joyful is the dark

nightoceanSometime in the magical blur of divinity school I learned about the way we use imagery of light and dark. Light is good; dark is evil. Light is safe; dark is scary. Light is energy and hope; dark is depression and loss. I learned that language frames our reality, and so when it goes unexamined, imagery like this can uphold destructive cultural patterns, especially when it comes to race.

Since then, during these, the darkest days of the year, I ponder how I can confront my own ingrained prejudices and reclaim dark as good – if not for the world, at least for myself. This year it comes to me through a hymn (HWB 233) I just learned a few weeks ago:

Joyful is the dark, holy hidden God, rolling cloud of night beyond all naming, majesty in darkness, energy of love, Word in flesh, the mystery proclaiming.

Joyful is the dark spirit of the deep, winging wildly o’er the world’s creation, silken sheen of midnight, plumage black and bright, swooping with the beauty of a raven.

Joyful is the dark, shadowed, stable floor, angels flicker, God on earth confessing, as with exultation Mary, giving birth, hails the infant cry of need and blessing.

Joyful is the dark coolness of the tomb, waiting for the wonder of the morning. Never was that midnight touched by dread and gloom; darkness was the cradle of the dawning.

Joyful is the dark depth of love divine, roaring, looming thundercloud of glory, holy haunting beauty, living, loving God., Hallelujah! Sing and tell the story!

A joyful solstice and the goodness of the dark to you. -sk

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joy of giving

Rock Bridge Christian Church, 12.8.13

As some of you may know, I have an inside glimpse into the spiritual life happenings at  Westminster College. For those of you who don’t know, my partner, Jamie Haskins, is the campus chaplain. Let me just assure you that in her world there is rarely a dull moment.

For example: Each year about this time Jamie is asked to hold a memorial of the body worship service.

Now we know there are many reasons to bless bodies. We bless newly born bodies when we dedicate infants in our congregation. We bless bodies when we baptize. We bless the symbolic body of Jesus at communion each week.

But this body blessing was not for any of these usual reasons. This blessing each year comes at the request of students and professors in Westminster’s Human Anatomy course, and it is not for just any body.

Who is this blessing for then, you might ask? Well, of course this blessing is for the bodies of the the cadavers that the class has been working with all semester. Let me say that again: to bless the bodies, the cadavers, the dead, dissected, human bodies that the human anatomy students have been working with all semester. They honor the two bodies – the two sets of dead bones that have taught them so much. Two sets of bones that if not physically dry are at least metaphorically dry and devoid of life.

Can these bones live? I think yes. Human Anatomy is a class that shapes the skills of young, vital minds, minds that will go on to give life themselves and continue the giving. Behind new life is an intentional and joyful gift: two people giving away their very bones…

As we give, be it from our lives, our bodies, or our checkbooks, we can be assured that from us the giving will continue.

Welcome to the joy of giving.