Lent 4: Facebook Live
March 22, 2020
Christ Church Gardiner
One summer when I was a little girl, my family took a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park—not too far from our home in Muhlenberg County. Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the world with over 500 miles of underground caves stretching underneath the hills of central Kentucky.
I only remember a few details of that trip many years ago. I remember how hot and humid the Kentucky summer was outside and how blissfully cool the air was coming from the caves as we approached the entrance where our tour group gathered. I remember that as we descended deeper and deeper into the caves how dark it got with only the light from the lantern of our tour guide. I remember learning that in the streams of the deepest parts of the caves, there were actually fish that had evolved without eyes. Because if there’s no light, there’s no sight, and no need for eyes.
But what I remember most is the experience of total darkness. Once we had made our way down deep into the cave system, our tour guide asked us to close our eyes. He then shut off his lantern, counted to three, and when we opened our eyes, we were surrounded by a chasm of dark and nothingness. And everyone was so quiet around me that it felt like I was completely alone in the world for a brief moment.
It was an experience I will never forget. There was beauty in the darkness but I also remember my heart racing with fear. I had a small moment of panic wondering if the lights would ever come back on. How would we ever find our way out of the cave if the light from that lantern didn’t reappear?
I had a similar experience a few years ago when we took our kids to Disney World. Catherine and I were riding the Space Mountain roller coaster together and while the darkness wasn’t quite as solid as it had been in the caves, I felt those same feelings of panic and anxiety as we were hurled through the dark.
Both experiences, the cave and Space Mountain caused me to feel vulnerable. In the darkness, I had no compass by which to chart a path. The fear of the unknown was palpable. What might I bump into in that darkness? Who would lead me out? I was totally reliant on the tour guide or ride operator to come out of the darkness safely.
In this past week, as we are all adjusting to a new way of living, at least for the time being, I have felt at times like I am struggling against the darkness and wondering how and when we will get out of it. I am lucky to be stuck at home with the people I love most in the world—but the fear is real and at times a little suffocating. I can feel my heart begin to race when I get stuck in the cycle of my anxious questions about this pandemic. My fears are for those who will get sick and die. For those who will be caring for the sick and dying. But they don’t stop there. I have heard the anxiety in our community from small business owners about how they will survive these weeks without customers. Friends have already been laid off or fear losing their jobs if this goes on very long. And then I turn to worrying about those who depend on the schools and other social services to have their needs met that are going without those services during this time.
These fears are real and justified, but I, and all of us, have to be careful not to be overwhelmed with the darkness they can bring. Because if we stay in the dark, we may find ourselves turning inward, focusing solely on our own needs and not able to see the needs of those around us. We could find ourselves so focused on our own safety and survival…and will we have enough toilet paper to get through this…that we forget to care for our neighbors. That we forget that we are part of a community—something bigger than ourselves.
We have to be careful that our fear of the unknown doesn’t turn to anger and a search for someone to blame. In our Gospel today, we see an example of how fear leads to looking for blame. When Jesus came upon the man blind from birth, his disciples wanted to know what had caused the man’s blindness. Was it the sin of his parents or his own sin? Instead of what can we do to help, so often, we would prefer to ask, who is at fault for this misfortune?
The translation of this story from “The Message,” which is a different translation than the one we just heard, has Jesus answer the question of the disciples in this way:
Jesus replied to the disciples, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines.”
Instead of looking for someone to blame, how will we work for God in the light of the sun, rather than hiding in the darkness of our own fears?
When we let the light in, we begin to see more clearly those around us and recognize our place in the community. Remember that instead of social distancing, we really should be implementing onlyphysicaldistancing. We can still be social and in community with one another through phone calls, letters and social media. Check in with those you worry about and bring some light into their day.
The letter to the Ephesians insists that we not dwell in the darkness but that we live in Jesus that is the light and that we seek all that is good and right and true—those things that are pleasing to God.
When we aren’t so afraid of the dark, of the unknown, we can begin to see the big picture and we can seek those things that are good and right and true. We can begin to imagine how we will live through this together and how we will continue to love one another as Jesus continues to love us. If we are children of the light rather than of the darkness, we will make a commitment to who we want to be when we come out on the other side. With a little faith and trust in God and our neighbors, we will be the light in the darkness, and we willfind our way through this. May it be so. Amen.