A great darkness

“In those days, after the suffering the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light…” (Mark 13:24)
This week, I rather foolishly weighed in on two debates on Facebook. Normally I make it a policy to not use social media as a platform for discussion because there’s something about the fact that we don’t see each other’s faces that seems to breed more aggressive communication, and I don’t like that. The first issue I weighed in on was an initiative by the Business community in Brockville on buying “3 meals in 3 days” from local restaurants.
I need to tell you from the outset that I’m all about supporting local and small businesses. That’s what I do. So, my objection was not the initiative, but instead was around the language used of buying “3 meals in 3 days” was the ‘right’ thing to do. Forgetting, of course, that the ability to eat out is a privilege that not many people have. In fact, many of the staff in these small businesses can’t afford to participate in this ‘good’ initiative because they lack the necessary funds. My objection was that somehow we turned privilege into virtue, and when we say that purchasing on this level is ‘good’, it implies that those who can’t (of course, for complicated reasons) purchase on this level are ‘not good’ or bad.
Material assets and privilege turned into a virtue rather than a responsibility.
The second place I weighed in on was on vacationing in developing countries; and that if we are able to take vacations in such places, that we needed to consider what life was like for those who lived in these countries and the exploitation of their service. Again, I’m all about supporting responsible tourism, and I’m getting to the point in the year where I will give up my first-born (sorry, Elys) to lie on a warm beach somewhere, but there’s something wrong with our world when we can vacation at a resort where those who serve us may not even have a place to live. Along these lines, there are groups of us who can, in essence, have two homes; a house and a cottage – and yet in these same cottage communities there are people couch-surfing or living in milk sheds because housing is not available.
I like vacations. I like cottages. I also like eating out. I also am more than aware that my consumer habits support an awful lot of people and communities. What I object to is that my consumerism now comes with a value statement; buying is ‘good’. Spending on luxuries is ‘good’. And we haven’t begun to take a hard look at our social systems that has turned consumerism into ‘goodness’; and, in fact we have let this value seep insidiously into our thinking so that we don’t begin to critical evaluate this kind of thinking, and descend into a path where those who are not consumers (for all sorts of reasons), and those who can’t begin to afford this misaligned virtue become vilified. (O.k. that was a huge run-on sentence but I don’t have an editor to fix it for me!)
We are heading into Advent. In the church calendar year this is considered a time of ‘waiting’ or of anticipation. This year our scriptures begin in the place of ‘darkness’; a place where we can’t ‘see’. In the Book of Mark this inability to see, is considered a lack of spiritual and emotional clarity or direction. In the middle of this place of darkness, we as a people of faith are called to look for signs of hope, and also called to stay vigilant in the darkness. Vigilant in the middle of systems of oppression and darkness, looking for the signs that herald a return to God’s ways in this world. God’s ways where we are called to justice, mercy and humility (Micah 6:8). God’s ways that will shine a single star; a single star lighting our path to a barn where a baby was born because there wasn’t anywhere else for this child. The child that will light our world and call us to a much different place.
My pictures today on this blog need a little explanation. The first is of a battery operated tealight that I have on top of my notebook where I keep a running commentary in meetings, grocery lists, ideas for the church, prayer lists etc. Its like a written version of the commentary in my brain. When I’m at the church, I put the tealight on top of it to remind me that I’m called to do and think differently; to do and think in a way that means that materialism and consumerism isn’t necessarily ‘good’ and that privilege is a responsibility. The other picture is of a rag-doll given to me by the UCW presbyterial after I spoke to them on one occasion. This doll is supposed to be a reminder to me of the children living in poverty in Canada. She sits, usually, overlooking my work in my office.
So, today, dear Bethel family, join me in this vigil in the darkness. Join me in looking for signs of new life as we wait. Join me and looking for the Star that will lead us to a different place than the world expects; a place of justice, mercy and humility. Join me in allowing the running commentary in our brains be illuminated by this single point of light, and supervised by reminders that we are called to a virtue of caring for ‘the least of these’.
Blessings today, and remember you are Loved,
Rev. Lynne

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