From The Rector…
The other week I got to speak at our joint VBS program on shining the light of God. It was fun talking with little ones about reflecting God’s light into the dark places of this world—not just caves and closets but into people’s hearts. After my short talk, the children got to sing a few songs before being dismissed to their various activities of the day. One of the songs they sang was This Little Light of Mine.
Since I was a little girl, I have enjoyed singing This Little Light of Mine. There are easy and fun hand motions that happen with the song like holding up one finger and waving it back and forth as your “light”. But my favorite verse was when we would blow on our finger like blowing out the flame of a candle instead of saying the word “blow”. I remember singing, “Don’t let Satan (blow) it out, I’m gonna
let it shine.” But at this VBS, we sang, “Don’t let anyone (blow) it out…” I’ve noticed over the last few years, Episcopalians hesitancy to say the word “Satan.”
We seem somewhat averse to the name as if it were “Voldemort.” Those of you familiar with the Harry Potter series understand this reference. Saying the name “Voldemort” was a deeply fearful thing to do—only the truly brave would dare to whisper the name. Dumbledore, one of the protagonists of the story, is
quick to point out that, “fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself.” I don’t know that it is our fear of Satan that keeps us from saying his name or our denial that Satan exists—either way, I am not sure this embargo of terminology is spiritually healthy. Scripture portrays the existence of Satan—at the least as a fallen divine being—who walks to and fro on the earth according to the book of Job. We hear mention of Satan and other demons in the gospels as
well. Whatever we may or may not believe about the cosmic forces of evil, scripture attests to them. Our tradition does too. For example, we renounce “Satan”, “all the spiritual forces of wickedness”, and “the evil powers of this world”, in our baptismal vows. Whatever evil is, only it is served by our refusal
to consider its existence be it out of denial or fear.
I am not advocating a position in which we scare little children through the use of the devil. But children and adults grow more spiritually healthy when they understand that evil does exist and that, as Christians, our job is to take courage in Christ to shine a light of hope in the face of that kind of darkness. We do this whenever we take a stand against hunger or injustice, when we hold up the marginalized, when we lament over gun violence. As I think about the events from last Thursday night and the shootings of three people at St. Stephen’s, I am reminded that evil does exist in the world. Mental instability does as well, and I am not the person to distinguish between the two. But if we discount the actions of a gunman who was being welcomed into the community of Christ as simply mental instability, I think we play into the devil’s hand. Those actions were more than just those of someone with mental illness, they reflected a deeper evil that
desires only to hurt and destroy and perpetuate violence against the people of God.
Violence is too often the work of the devil—be it the cosmic forces of wickedness or the evil powers of this world that corrupt, and it distracts us in ways that keep us from focusing on the work of God—the way of peace and reconciliation. As Christians, we are called to always stand against violence no matter how it is perpetuated. Our Lord and Savior embraced violence and responded with humility and reconciling love when he found his way to the cross. We, too, are called to the humility and reconciling love of God when we are faced with violence. The only true way to stop the ever-ending cycle of violence is to respond in love. That is what we do when we reflect the light of Christ into all the dark places of the world.
It is ok to name the evil in this world. Only then, can we claim the righteousness that casts out all darkness. To profess the faith of Christ crucified is the path in which evil is vanquished. Bart Rainey, Sharon Yeager, and Jane Pounds are martyrs to a faith that will always reach out the and of welcome to the stranger. Because in that reach, God defeats Satan, and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, as well as the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. Their death weighs a heaviness upon us. Our response is to shine the light of Christ for all the world to see. May their souls and the souls of all the departed rest in peace.
Light and Life,