No One Can Hold Back the Dawn / Light is Returning – 12/22

Are you ready for the world to turn? We have made it this far, through a season that grows colder and wilder, through this time when autumn allergies mix with winter colds,  through a time of big headlines and everyday frustrations. And maybe not all of us have made it. We have among us our share of grief and losses, and we or people we love may be in danger. Yet, as a community, we are still here. That is worth celebrating. 

On the whole, we’ve made it this far, by way of our wits and our creativity and our interconnectedness, none of us entirely on our own steam. The tools and techniques that have gotten us here may or may not be the ones that carry us forward. Sometimes the ways we solve problems in one phase of life are not adapted for the next phase. So, I ask you again: Are you ready for the world to turn? 

When the world is very much with me, and I haven’t seen the sun enough, sometimes I struggle with hope. There is a quote from the Rev. Dr. William Barber that I think about at such times. I used it in a newsletter column last year, and it bears repeating. Dr. Barber writes:

“When I was growing up in eastern North Carolina, I used to love to sit in my grandmama’s kitchen and listen to her sing as she made dinner. Whenever she was done cooking, she’d give me a plate to eat. Then she and some of the other sisters from the church would make up some to-go plates and, with their aprons still on, they’d head out the door to visit the sick and shut-in. ‘We going to hope somebody,’ Grandmama would say.”

So ends the reading. Hope is a verb. Hope is what our Lay Ministers do, and what our Caring Coordinator does with your help, when they reach out to members who are going through a difficult time. Hope is what we do when we make sure everything in the church is ready for weddings, funerals, child dedication ceremonies, and other rites of passage. Hope is what we do when we show up for and with our neighbors at Shepherd’s Table or at immigration justice events or at the legislature in Annapolis. 

Practicing hope as a verb might put us out of our comfort zone. Practicing hope connects us with other people when that might be hard or awkward or uncomfortable. We are sure to run into situations where we don’t know what to do, don’t know how to be the experts. Doing hope requires us to try things that are new. 

I don’t know about you, but in difficult times, sometimes I get through the day in ways that are not sustainable. There have been times in my life when survival didn’t leave me a lot of room for seeking out discomfort. But then, once the worst was over, I was out of the habit of turning toward connection. Remembering how to hope took work, and I needed help to do it. The trick is to notice, so that we can be ready to shift our perspectives and our strategies toward the ways that are life-giving for ourselves and for everyone in our communities, especially those who are most vulnerable. Are you ready for the world to turn? 

You are not alone. We are not alone. Despair lies to us and tells us that we are isolated beings. Empire lies to us and tells us that all we have are our individual choices. Sadness lies to us and tells us that things can’t get better. But we are not alone. We are connected, as my colleague Wayne Arnason says, “in mystery and miracle, to the universe and to each other.” And nothing is forever. At some point, the sun begins to rise earlier again. At some point, it will be time to plant seeds. At some point, the people come together to notice the beauty still among us, and the people organize to let that beauty thrive. No one can hold back the dawn. 

When the world turns, the way we have done things before may or may not be what carries us further. We don’t always know how. But we can share our reasons why we go forward. We remember the things we are grateful for, we remember the things that are worth struggling and sacrificing for, we remember that awe and wonder abide. Write about these things. Sing about these things. Create art and drama and awkward, clumsy craft projects about these things. Let our gratitude, our awe, our love for this world and the people in it fuel our capacity for doing hope. 

The world is turning. Let’s get ready. 

So be it. Blessed be. Amen