It sat by the front door all night long – lights shining – all night long. My mother-in-law died a day and a half before Christmas. Most of the things that filled her room, the things needed for a woman who had been completely bedfast for 3 years, had been cleared out. The hospital bed went back to the company that provided it. Many items were donated to people or organizations who could use them. The only thing that remained was the fabulous electric wheelchair the home health company insisted was needed. It sat quietly in the hallway, never used because Kay was afraid of it.
The day came when someone was to pick up the wheelchair. Because it was a contactless pick up, we turned the power switch on, pushed the joystick and guided the thing outside the front door. After a while the man called and told us he didn’t have a ramp to his van that would enable him to pick up the wheelchair. This contraption is the fanciest wheelchair I have ever seen, and it weighs a lot. You can’t simply fold it up and put it in the trunk of your car. The man told us he would return the next day with a ramp to drive the chair into his van.
The chair was turned on once again and maneuvered back into the house overnight. The challenge was the “headlights and red running lights” were now activated and neither my husband nor I could figure out how to turn them off. We didn’t know how they switched on and we didn’t know how to switch them off. We read the instruction manual, still in its plastic case. We did everything we could think to do, and still the lights were on. They stayed on all night long, lighting up the front entryway to our house. They were on in the morning when we went into the kitchen for breakfast.
Determined to figure out how to turn the lights off I sat down in the chair and began to fiddle with everything I could reach. At one point I reached down to touch the wheels and felt a piece of plastic. When I pulled on the plastic, like magic, all of the lights went off. No more bright headlights shining, no more red running lights glowing. My husband and I did a happy dance. The chair could now leave our house to be used by someone who might really benefit from all that the chair has to offer a person.
I share this silly story because it causes me to reflect on the fact that we have entered a new year. How many of us anticipated a new year with the thought that 2020 would finally be behind us? Yet we realize that 2021 stills carries with it the 2020 lights that will not turn off. Political divisions run rampant as we await a run-off election Georgia, and the inauguration. We find ourselves deep into the difficult discussions about social justice issues around the pandemic, health care, white privilege, and racism. Some of us would love to find the off switch to those issues and let life go back to what we think it should be. The reality is that the off switch to these important discussions is found only when justice and equity are available to all. My belief is that this won’t happen until people of faith are able to first have the discussions with grace and strength, followed by determined action to change culture, change reality, change our thinking.
I recently watched a worship service where one of the East District pastors was giving a sermon from Isaiah 9:2-6.
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned…
5 Because every boot of the thundering warriors,
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned, fuel for the fire.
6 A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
For Christ followers the new year began not with the turning of the page of a calendar, but with Advent. We began to hear about the light that was coming into the world and in the Gospel of John we see that the light has indeed come into the world in Jesus, the Christ. Isaiah tells us that this Messiah would lead in ways that were painful for those attached to political definitions and healing for those who have walked in darkness.
In his book, Intimacy and Mission, Luther E. Smith, Jr. writes these words: “In the beginning is the image. In the image is the beginning… Fundamental to the Christian story is the belief that Jesus’ life reveals (images) his message and meaning. Jesus embodies his religious commitment…In Jesus, the word is made flesh.”
It is a new year for us, and the issues that were present in 2020 are still very much present now that it is 2021. Let us, as a community of faith, find grace-filled ways to struggle with discussions that we do not want to have. Let us believe the best in one another, even when we disagree. Let us find ways to incarnate the love and grace of the Child who has come to us. Only then will we be able to turn off the light of anger, division, injustice, and inequity. Together we must work to find the off switch, (and it will be work). Together we will shine God’s light in all we say and in all we do.
I invite you to join me in reading Luther E. Smith Jr.’s book, Intimacy and Mission: Intentional Community as Crucible for Radical Discipleship. As we move into this new year, trusting that the pandemic will come to an end, let us turn our eyes toward creating a new future that will empower us to work side by side for the transformation of the world.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the book and how it impacts how you live your faith into reality.
Your sister along the way,