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Sitting in Darkness

Luke 1:68-79, Luke 3:1-6 and Excerpts from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donohue

Sunday December 5th 2021

By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche

Good morning and welcome again, I missed you last week. Thank you to Jackie and Robb for leading, I really just slept!

As we come to this time in our worship, I invite you to take a deep breath to let yourself arrive more fully as we all prepare our hearts and minds to hear whatever word God has for us today. Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen

“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency…The eternal makes you urgent…” These words by John O Donohue from the Anam Cara felt like Advent to me this year. Because right now we are living both with a great sense of great urgency about all that calls upon us, and also at the same time, it feels a bit like we are sitting in darkness. Even with all of this warmth and light, it feels a bit dark in our world.

In part because we aren’t sure where we will be led or what will happen next. In the darkness of breakdown, in the darkness of knowing some of what was is falling away, the darkness of uncertainty and also while we don’t know what is next and in some places how to be, still we feel this urgency. And I have been pondering that complacency seems incompatible with discipleship and still there is too much that calls to us, so much, that it can feel difficult to know what to focus on. And I have learned in the last years that it can be quite painful to have an awakened soul, to be awake, it can be hard to be awake. It’s hard to keep paying attention and to keep caring, to keep hanging on and to keep coming forward with who we are to share what we have in the space between, in the darkness between the world that is, and the one that is not yet.

And I feel the urgency, but it’s frustrating because there is not enough light on the way forward, so there is sometimes a sense of feeling stuck, which can leave us feeling a bit hopeless, like we are waiting and watching, wishing even.

This is the second in our Advent series on seeking. And I love that it is part of who we are as a church. The very first line in our original mission statement is that we are a community of seekers. And today we are talking about seeking wisdom.

The messages from the Gospel of Luke also come from a time where some felt like they were sitting in darkness, feeling stuck, hopeless, waiting, watching and wishing even…for the path to be prepared, for the way to be clear. It was a time when the Romans were encouraging worship of the Emperor and tensions were high all across the land. How could a new way be found when so many are devoted to those who just want power?

And in the first chapter, we heard Zechariah’s song, poetry about how God never forgets, how God shows mercy, how God shows up and how God sends messengers, wisdom bearers to guide us. Even when it seems impossible or unbelievable. Zachariah is the father of John the Baptist and so this is before this episode where we meet him here. He had an encounter in the temple where the Angel Gabriel comes to him and says you are going to have a baby, even at this old age. And he doesn’t believe it, so the angel takes away his speech and says you won’t be able to talk until this prophecy has been fulfilled. So what you heard, was when he gets his voice back.

And like the text in chapter 3, these writings are about inviting us to be ready to hear beyond the surface, to awaken to even what we have been told is impossible.

But what does that mean right here and now, as we live with both a sense of urgency about all that calls upon us and also at the same time, we are sitting in darkness? Maybe waiting for the impossible? So how do we prepare the way? How do we hear the wisdom? How do we keep going when it isn’t clear where to go?

Lynn Twist wrote recently of this time as “a pivotal time” that calls upon our imaginal cells. She reminds us that in butterflies, they eat almost everything in sight when they get to a certain point in their evolution. That sounds fun! And they do this because these so called “imaginal cells” contained within them are activated and those cells then become the genetic director of this caterpillar's future. The remaining cells are then become the nutritive soup, out of which emerges the miracle of the butterfly.” And she offers that perhaps those of us alive today are something like those imaginal cells, shapers and crafters of what will be.

She writes, “Like the butterfly, we are being called to hospice the death of the old systems that no longer serve and that threaten our very survival.” That’s really hard to hear! But it also means we have the opportunity to be the evolutionary activists, to be the shapers, the midwives of the world that is not yet, and I do believe this. And I do believe that this is a time of reimagining, reshaping our relationships to one another, to ourselves, to work, to the Earth.

So what if this is part of what it means to prepare the way of the Lord right now? Sitting in darkness, but not in a passive way, in a way that is calling upon our imaginal cells. The ones that are asking us to hospice the collapse of all that isn’t of God, of all that isn’t building up beloved community, of all that is taking life and love from all of creation.

In her book, Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm, Cynthia Bourgeault, a Christian mystic writes of our call to respond to the imaginal realm. She says “imaginal is direct perception through the eye of the heart, not through mental reflection or fantasy…it is also primarily the realm of cosmic assistance. It is the “place” from which saints, teachers, masters and all manner of abler souls reach out across the apparent divides between the worlds...”

What if this is a moment not to move forward with our head, but rather our heart?

So what if, instead of feeling hopeless and stuck, lost in the darkness, we can see that we have enough light, we have enough to be calling upon our imaginal capacities in our cells. We have what we need.

What if our call as people of faith right now isn’t to figure out how to keep going in the dark, how to push and do what we have always done, but instead what if our call, is to be open to not doing that, to let go of all that doesn’t work or serve?

What if our purpose is to be among those holding hope, pointing out how powerful we are and how important it is to be shapers in what some are calling “the great turning” or the great disruption or the great rebalancing?

What if hope doesn’t come from knowing how to keep going? What if the wisdom we need right now doesn’t come from carrying on as we always have, but rather what if what we need can come from not doing that? From daring to let go of what we thought would work now? From being open to the impossible, the imaginal?

Hear these words on “Hope” by Victoria Safford

“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges; nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right,” but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see too.”

Beloved of God, it’s okay to feel this urgency, it means you are awake! Know that hope and peace and wisdom will come from us staying attuned, paying attention with our hearts. What if our call right now is to be “evolutionary activists,” shaping the future that we know God wants?

And what if our hope right now won’t come from knowing how to keep going, how to carry on as we always have, but rather, what if preparing the way of God right now, is having the courage not to?

Beloved of God, dare to let go, even as we sit in darkness, “let us remain, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing and asking them what they see too, knowing we are already a part of the great rebalancing toward Love. Are you awake? The Eternal makes it urgent. May it be so. Amen.

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