It's fitting, it seems.
I'm not preaching this week, but my Monday morning routine is engrained in me nonetheless. Scanning a few choice websites for the latest news, just to have ruminating in my mind as I prepare to step in the pulpit. Here's what I found in a quick 30-second scan:
- Domestic terrorist attacks (involving, surprising for some, a domestic shooter)
- Continued high-alert ISIS threats
- Harmful political rhetoric from presidential candidates
- Refugees being held at bay
- Devastating climate change
- More harmful political rhetoric (cause apparently that's a thing these days)
- Shooting threat at an esteemed American university
- Someone bragging about taping their dog's mouth shut with duct tape (for real)
- Loneliness is bad for you (in case you were wondering)
- Continued mourning of Paris
Man. Perhaps I should've kept the laptop shut.
Although what good would that have done, really? It wouldn't have kept that stuff from happening. I'd just learn about it eventually. There's no getting away from it, certainly not shut laptops.
All of which strikes me as I think about what we did at Trinity yesterday. We gathered in our sanctuary for Sunday worship and began with a single candle lit - our first Sunday of Advent candle. The candle of Hope.
One of our young families did the honors reading the assigned text from Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light
Those who live in deep darkness -
on them light has shined.
And then we pray together the words found in the morning's bulletin: grant that the light of your love for us, God, will help us to become lights in the lives of those around us. Prepare our hearts for the love and gladness of your coming, for Jesus is our hope. Amen.
We pray those words, but in truth, we prayed for much, much more:
- For love to always trump fear
- For harmful political rhetoric to be replaced with helpful dialogue
- For our deeply human desire to welcome the stranger to win out over isolationism
- For swords to really be transformed into plowshares
- For people to begin seeing the creation and its creatures not as a resource to exploit but a gift to cherish
- For loneliness in the loneliest time of the year to lead to human connection
- For mourning to turn to dancing
All of which is captured in the last words spoken by the family up front - the youngest member, commissioned with the final and perhaps most important line:
Let us worship God!
And the way she said it - the way only a child can, perhaps - took my breath away. See HERE for yourself. I'd spoken those words a thousand times before worship, but this was something else entirely.
And maybe that's because of the hope? Hope in the sweet sound of a child's voice saying something so utterly profound; hope in the simple imperative for God's people to come together and be taken out of themselves and out of the darkness into the light, so when it's all said and done that light can shine from us to where it's needed the most.
Let us worship God. Or, as I like to say at the close of worship, let us live simply, love generously, speak truthfully, serve faithfully, pray daily, and leave everything else to God. (1)
Especially in hopeless times, there sure is a lot of hope in that.
1 - my benediction every Sunday, adapted from words by Fred Craddock.