‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’
The title of Washington National Cathedral’s noonday service for the day after the election was: A Service for Healing, Unity, and Hope. I wasn’t sure what light I had to shine, and so I turned my gaze to Jesus and his light.
This is what I know about the healing process: if your body sustains a deep wound, and it scabs on the surface, it can look as if healing is taking place. But if the connective tissue underneath the skin doesn’t come together, that part of the wound often gets infected and grows worse, hidden from view. So as we pray for healing in our nation, we do well to remember that there is little to be gained and, in fact, much harm to be done, if we tend too quickly to the surface of things while ignoring the wounds underneath. The deep divisions of our nation have been once again revealed. Deep healing is what’s needed.
This is what I know about unity: what we call unity often comes at the expense of those whose inclusion is too costly. This is as true on the playground and in family relationships as it is in the wider society. That exclusion is then forgotten by those who have settled for what the prophet Isaiah called “peace when there is no peace.”
We don’t have to look far for examples from our history. After the Civil War and the political whiplash of the subsequent decades, there was a strong desire for national unity. Monuments were erected across the country and stained glass windows installed in churches, all in service of unity between North and South. Blacks were excluded from that unity. Some of the most shameful events of our history–lynching, Jim Crow segregation, voter suppression–took root in that period and we have erased the worst from our collective memory. Thus as we pray for unity, may we remember that the kind of unity worthy of the Kingdom of God and represented in the mosaic of this nation is not one that can come by exclusion, but by reconciliation.
And this I know about hope: it isn’t something we need to manufacture, for it is God’s gift. Hope often rises from despair. Hope can stir our hearts, even when we have reason to give up. It resists platitudes and wishful thinking. Hope allows for grief. It never chastises us for being exhausted and worried, and hope doesn’t ask us to pretend that everything is going to be okay when we don’t know if that’s true, at least in the short term.
But what hope does–and thank God for it–is help us to rise again, not from our strength, but from the strength that comes to us from the deepest wells of the human spirit, where God’s divine spirit meets us. It’s the most amazing thing.
There is a cost to this hope, and we have to choose it, because it refuses to deny the reality of suffering. St. Paul writes this about the importance of suffering, “for suffering is what produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope–and this hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5) The source of our hope is the wondrous, limitless love of God.
In Love is the Way: Holding onto Hope in Troubling Times, Presiding Bishop Curry reminds us of the “Ten Commandments of Nonviolence.” They were part of the training for all those taking part in the nonviolent struggle for Civil Rights in the 1950-60s. Curry asks us to imagine a world in which even a percentage of Christians committed to these things:
- Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
- Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation — not victory.
- Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
- Pray daily to be used by God in order that all might be free.
- Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all might be free.
- Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
- Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
- Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
- Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
If we do those things, surely the light of Jesus will shine through us, and we will bring hope for deep healing in our land and the kind of reconciliation that can lead to unity.
May it be so.