Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Let There Be Light

"Let there be light"

Those are certainly familiar words.   A Mass by Leonard Bernstein has a song “God Said” with the words “God said, Let there be light, and there was
God said, Let there be night, and there was
God said, Let there be day, and there was
Day to follow the night                                       
And it was good, brother”                                            

Light is good. At St. Mark’s we have new light coming in.  Church members are installing the new energy efficient, high output lights.  The difference is already striking in the hallway.
At home we are trying out some of the new “so-called “Edison” lights, modeled on some of Thomas Alva’s first lights.  They are softer than what we normally use, almost gentle, more yellow.  We will see how that works.

The July sun is giving us the expected light. And the heat that goes with it. Wear sun screen.

Meanwhile, though, we still need more light. Light is a traditional image for enlightenment, awareness, understanding. We need all of those qualities in abundance these days. So many of our public conversations and public behaviors lately are marked by some really dark attitudes and assumptions.

We have a way to get through the dark and into the light.  We can walk in the light now.  We have to be willing to work at it some, though.  Traditional spiritual practices increase both our awareness of the light already in the world and our capacity to transmit that light into additional places in the world.   Reading scripture for meaning, not simply facts, prayer, meditation, holy conversation, feeding the hungry, working for justice, and more are among these traditional practices.  John Wesley spoke to his time and ours when he grouped many of the practices into works of personal piety and works of social holiness.

Light is all around us. Only light can drive away the darkness. There is an old story about that work of light:
"A rabbi asked his students: when, at dawn, can one tell the light from the darkness? One student replied: when I can tell a goat from a donkey. No, answered the rabbi. Another said: when I can tell a palm tree from a fig. No, answered the rabbi again. Well then, what is the answer? His students pressed him. Not until you look into the face of every man and every woman and see your brother and your sister, said the rabbi. Only then have you seen the light. All else is darkness."

Under Construction

"Death is so final. Whereas life, ah life is so full of possibilities." Tyrion Lannister

Welcome to the first installment of "Markings". This is a blog related to St. Mark's UMC, located in Memphis, TN. I serve as the pastor here. The quote above, from one of the characters in George Martin's fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, seems appropriate for this installment, "Under Construction". This blog is just beginning and, so, under construction. At my home, we are re-building the kitchen, so we are under construction. St. Mark's has just endured a burst water pipe, so, we are under construction. Since I am not dead yet (cue "Spamalot") I am under construction, in my body, mind and soul. So are you. So are all of us.

What I have been reminded of, during the construction at my home, in the church and as part of my pastoral life, is that being under construction is messy, dirty, untidy and more than a little wearying. A natural tendency is to curtain off the area under construction, that is, keep the kitchen doors closed or the flooded Sunday school office shut up so that none of the mess and dirt that are part of the construction there, get into your life over here. That's just not possible. People come into and out of closed off areas. Review, consultation, re-starts are normal and they open the closed off areas up to the rest of the home, church, life.

There is a way to avoid all the mess, certainly. Stop the work. End construction. Terminate growth. What you have, then, is final. What you don't have, though, is life. Only life is full of possibilities (thank you, Tyrion). And life is "so" full of possibilities, positive and negative, both. In the kitchen at home, I might connect the disposal the wrong way. The result would be a mess. That's negative. Or, I might connect all the pipes and wires the right way and create a nicer kitchen.

Spiritually, I am, we all are, constantly under construction. Prayer, service, reading, reflection, actions, quiet, work, and contemplation are ways of being under construction, ways of participating with the divine in the life long construction of who you are. I find that those practices can't be closed off, shut off, restricted to one part of my life. That's ok. The messiness of life is a good sign that something may be being built. Construction is so full of possibilities.