From Capitol to Capital

A version of this was preached at an online midday liturgy at Atlantic School of Theology about a year ago. I was recently asked whether I would consider preaching it down the street at Saint Andrew’s United Church of Canada. I gave it a buff and polish and had the honour of sharing it with them yesterday. Several people have suggested that I find ways for others to read it too.

John 1:1-9

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.  I don’t know about you, but I find that desperately consoling.  

A little over a year ago, I heard from many people that they’d never have believed that events surrounding the storming of the Capitol, the insurrection inspired by someone in public office, could happen in the United States.  I have no trouble believing this at all.  A couple of days ago, I had conversations with people about the protests and blockades across Canada.  “This would have been unthinkable…” people said.  We had a community prayer one evening shortly after the incident at the U.S. Capitol building and the person leading it had a card with a Leonard Cohen quotation on the cover—There is a crack, a crack, in everything.  That’s how the light gets in… My reaction was telling— I have known for as long as I can remember that there are cracks in everything.  I have cracks, others have cracks, families and communities have cracks, systems have cracks… There’s nothing…nothing…nothing composed of humanity…that doesn’t have fissure already and the possibility of total fracture when the right wedge is applied.  The wedge of power, illness, addiction, righteousness, hate, fear, lack, vulnerability, ego, pride, -isms, need… There are cracks in everything… 

We have seen that in the city of Ottawa and the blockades of bridges; in the statistics of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls; in the numbers of acts of violence—physical or verbal—against Bipoc, in what has happened in the United States…in what has happened right here in Nova Scotia…in the ways we have failed a friend, ignored the opportunity to make something right… There is no shortage of cracks.  

I’ve been with others who have wondered about where God is in all of this—the ongoing mess in the United States, the world-wide devastation wrought by Covid-19, the fact that Canada has now given lethal aid in the form of arms and ammunition to Ukraine where tension is seething, and the convergence and overlap of all that is happening around the world.  Several days ago I was part of a conversation that touched on this and I rather suddenly realized that I don’t at all question the where of God in the midst of this whirlpool; what I question is the state of and exercise of humanity and what the present situation says about it.   The exercise of and the fruit of free will have led to much of the beautiful and much of the terrible in our world. God…love, compassion, welcome, fidelity… is in it all…my faith in that has not changed. So too is evil, division, violence, and hate…my belief in these being present is just as sure. Created by one with a capacity for recognizing and making manifest the both… Created by Love and Compassion with a capacity for hate, division, and violence…Such is being human.  Holding that both/and under the pressures of reality—unemployment, physical distancing, so much uncertainty on so many levels…yields…cracks…. 

I learned a lot when I was in Chile in and found myself shaking profoundly, nearly theatrically, at 3:27AM on February 27th, 2010 when a history making earthquake hit the country.  The earth had held on to the pressure building up from the friction of tectonic plates and could hold it no longer.  When that happens with the earth, you ultimately get an earthquake, a volcano, or a tsunami.  You get warning signs though—The tops of mountains that begin to send up smoke, or in the case of Chile, the temblorcitos, the little rumbles about a week earlier that I noticed when the water in my glass was swaying.  It’s a wild, wild, thing, that.  The pressure within must be released through fissure, through cracks, before equilibrium can be re-established.

When the pressure is held by society, there are warning signs also—agitations, smaller protests, a current of detectable discontent…and then there comes a point when the cracks begin spewing in release.  

When that happens, I have to choose, we each have to choose, by which force or power or inspiration –love and compassion or division and violence—I or we make our way, by which force or power or inspiration I/we recognize and navigate the cracks, the cracks, in everything…in the mirror by which I see myself, in the perspective I hold, in my relationships and affiliations…in my actions and decisions that shape a larger whole.  I have to.  We all..have to choose:  Complete collapse…or name and navigate the cracks by the light of a desire to heal, grow, be a greater, more nuanced, image of the one in whose image we have been created. Each choice has consequences that reach deeper and farther than we realize. 

What does it mean to choose to believe that light shines in the darkness and the dark does not overcome it?

It will mean different things to different people, for sure…but I’ll share with you the five things that came to me when I asked myself that question:

  1. Believing in matches (simple small acts)

For this to make any kind of sense and feel like I participate in fostering this faith, I have to believe that simple small acts of love, care, compassion, wonder and curiosity, welcome, inclusion…make a difference— because they did to Jesus.  Me offering my gifts, all of us offering our gifts—whatever those might be—makes a difference in the darkness.

A single match in the depth of the dark is as bright as can be. 

  • Believing in bonfires (community)

For fear to not overwhelm me, for comfort and sustenance, for the warmth coming from more matches than my own…I need to connect with others in whatever way possible, given circumstances.  To gather around the bonfire of Good that happens when 2 or 3 or 20 or 30 or 2 or 3 hundred or 2 or 3 thousand, gather in the name of Love, in the name of a greater common good, in the name of You are Not Alone.  This is light that can sustain…and the stories told around the fire glow like embers, memories in the heart, when we leave one another.

  • Believing in sparklers (joy)

There is joy to be had, to be discovered, to be revealed….and no matter how simple the joy is, it counts! The glorious interior bloom of the first sip of coffee or tea in the morning.  The warmth that comes from putting cold hands into warm pockets.  Sleep at the end of a day.  Clean sheets, clean water, clean air…joy and thanksgiving.

  • Believing in sunset (end, change)

Unless change happens, unless the world turns onward and we navigate by the stars…or we rest and allow others to navigate for a bit, there is no…

  • Believing in sunrise (fidelity of God…new chance, new day, future)

God’s fidelity is sure and certain.  Sunrise… A new day, a new opportunity to choose.  Sunrise, shared by the world.  As it is.  With all that is real.  With the hot mess and with the glory.

Light for the World…Light no Darkness can overcome…Light that comes through the cracks, the cracks in everything.  Thanks be to God. 

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