This week was an emotional roller coaster, marked by prayer, loss, joy, and of course the pandemic. On Wednesday, I was really struck by the words of the inaugural poet Amanda Gorman: When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never ending shade? As Coronatide has cast a shadow over much of what we have assumed was normative, we come into Epiphany season craving some light. This is more than winter blues. We need to find sources of light and life to sustain us.
We know that we do not have all the time in the world to get ourselves together and live in the light.
There is an urgency in our scripture lessons today. Not the mundane, ordinary time of minutes and seconds (chronos in Greek), but rather the opportune, even royal time of God’s divine activity (kairos in Greek). God gets involved because life is complicated. God always calls to us – inviting us to turn away from things that diminish our life and to come into the light. That call to repentance always involves the turning to the Good News.
The urgency in the epistle is Paul’s. St Paul tells the people of Corinth not to marry because Jesus is going to return and they don’t have time to raise a family before the end of the world. I imagine Paul may have been disappointed. As we confront the urgency of the pandemic, what have we put off or lost?
The urgency in the gospel belongs to Jesus and those who follow him. Jesus declares that the time is fulfilled – he calls his first disciples and they drop their nets to follow him. Immediately.
What would it take for us to drop what we are doing and follow the light of Jesus Christ?
Paul does not say to the Corinthians, and Jesus does not say to the fishermen – follow me when you get the committee organized – or do this when it feels convenient – or it will be good to do when you have some extra time. Time for God is eternally now. Now is the right time.
The really interesting detail that these two stories share in common – in spite of their very different contexts and teachings – is that God is in the center of the action. It is really quite unexpected that God should show up – to teach the Corinthians about how to follow Christ, to invite a couple of laborers to come along with Jesus to capture people’s hearts. The promise of the scriptures – that God is indeed among us – is fulfilled in the most immediate and unusual ways.
This is one of the central themes of Mark’s Gospel. God has come among us. For Mark, Jesus offers us a most urgent message. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand!”
If we use the criteria of love or justice, it doesn’t quite look like the time we thought the kingdom would come among us. There are no golden living dreams or visions. It is too messy, too disorganized, not quite holy enough? If we could take a few weeks to get our souls together, that might be better, don’t you think? Yet, isn’t the time just about right? Do we not need divine intervention? Isn’t that what we pray for day after day? Pandemic and the profound loss that attends it, economic hardship and uncertainty, the brutal and deliberate stirring of long simmering differences into violence, profound and painful racial injustice, continued ecological devastation. In such a time of crisis, what we need the most is for God to show up. (D Lose)
The good news is that God is always at work. God is always calling us to follow Jesus, through the proclamation, our shared life, our experience. At first it feels like a question: are you, are we, willing to drop much of what passes for the new normal, in order to follow in the way of Jesus? And then it is an invitation. God knows us and has judged us worthy. We are worthy of joining the Holy One at the eternal banquet. We have been invited to sit among saints and angels.
Where have you encountered the Light of Christ this week?
We can see this light in our own time. In the perseverance of the teacher who keeps working with students in a virtual classroom; in the courageous testimony of those who speak out about issues of justice; in the noble work accomplished by first responders and medical staff; in the quiet but faithful gestures people make each day for their family and communities, which so often go unheralded and even unnoticed. These are the hands of God at work. God is here.
When we least expect it, God shows up. God shows up with an urgency that surpasses our own sense of urgency with respect to getting things in order. God asks us to turn to Good News and to bring the light with us into the world. What will it take for us to do the right thing – for the poor? for the marginalized and outcast? What do we need to be doing today? This week?
I do not have a spiritual or moral prescription for you. All our lives are so different in their nuances, it is impossible to offer a universal solution. And as we move through the season of Epiphany and closer to Lent, I can tell you one thing for sure. The light of Christ is among us and within us.
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never ending shade? . . .
There was always light.
If only we are brave enough to see it.
If only we are brave enough to be it.’
~ Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman
See the light. Be the light. May it be so!
Amanda Gorman. “The Hill We Climb.” https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/a35268319/amanda-gorman-inauguration-poem-transcript/