From the Rector…
I hear the language of darkness in the world and the dismay and anxiety that the news and social media are fraught with and then I look out my window and see the sun shining wildly in the streets. I am reminded that the light and the dark are always held in tension with one another. Our readings this past Sunday reminded us that celebration and suffering are interwoven. God doesn’t promise us a life free from suffering if we follow Jesus. Instead, God reminds us that suffering and celebration exist and that God is in the midst of both.
When we hold suffering or celebration too tightly, we squeeze the life out of it. Instead, we are to hold them both loosely—recognizing that we cannot cling to one or the other simply because they are so interwoven. I hear so many stories of how a birth followed in the heels of a loved one’s death, or someone’s ability to make fun and crack jokes at the expense of the cancer diagnosis they are fighting. We hold wakes when someone dies and tell raucous stories of their life. We know how to find joy in the midst of our despair. Why would sorrows not linger in the midst of our celebrations?
Our challenge is not to be to Pollyanna about the world or our lives. We cannot simply “keep it on the sunny side of life.” As Christians, we know suffering exists and we also know that sufferings are not our focus. Paul tells us in Romans that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us…” Suffering is not the end, hope is. Hope is what we are called to believe in. When hope is our focus then we can embrace our sufferings and not attempt to avoid or resist them.
We can never know what is truly going on in one another’s lives. But we can always know that whatever happens, “Just like me, you want to be free from suffering. Just like me, you want to know peace and joy.” Those two mantras remind us that at our very core, we are the same. Our shared common humanity is not that we don’t suffer; it is knowing that we do. And our prayer for one another and for ourselves is the desire that our sufferings do not override our sensibilities and disempower us from making wise decisions or responding to crisis in unhealthy ways.
To embrace our suffering is to take charge of it—shaping it in such a way as to inform us about who we want to be in the world. When we allow our sufferings to become our prison, we simply want to escape them—not grow from them.
Light and darkness, suffering and celebration are woven together. In the light, we can cast shadows and even manipulate them as shadow puppets dancing across the wall. In the darkness, we can shine a light for all to see as darkness can never cast out light. It is the same in our sufferings and celebrations—but we must choose to use them and not be controlled by them.
As I look around the world and see the darkness cast upon nations and individuals—my heart is weighed down with the woes of the world. I know that I cannot offer judgment as to who is right or who is wrong. I don’t know who I would be if I were in the same circumstances of life. I do know that peace is possible even amidst suffering; that hope can be abundant if we make it our focus and our purpose.
When we only see darkness, darkness is all we will ever see. Look for the light and you will see hope.
Light and Life,