Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
it is still very dark: a poem
I have not known,
nor have I heard,
and if I ever did,
I have forgotten in this
I have not known starlight
for many weeks,
I have not heard shouts of good news
for many months,
but I am searching for it.
Searching for things restored,
for things to be again
in all their strength.
that memory once forgotten,
that news once heard—
knowing well I will remember
and the sparrows will sing good news—
knowing well I will forget again
and will get up and search again,
but that is well
for there is time to search again
because it is still very dark.
The world is in such a state of disrepair that it takes little effort to respond to scripture’s questions in the negative.
“Have you not known?” No, I have not.
“Have you not heard?” Heard what, exactly?
“Has it not been told you from the beginning?” I doubt it.
“Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” Well apparently not, considering all of the fires burning upon the earth today.
What comfort or courage is there to be found in these questions? Asking them merely reminds us that something has been forgotten. This image of the Holy One, a God who is powerful and in control of the world, is bitter. The growing part of myself that is weary and angry from a year where nothing seems to be working out for good wants to lash out at Isaiah’s words. “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God’?” Because it feels like it is.
Yet power cannot be given to those who are faint if there are none who are faint. The powerless cannot be made strong if there are none who are powerless. These promises of renewal can only exist in the reality that we are weak. The comfort and courage—and dare I say, hope—of these words is that in spite of our own weaknesses and powerlessness, there is one who is not faint or weary. To hear of a distant being who is untouched by our human reality is of little comfort, but that is not who this Lord is. This Holy One, this Creator, who does not faint or grow weary does not stay outside of the world in which we travail.
The healing Jesus performs in Mark 1:29-39 is surrounded by unclean spirits, diseases, and demons. The weak and powerless surround Jesus, and he does not shy away. Instead Jesus walks into the room where a woman lies ill, takes her hand, and lifts her up from the weakness. Jesus then stands at the door in the midst of the world in all its afflictions and brings them to newness.
As Jesus stood at the door, the sun went down. The next thing we know, it is morning and it is still very dark. It appears that it is still very dark when Simon and the others went searching for Jesus. It appears that it is still very dark when Jesus is told, “Everyone is searching for you.” And, it appears that it is still very dark when Jesus goes back out into the world in which we travail. The Holy One enters into the very dark world with us.
It is here, after sundown and before we hear of sunrise, when all is still very dark, that forgetfulness creeps in. Here in the middle we go searching. As I wrote in the poem above, if I have ever known or heard I have forgotten, and so I go searching. As I sit alone in my living room across from pixeled faces on a computer screen, I go searching for words of comfort to hold close to my heart. As my Burmese friends reel at their country being turned upside down in a day, I go searching for words of courage to bring to them. As we all wait for longer, warmer days when maybe we can hug each other again, we go searching for words of hope to embrace in the meantime.
Here we are, in the world that is still very dark, and we are searching for God. The world is so dark, surely the Lord cannot see our way. Surely we cannot be regarded by God because we cannot be seen. But as we lie down, faint and weak from constantly searching to no avail, the Creator reaches down, takes us by the hand, and lifts us up. We can stand on our feet. We can soar and search for the morning. We can run out into the travailing world and walk alongside the weak. Arm in arm with our sisters and brothers we help them up and go searching again, and that is well. And if we forget, that is also well.
While it is still very dark, there is still time to search for God. While it is still very dark, there is still time for us to reach out our hands and find one another. While it is still very dark, Jesus will still be out in the deserted place. The Creator will still be ready to reach out a hand and lift us up, reminding us of comfort, courage, and hope in the midst of all that is.