Soul Food – January 2018

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

Happy New Year!! Was this a fast year or what? Well, at least it has been for me. We are at the beginning of a new secular year. Many people mark the milestone by making New Year’s resolutions that, somehow, go by the wayside around the second week in January, if they last that long. I used to be one of those people, but as I’ve said before, I gave up making resolutions for Lent many years ago and never started with them again. As a discipline, they were useless to me. By the way, it’s still Christmas until the 6th of January, so if your cards aren’t out or your gifts delivered, you still have time.

This has been an interesting year. I guess I can say that. Most of them have been in recent years. I read a January Soul Food from about five years ago, and it is basically the same. Nature is still acting up. The weather doesn’t get any better. Wasn’t it a weird Fall? The number of wild storms and fires continue with greater ferocity. Violence in our nation is an everyday thing, and though it may not be so, it seems that it is at an all time high. It gets wearisome.

I can really be depressed or angry depending on where my emotions take me at the moment. Sometimes, the world feels very dark. We look for answers because we want to blame something or someone. We want to fix it, or we want someone to fix it and often we challenge God. We wonder where God is and why he lets evil continue. Then we remember the answer. Something about we are to cooperate with God in the fixing.

And we can’t forget that there is hope. God has entered this world to be with us. We just celebrated that event on Christmas and then, six days into the new year, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. The term epiphany means “to show” or “to make known” or even “to reveal”. In western churches, we remember the coming of the Magi to visit Jesus and bring him gifts who by so doing “reveal” Jesus to the world as Lord and King. For Christians, The Epiphany is the festival that celebrates the many ways through signs, miracles, and preaching that Jesus revealed Himself to the world as Christ, God Incarnate, and King of Kings. We will celebrate this season until Ash Wednesday.

In the Orthodox Church, this celebration is called the Feast of Lights and it is so for us as well. In the Book of Common Prayer – morning prayer – there are two scriptures for use on the Day of Epiphany: Isaiah 60:3, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising,” and Isaiah 49:6b, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Jesus says of himself in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In John 9:5, Jesus also says, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” We need the light of Jesus in our world today.

Seven years ago, in December at an Advent retreat, Jesus told me to take my light out from under the bushel. I didn’t know that I had it under a bushel and I told him so. I only just planned to retire, but I began to think and pray about this. Shortly after, while taking a shower, Jesus told me that he had a dream for Trinity and it was that Trinity will become a light on the hill for all people. When I shared this story with a friend she said, “Did you know that this message was given to us by God in the 1980?” I hadn’t. But I believe it’s happening.

I wrote about this in the newsletter in January 2011, so I got that from the file to reread and to check on dates. That happened in the Epiphany season, also. I believe that we are trying to follow God’s dream for us. We are Christ Bearers – bearers of the Light. We want to be. It starts with each one of us in Jesus, spreads to the whole of Trinity and then into the dark world.

I started using Centering Prayer almost immediately after my conversation with God about my light under the bushel. It seemed to me that I was supposed to try praying this way. I haven’t necessarily tried to change myself in any particular way; I just spend time with Jesus, give him permission to do what he wants to do in me to make his light bright, and try to listen to his direction. This has changed me in ways where, often, I don’t even recognize myself. Not everyone finds this type of prayer helpful, but however you pray, spending time with Jesus each day is a must. All of our spiritual disciplines are important in making space for God, but prayer is the main way he transforms us into his light. It is in being openly silent while “paying attention” that change happens, and we are often not aware of it. Or, at least, I found it so.

Richard Rohr, OFM, says, “In more ways than one, we are waiting in darkness. The darkness will never totally go away, moral evil isn’t going to disappear, but the Gospel offers something much more subtle and helpful: “The light shines on the inside of darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it” – John 1:5. The only real questions become how to trust the light, receive the light, and spread the light. OK, that is three questions. We will continue to work on that.

Have a great new year as you spread God’s light and love around in a dark world. That is a good New Year’s resolution by the way.

Peace and Good,
Donna

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