Monday, November 05, 2012

Of Candles and Community

It was a weekend lit by candles.
It was a weekend marked by community.
It was a rich time, a set apart time, 
a thoughtful and reflective time. 
Six hours on Saturday, working through a series of Ignatian
prayer exercises, every hour, on the hour.
A candle in the room where I landed helped light
the way to the inside of me,
the place where God quietly pokes and pushes
the deepest parts:
Holy Spirit, warm me and warn me;
like a candle flame -
pierce the darkness in me,
warm the space in which I live and move,
light the way forward,
remind me of Truth.
Bless me, O Lord, for I have sinned.
Guide me, O Lord, for I am blinded by the dark.
Speak to me, O Lord, for I am distracted by the glitz.
Nudge me, O Lord, for I get stuck in the muck.
Breathe in me, O Lord; I am gasping,
in need of your oxygen to find my way.
A break for lunch led to an unexpected and rich conversation.
And that led to reading through an unassigned psalm for the day - 
Psalm 71 to find verse 14:
 "As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more."
Words which brought deep release and profound
meaning for a friend.
And then, as I prayed the rest of the psalm out loud,
verse 18 seemed to call my name,
reminding me of who and where and what I am
at this point in my own journey:
"Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation, 
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
This is my primary call I think.
And there are days I embrace it,
and days I run from it.

Sunday morning, All Saints' Sunday,
 brought candle upon candle,
brilliant points of light across the altar table.
As the deep bass note that begins
Vaughan Williams' glorious hymn,
"For All the Saints," resounded through the sanctuary,
people streamed to the front.
Each person picked up a votive candle to add to the table,
each light representing saints who have
crossed to the other side:
"O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!"
All are one in thee -- for we are all thine.
I carried a candle for my father and my brother,
my husband carried one for his father and our son-in-law.
And people everywhere around the room
brought light, light, light.
I love the way these pictures came out sort of ethereally blurry, not ghost-like, but somehow a reminder that
those who've gone before us are every bit as real
as the ones who sit next to us in the pews.
And I believe they are that near.
We sang through the entire hymn* and then began one of my favorite contemporary songs whose words include:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come;
With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings;
You are my ev'rything and I will adore You."**
And still, the lights kept coming
Until we were literally ringed with it,
fluttering wicks lifting their heads to heaven,
reminding us that we belong to one another.
I loved every minute of it. 
And I am deeply, deeply grateful
for all those who've led the way,
kept the faith,
followed hard after Jesus
and built the church over time and around the globe.

*While looking for a video of this grand old hymn,
I stumbled across this home-made video
of a young man who looks about 14 years old!
And he's playing it on the organ, in an Episcopal church
in Little Rock, Arkansas.
And it gives me hope that someone will still
be playing organs in years to come!
One of my all time favorite hymns --
and somehow, it is the organ that most makes it sing,
even without words.
And here is a version of that glorious "Revelation Song,"
written by Jennie Lee Riddle for Gateway Publishing in 2004,
sung here by Phillips, Craig and Dean.
(We do it with much less drama and a whole lotta heart.)
Joining with Michelle, Jen, Ann, Laura and Laura on this Monday night:

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