Posts relating to classes and other events coming up at the Cathedral, and other interesting musings born of Cathedral Arts, are in the works. I look forward to other voices appearing here, and what they might say. The Dean’s blog is also now accessible from our website.
But the guest posts aren’t ready, yet. We have been dealing with the renovations in the Cathedral, been away on vacation, or working on getting ready for our Homecoming Sunday celebration, to which you are all invited. So I now write one more summer-themed post.
But I don’t know what to write that is summery or light. My job as the Cathedral Arts missioner urges me to connect our desire for God with what we make of it. I want to show beauty now but, like many Americans right now—even after a vacation—I feel darkness. And even while I visited beautiful beaches and ate fresh figs and seafood, that darkness never went away.
It was heightened by a day at Virginia Beach. I saw a sign advertising what I thought was vacation Bible school, “VBS.” I saw something similar in a couple of more places, and then in longer form, “VB Strong.” Then it dawned on me that Bible camps were not cropping up everywhere. These were references to a slogan written for the mass shooting that had occurred in Virginia Beach two months earlier.
On our way home from the aquarium, a bus ahead of us stopped short and our van was rear-ended. As I fought down my impatience over waiting for police to come I imagined a different family in a fender-bender two months earlier, kept waiting because of people being shot.
As I waited with the others, all of us trying to be kind, I realized that the sense of security I thought I was missing on vacation was something false. Contemplating my family’s vulnerability was a vacation activity I did not plan or want. But it deepened me.
People, Americans especially, resent feeling small and powerless. We invent countless ways, vans and big houses and five-dollar coffees among them, to fortify ourselves against our weakness. Though we differ, we often agree in the great lengths we go to to feel strong.
We don’t notice even when refusing to name what we lack is threatening everything we love.
I think I am not alone in wishing to wake and find violence gone without having felt it myself. I think others also meet their children’s belief that they might be shot with little better than disbelief. Others, even after coffee, must also have the insane thought that the biggest problem with all of this is that it interferes with our motivation to get to school and work on time.
Avoiding the darkness of this summer’s violence—for others, every summer’s violence—is not something I feel I can do at this moment. But I will point to light. A psalm offers a picture of where God is in relation to light and dark:
Even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to You. (Psalm 139:12, NRSV)
Gospel stories reflect us now in how Jesus reveals people always wanting more. Jesus is counter-cultural, now, in how he reminds us of our vulnerability. Competence never impresses Jesus.
It is the needy people who demand his help, often exhibiting something better described as desperation than as faith, whom Jesus dramatically heals. By contrast, those who appear less shabby leave their encounters with Jesus with a change of career or with a deep sense of dissatisfaction.
The dissatisfied people are those who ask Jesus for answers instead of for healing. They get none--only an indication that answers might come if they change their questions. Facing their unknowing can infuriate people. I imagine that this fury had a part in what killed Jesus.
I am not trying to offer answers for the darkness we face. I am trying to imagine what would it look like if we didn’t fill our abyss with stuff--material goods, blame, slogans--and knew how to sit in darkness together and be vulnerable, even desperate.
Might we appear as Gospel characters--not necessarily healed, but coming to life in the strange light of Jesus?
This is from the prologue of the Gospel of John, which is an artist’s gospel in how it deals in chiaroscuro—in how its scenes use darkness and light to tell the story:
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1: 4-5)