Our congregation had its annual retreat at Camp Friedenswald this weekend. The trees in southern Michigan were at their peak of color and I spent much of the weekend wandering around taking photos of light shining through leaves. I’ll save some of that light and color for posting on the next rainy day – memories are a good source for sparks of light in the midst of dreariness, thank Heaven.
John and I went back to Goshen last night for a gathering with friends and returned just before sunrise this morning, in time to spend a peaceful hour watching the gradually increasing light in the fen, and listening to the calls of killdeer, geese, and redwing blackbirds.
Looking over the fen, just before sunrise
About an hour later, when the sun has risen far enough over the hills behind us for the light to reach the fen.
It was a restful gift of slowly increasing light and birds singing praise, a good base for learning soon afterwards that tragedy has again touched the congregation. The father of one of our members, and a colleague of the many members who work at Goshen College, Jim Miller, was stabbed and killed by an intruder in the early morning hours. His wife was also injured and is in the hospital.
Darkness and light. Death and life. How can this be?
During the worship service, after the children left for Sunday School and the details we knew were shared, after one of the pastors led in prayer and we sat together in silence holding the family in God’s Light and wrestling with the chaos, the worship leader stood and in heartfelt Hebrew cried, “Eli, eli, lema sabachthani?"
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" he translated, drawing on Jesus’ words from the cross. “How can this be?“
And yet, he went on, it is. And so is the bright sunshine, and the colorful leaves, and this group of people gathered together, giving thanks to God.
Life and death. Lament and praise.
Back home again, I found this prayer from Philip Newell’s Celtic Treasure:
O God of light,
from whom all life flows,
may we glimpse the shinings of your presence in all things.
In the darknesses of our world,
in places of fear and terrible wrong,
and in the darknesses of our own lives,
in times of confusion and doubt,
may we glimpse the shinings of your life-giving presence.
Amen and amen.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"