Last spring our Academy group traveled from our retreat center into the heart of Birmingham, AL, for a civil rights pilgrimage. We walked through the Civil Rights Institute, witnessing the stories of the saints and martyrs who were lights shining in the darkness of racism in the 1950s and 60s. We walked through Kelly Ingram Park, where children and high school students were met by police dogs and fire hoses.
We gathered in the sanctuary of 16th Street Baptist Church to hold our service of Eucharist. In 1963 a bomb exploded under the steps of this church, killing four girls and injuring twenty-two other people. In this holy place, we sang together, heard the scriptures read and proclaimed. We broke bread and poured the cup. We remembered the brokenness of Christ, of our history, of today. We affirmed our hope in the One who came to bring peace, scatter love, bind up wounds, and whisper comfort.
At the end of the day, we arrived back at the retreat center tired, grateful, and troubled. We prayed the familiar words from the night liturgy: “We have wounded your love. O God, heal us. We stumble in the darkness. Light of the world, transfigure us. We forget that we are your home. Spirit of God, dwell in us.”*
The liturgy, the community, our common love and struggle—all these are the “container” that allows us to see God’s light illuminating our own privilege and racism. May each person find communities of love, trust, and liturgy where we can be nurtured, challenged, and loved.
*From “Prayer of Confession” (Night Prayer), A New Zealand Prayer Book: He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (New Zealand: William Collins Publishers Ltd., 1989), 168.
God of transformation, may your light shine into the shadows of our world, illuminating the way to justice, mercy, and love. Amen.
In the week leading to Transfiguration Sunday, the texts all deal with holy, transforming light; but they also speak to the awkwardness of waiting for and finally experiencing that light. Elisha’s is a stop-and-go pilgrimage before he sees the chariots of fire. The psalmist proclaims the march of the sun across the sky while also waiting for the eschatological arrival of God’s justice for God’s people. Paul empathizes with the believers in Corinth who are having to wait and work to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a mountain where they wait and are terrified by the cloud of glory that overshadows them.
Read 2 Kings 2:1-12. Think of a time when you waited for a blessing from God. How did the waiting feel? How did you experience the blessing when it came?
Read Psalm 50:1-6. What helps you to be aware of God’s presence with you from “the rising of the sun to its setting” each day?
Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. What are the areas of your life where God is shining a light? Are there any areas where you may be blind to the light?
Read Mark 9:2-9. Identify a spiritual “mountaintop experience” you have had. What was the lasting impact of that experience on your life as a follower of Christ?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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