Annual Meeting Day Message from Fr. Justin Lanier

Posted on Jan 28, 2014

Annual Meeting Day Message from Fr. Justin Lanier…

“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. This darkness in Hebrew (חֹשֶׁךְ choshek) means hiddenness, obscurity, a secret. The people who sat in that Hidden Secret, that Darkness, saw a great light. That Light (אוֹר ‘owr) in Hebrew is used for God, for illumination, for day-break. Darkness is not simply the path to light, that darkness is also that which we seek. Darkness and light are both alike to God, as Psalm 139 says. God is obscure and yet clear as day. In time God becomes all in all to us, showing us the true nature of the incarnation – that the Kingdom of heaven is indeed not even a hairs breadth away from us. But in today’s gospel Jesus tells us to Repent, to be transformed, to enter into that Divine Darkness.
“For those who sat in the region of the Shadow of Death, light has dawned.” This shadow of death (σκιά skia, θάνατος thanatos) is the birthplace of this Light. The Greek here plays the Darkness with the Shadow of Death, and this Darkness (σκότος skotos) was as the blindness of being inside the womb. This darkness is the place of secret growth, and of the hidden death that is central to the Christian life; this dark place is none other than the Cross of Jesus Christ, the birth and death of this indwelling God.
Remember the 3 hours of darkness overshadows the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit overshadows the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation… Jesus himself alive in the darkness of her womb.
There is no birth without time spent growing and turning and kicking in the womb. There is no resurrection without the trial, the passion and the crucifixion of Christ. There is no dawn without sitting in darkness.
So we must repent, we must enter into this darkness, this secret place, to pray
in darkness as God sees in darkness and dawns in darkness, causing us to see this Great light.
We are a people called into the depths of this dark and pregnant place, to be born, to die, to see light and to boldly proclaim it.
Often times as Christians we are quick to talk about the light that is Dawned, and not actually enter into that secret place, that blinding womb in the soul, that Cross of Christ that is at the gate of the Kingdom, the bottom of Baptism.
Our annual meeting is today. And we will take a look at our parish life. We will look around and see some of the others with whom we practice entering into that Cross of Christ and we get to enjoy one another’s company. We will see our anxiety about numbers – be it financial, pledging members, practicing members, Sunday attendance, younger people, older people… It is good to see this anxiety. To see it as it is and not try and get some distance from it or change it, or perfect our best narrative about it, just let it be there. When we push it away or try and change it or go into a great story about what is wrong and how we should do things, we quickly forget the call to darkness, to sit in the shadow of death. Anxiety seems much more addictive than sitting in the dark womb of the Christ. Every time we push or pull we try and tell God how we want God to be present. I want you present here God, but not here. We simply end up pushing and pulling our way out of the Cross, away from being born.
If we are to invite people into this Christian life, this community, we must be inviting them not simply into the idea of the resurrection, or light, but inviting them into repentance, into the dark womb of God. So let us Repent, let us enter into this secret region and sit there, get acquainted with this shadow so that we might truly see the dawn and proclaim this invitation to God’s own life and love. Amen.