, I am energized and ready for that growth and change as we begin our lives collectively in my neighborhood, church, and the networks I am in.
Most faith communities know that they need and want to change. They see the signs all around them, pointing towards change and a chance for transformation. The church, in many places, has been asking some of the deeper questions of what it means to be a faith community, my faith community is no different. We have come to a place of realizing that the world has inevitably changed, and the church needs to adapt and re-function. I have been so impressed with the process that has led my church want to be become more “community engaged” and be a source of light and neighborliness, along with others in this particular community and within the communities that they live.
So, obviously, at times this past year has felt like it has 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) questions of calling (personally and corporately) around where we are going as a church, what does it mean to grow as God intends as a church, we have seen folks come and go, and we have experienced hurt and pain in relationships, as well as joy and hope.
Yet, here we are, ready to grow and ask these questions together. We are still a church called out by God and we still muster up the courage to look forward to a new year filled with hope and expectation of change and growth, healthy change and growth.
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 church and within ourselves.
Darkness does not win out, we are not consumed by it. Darkness can also be a necessary part of our journey towards light and a sense of wholeness and growth. Darkness shrinks at the slightest beam of light. As events and occurrences 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 & Sons song, “Lover of the Light”. They are a great popular band these days, but their words often have deep insight (and my son loves this band). I find these words 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 our church’s life, may we be lovers of the light. May we look around at the darkness in our community and go there so that we can be children of light in that darkness. As I walk around our neighborhood and talk to folks inside and outside the church and listen to them, I see so much potential for the church universal to step in and be the Light that shines in darkness. We can be in our communities faithfully present to others right at our doorstep and even inside our doors through the many assets that we have (people, finances, building space, imagination), while also providing a context for genuine friendship to folks that need to know that they are not alone.
May it be so, may we all be lovers of the Light.