We are…God knows, a people who walk in darkness. There seems little need to explain. If darkness is meant to suggest a world where nobody can see very well — either themselves, or each other, or where they are heading, or even where they are standing at the moment; if darkness is meant to convey a sense of uncertainty, of being lost, of being afraid; if darkness suggests conflict, conflict between races, between nations, between individuals all pretty much out for themselves when you come right down to it; then we live in a world that knows much about darkness. Darkness is what our newspapers are about. Darkness is what most of our best contemporary literature is about. Darkness fills the skies over our own cities no less than over the cities of our enemies. And in our single lives, we know much about darkness too. If we are people who pray, darkness is apt to be a lot of what our prayers are about. If we are people who do not pray, it is apt to be darkness in one form or another that has stopped our mouths.

Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons, “Come and See”

 

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I

This description of darkness sounds all too familiar to me.

I have an impulse to turn away from it, to not dwell on it lest it engulf me (as it has so many times).

I have a reluctance to admit how easily it can engulf me and for how long.

To be honest, I fear the depression it can bring on and how helpless I can feel in the throes of it.

I don’t want to risk feeling that dark, that hopeless, again.

II

God is Light.

Light doesn’t turn away from darkness.

It pierces it and exposes everything in it.

It looks into every corner to find what might be lost, to nourish what might be starving, to bring order where there is disorder, to give sight where there is blindness.

The darkness does not taint it, does not overcome it.

Light feels anguish at what it finds in the dark; anguish that breaks the heart and sweats blood.

Anguish is Love encountering the beloved in darkness; Light suffers anguish because the beloved is worth it.

Light, because of its anguish, brings warmth and hope and joy to the one engulfed in darkness.

III

God in me, with me, is that Light.

God in us, with us – Immanuel! – is that Light, doing even greater things through us, the many, who are following Him, the One.

The land once covered in darkness has seen a great light.

The land now covered in darkness can see a great light – if I, if we, follow the One in not turning away from it.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Grace and peace to you…

dw

The Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes those we don’t approve of and eats with them.”

And Jesus told them…”I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one person you don’t approve of who repents than over ninety-nine people you approve of who need no repentance.”

Luke 15

* My paraphrase, substituting for the words ‘sinners’ and ‘righteous persons’.

We who are disapproved are prized by the One who was disapproved.

We who are approved (and thus one with the disapprovers) miss out on the joy of heaven.

Lord, have mercy on us!

dw

p.s. My friend Samuel, one of the disapproved, is safe in Mexico with people who love him and care for him , including his son (!). God’s loving-kindness knows no borders and no bounds.

Samuel Oliver-Bruno is a friend of mine and a worshiper at the church I attend; he has lived there in sanctuary since January.  If you haven’t heard about him yet, you probably will on a news broadcast before the week is out.

I was one of the many who accompanied him to the US Immigration Office and who witnessed his entrapment and detainment by plain-clothed ICE officers who posed as customers until he signed in. I was one of the many who stood in front of the minivan to prevent ICE from conveniently disappearing with him. I witnessed the screams, the disbelief, the pleading for mercy, the betrayal, the terror. I witnessed the peaceful, prayerful, gracious-but-firm resistance. I witnessed my friends getting arrested. I witnessed Samuel finally being driven away: from his wife, his son, his friends, his church, his life.

I feel anguish, anguish that is probably going to last a long time. I won’t drag you through every bit of it, but it isn’t honest for me to post today as if nothing was different from last week. Life will never be the same for me and for the others who witnessed what I did. I imagine I will process some of it here with you over the coming weeks. For now, though, I’m writing to Samuel as a member of the living sanctuary that still surrounds him in our love and prayers for him and his family. I invite you to join that living sanctuary.

Samuel,

As I imagine you in the detention center right now, I love you and I pray that you are experiencing God’s grace and mercy even in that harsh, cold place. When I eat, I hope and pray that you are being fed. When I am with friends and family, I hope and pray that some of those around you are showing you care and loving-kindness. When I sing (and I need to tell you that this morning we sang the song you taught us), I hope and pray God is putting a song in your heart and on your lips.

I know your faith is strong, stronger than the chains and bars that detain you. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Your quiet, gentle witness is now booming out on social media and news programs around the world. The love of Jesus in you, I believe, is going to help “change the prevailing winds” in our national conversation about who we are and what we stand for.

Samuel, I would find comfort sitting by you right now; I know I would. That is how strong you are and how much you mean to us. You are Jesus’ beloved brother and God’s beloved child; that is who you are.

Grace and peace to you…

dw

Supernatural hope is the virtue that strips us of all things in order to give us possession of all things.

— Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island, Sentences on Hope

We’ve had a theme of sorts running for a good bit of this year on Thomas Merton’s reflections on what love is and isn’t. We’ll be switching now to the topic of hope. As we’ll see, hope may not be anything like we’d expect it to be, today’s quote being a jarring example. Merton will push us to examine our hearts in ways that maybe we haven’t before:

  • What do we hope for?
  • What do we hope in?
  • What does this mean for our soul?
  • What does hope that is good for us look like, feel like?
  • What does it accomplish in us and in God’s kingdom?
  • Do we have reason to hope for this kind of hope?

I sincerely hope this series is something you can connect with, something that speaks to you where you are and challenges you and gives you maybe a hope that’s been missing for awhile or maybe that you can’t remember ever having before.

Grace and peace…and hope…to you…

dw

p.s. Here’s a listing of some past posts on the topic of Love:

 

 

To love another is to will what is really good for him. Such love must be based on truth. A love that sees no distinction between good and evil, but loves blindly merely for the sake of loving, is hatred, rather than love. To love blindly is to love selfishly, because the goal of such love is not the real advantage of the beloved but only the exercise of love in our own souls.

— Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

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