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Archive for November, 2014

Walking in the Dark

This Advent we’re learning to walk in the dark.
Which is a good thing because there’s a lot of fear, frustration and danger in the nights of Ferguson right now as well as prayer from the community of faith gathered there. I’ve already begun to notice a tendency to make this a black vs white issue. I invite you to resist that easy and false dichotomy. We all have a role in recognizing and addressing the prejudice and bias that colors the way we live and how we read the events and the news stories. Let us agree that all lives matter and support our community efforts and our police in trying to live this truth.

This Sunday’s scripture is from an obscure book, Habakkuk 1:1-4

God, how long do I have to cry out for help
before you listen?
How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Violence!”
before you come to the rescue?
Why do you force me to look at evil,
stare trouble in the face day after day?
Anarchy and violence break out,
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked have the righteous hamstrung
and stand justice on its head.

The “Living God’s Story” commentary says Habakkuk is not afraid to ask God the hard questions. The same kind of questions we ask. Why is there injustice in the world? Why do people hurt children? Why is there violence? Will school shootings ever stop? Can there ever be peace in the Middle East and other war-torn regions of the world, in Ferguson, Missouri?

In the middle of the night of our longing, when it is so dark we cannot see the hand of someone beside us reaching out to us, how can acknowledge that our vision of hope is obscured? – and cry out rather than put a happy face on the struggles that are all too real. Habakkuk seems to think that even in the darkness, the silence of the night, the conversation with God continues.

Habakkuk does not cut God off. Habakkuk continues to speak to God in this prayer. Habakkuk names what is going on and tells it like it is. God wants to hear from us too in the midst of our frustration, our anger, our despair, our hopelessness. Even when answers are not quick to come. God wants to hear our voice in these times of trial.

So this Advent we’re talking about the darkness that inhabits our lives. And we’re gathering the wisdom of authors and poets along the way. David Whyte’s poetry will call us to worship each week. And Dante begins the classic Divine Comedy with a very different experience:

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.

Could it be that darkness has a powerful place in our life? Barbara Brown Taylor, whose newest book inspired the series, Learning to Walk in the Dark, wonders if we can learn from the times it seems God is silent. Can unknowing and silence nurture our soul’s growth?

So this Advent, we’ll explore the ways we encounter the divine in the dark wood. We’ll examine how darkness is often equated with evil or inferiority which gets sinful when applied to the way we think of Africa as the dark continent, and those with darker skin as inferior or less valuable by extension. We’ll turn from a full-solar theology to reflect the implications of a lunar spirituality.

Last night, the Worship Team did their best to create an experience of the dark wood and night sky in the sanctuary. As night deepened and we realized we couldn’t overcome the technical difficulties in such as task, we called it a night. Sometime before Sunday, we hope to overcome the obstacles and invite you to come and experience either the finished work or the work in progress.

Those who are unable to join us on Sunday mornings, are invited to join the online worshiping community at Darkwood Brew, named for the Christian mystics who understood time spent in darkwood experiences (i.e. lostness, emptiness, failure, and uncertainty) can be times of great possibility and revelation.

We invite you to share your favorite poem, quotation or story on the possibility and power of darkness and the mystery of unknowing. We’ll post them on our Facebook page. This series has a soundtrack, so you can visit the church website and newsletter for links to the music: Into the Dark by Melissa Etheridge, Come Darkness, Come Light by Mary Chapin Carpenter. There will be also be two study opportunities of Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, the in-depth one on 3 Sundays in December at 8:35 or the one-night discussion on the 17th at the parsonage.

Let’s walk through the dark together.
Pastor Kelly

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