Monday, December 17, 2012

Two Meditations for Advent 3, December 16, 2012

The Illusions of Darkness
11 AM
Listen Here

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.
John 1:1-5

Ok, here is a brain twister for your physicists out there. What is the opposite of light? Were you going to say darkness? Don’t be too quick to answer this one. We now know that particles have anti-particles. Since light is made up of particles called photons, then the opposite of light is anti-photons or anti-light. But wait! It turns out that the anti-particle for the photon is the photon. Which means that the opposite of light is . . . light.

As it turns out, the universe is composed of light. What we call darkness is simply the absence of light. Even in the farthest corners of the universe, light still exists. It may be a small quantity of light, immeasurable by existing technology, but the light is still there. The experience of darkness just means that we cannot see the light.

We are facing some dark times right now, and we have a lot of questions as we think about the power of evil and eruptions of heart-sickening violence. For some of us, the events in the news can bring back memories of some of darkest griefs in our own lives … suffering a great disappointment … the loss of someone you cherished…the breaking off of a relationship … moving far away from family and friends … hearing the awful news of an illness … or perhaps financial distress. What do these dark hours of the soul feel like to you? Did you want to give up all hope? Was there something or someone who pulled you through? Did you try to pray? Were you too hurt to do anything?

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow experienced a dark hour in his own life. On Christmas Day 1863, Longfellow received the horrible news that his dearly-treasured son had been critically wounded in battle during the Civil War. Longfellow’s wife had died in a tragic accident two years before. Now his faith was tested again by the war. His son returned home and Longfellow tended to his son’s crippling wounds. He saw other wounded soldiers on the streets of his city. He visited with families who lost sons in battle and he asked, “Where is the peace?” Then, picking up pen a paper, he tried to answer his own question by writing a poem:
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day,
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
The last verse is especially moving to me.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’”
It seems like we are surrounded by darkness. Or . . . maybe we just can’t see the light yet. It’s not mistake that Christmas comes at the darkest time of year. Jesus is born in the middle of the night of the longest night of the year in the deep darkness of the winter solstice. When the earth is the most desolate, we sing our hope. When the darkest part of the year comes, we think about what it takes to bring about peace. Light shines in the darkness. Or, to put it another way, we finally see the light that we couldn’t see before.

You Are Made to Shine
9 AM

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9
We don’t always want people to be who they really are. Our culture has a code phrase for this: “Don’t Ask. Don’t tell.” In other words, you must suppress and compromise an essential part of who you are. Chris and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary next week, and I still have not learned a hard lesson.  There are times in life when “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” seems appropriate, but that’s a false conclusion. Still, there are certain questions I avoid, like, "What color is this?" I read about a study that examined the color identification and vocabulary skills of male and female college students. Guess what? I don’t know about any gender bias in the research, but the study found that women identified significantly more elaborate colors than did the men. Apparently there is a difference between blue and periwinkle.

Some relationships have third-rail questions that partners don’t like to be asked:
“Do I look fat in this outfit?” and the related question, “Do you like my new haircut?”
“What are you thinking?”
“Would you remarry after I die?”

These are not questions. They are ambushes.

 “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a recipe for cowardice and mediocrity. And that’s not what God wants for our community and our personal relationships. It’s not what God wants for you.  The Apostle Paul says puts it this way: whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, THINK on these things and DO these things. You were made for so much more than mediocrity.  “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a denial of the essential YOU. You were made for fullness and blessing. Your life purpose is to be more fully who God made you to be. And God made you to shine. So let Divine Light shine!

Who are you to question the greatness that is the image of God’s light in you? When you are boldly and confidently yourself, you are offering your highest good to the world. And God knows we need more of that right now. In the words of Marianne Williamson,
“Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world . . . You are meant to shine, as children do. You were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within you. It’s not just in some; it’s in everyone. And as you let your own light shine, you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As you are liberated from your own fear, your presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles)
Today, as we think about those whose lights have been snuffed out, the victims of the worst of what our aching world has to offer, we also have an opportunity to think about how each of us is can shine the light of love and compassion – how we can put our core faith values into practice. We have a chance to listen for God, in our times of grief and our moments of gratitude, to seek God’s highest aims for the world, to think about our connections and interconnections. And think about making some commitments.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to destroy the life or spirit of     others.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to take what is not given.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to engage in abusive     relationships.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to speak falsely or deceptively.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to harm self or others through     poisonous thoughts or deeds
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to dwell on past errors.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to speak of self separate from     others.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to possess any form of life     selfishly.
  • Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to harbor ill-will toward any     human being.
When we can work on these things, we will begin to understand the true power of Christ, love’s pure light, at work in us, around us, and through us this season.

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