Sermon Series Planned for January
I guess it was three years ago or so. I was leading the “Time with the Children” in worship, making a point about how light is helpful because it allows us to see what’s there and that makes us feel safer. Laura considered what I said and then pointed out that we can’t see the stars in the light. We need dark for that. From that moment on, I have pondered the gift of darkness.
I typically associate darkness – I suspect most of us typically associates darkness – with malevolence. From the imagined monsters under the bed or in the closet to the imagined dangerous animals beyond the light of the campfire to the imagined mugger down the dark alley, darkness evokes feelings of anxiety. So, too, with the darkness within: we fear our anger and our hatred – toward others and toward ourselves.
And right there, I just did what Christianity too often does. Too frequently Christianity has used “darkness” as a synonym for sin, ignorance, spiritual blindness, and death. Some feelings are “dark,” feelings like anger, hatred, vengeance. This language, sadly, pits day against night, identifying God with the sunny part of the day and leaving us to deal with the rest on our own time. And this language implies things about dark-skinned people that are not true.
Far too much theology has framed things as either/or, explaining reality in opposing pairs: good/evil, church/world, spirit/flesh, sacred/profane, light/dark. I know I have done it, and probably do it, even though I think it is a pitiful shorthand for the way things really are. The world is much more an experience of both/and. None of us is perfectly good nor horribly evil; we are both good and bad. And the separation of spirit and flesh is actually counter to the very miracle we just celebrated: that God’s love takes on flesh and that we experience spirit and flesh together in Jesus. That’s what the incarnation is all about.
Why do we think of light as good and darkness as bad? God doesn’t. Speaking for God, Isaiah says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name” (Isaiah 45:3). Perhaps it’s time to think about “the treasures of darkness.”
We are embarking on a season that feels like darkness to me. We don’t have a place to call home right now. The church staff is scattered – Randy and Cecilia working out of a trailer, Pastor Brenda and I working out of our homes. We’re rending one space for worship and another space for choir rehearsals. What will it be like during this time? How will we find our way forward?
The answer to our anxious questions might be framed this way: “We need to learn to walk in the dark.”
I will begin a sermon series on January 4 inspired by Barbara Brown Taylor’s latest book, Learning to Walk in the Dark. During the coming weeks we will look at the role of fear in our spiritual and community journeys. We will explore the possibilities of being hampered by too much light. I will reflect on blindness and what St. John of the Cross called, “The Dark Night of the Soul.” And in February, Pastor Brenda will finish the series with a reflection on “Our Lady of the Underground.”
While I suspect I will quote from Taylor’s book during this series (she’s one of my favorite preachers, so I enjoy her writing), you might want to read along yourself. I certainly hope that will not be necessary, but it may be beneficial.
I look forward to exploring with you how learning to walk in the dark might enhance our journeys and carry us through this time of “in betweenness.” I look forward to seeing you in church.