Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, January 2, 2022
We come together to share, to lament, to share joys, to praise, to support, to be a community in a place in time, in a place in space, a building on land that sustains and reminds us of our history. On the lands of the Wabanaki peoples.
“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.” — Teresa of Ávila, a Catholic nun
Despair and hope. The essence of life, essence of faith, essence of the Holy Spirit. The only story worth sharing along with a large dose of love.
Anti-Apartheid Leader and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Funeral yesterday. Image of Desmond Tutu dancing in pink robes, being carried in a plain pine box. A life force of love and hope.
Wildfires in Colorado – Sandra and Tom looking out their front door over the neighbours houses into the smoke and fire blowing across the land. A force of nature.
Death of Corrymeela leader – Kate, a force to be reckoned with. A light of joy and humour. My friend Paul writing about my friend Kate. ‘Insightful leader, wonderful sense of humour, not always my friend but always my friend.’
Anniversary of Wounded knee massacre in 1890. The Lakota people refused to assimilate and did not allow westward expansion through their territories. A force of evil destroying vision.
Despair and hope.
One night long ago in a land far away.
On the road to Bethlehem one Christmas eve while teaching in the Ramallah Friends Schools, I was reminded again of the Spirit eternal presence. We meet every so often and the memory sustains me. This time I was walking with a large assembly of people from around the world, people who had started 2 years before in Seattle and walked across the United States and Europe sharing the words of the Prince of Peace. The original group grew, doubled and tripled, as people along the way left their families and homes to join the fellowship and the message.
I joined the group in Jerusalem at 4:00 in the afternoon. At first we talked quietly in small groups getting to know one another, hearing and sharing experiences of the journey and the excitement of knowing that this was the last leg of a very long road. As dusk darkened to night and we descended the hills to the fields around Bethlehem the talking stopped. Except for occasional whispers, we walked in silence.
I, as the shepherds long ago, felt very small out under the vast black sky. My eyes and the eyes of those around me were wide with anticipation, wondering what might happen and eager to soak up all that the shepherds might have seen and anticipated.
Both the Magi from the east and the modern pilgrims from around the world came far distances to seek the birthplace of the Son of God, to learn more about the Prince of Peace, to hear again of the Holy Spirit. They left their homes and families to witness, to see, to understand, to praise and to share the message of peace with others.
I was reminded again of the eternal presence of the Holy Spirit that Christmas eve many years ago. A hush had descended upon the group. The night was inky black. There were no streetlights or cars rushing by or the glow from city lights on the horizon. Darkness was all around.
Standing in the crowd I felt alone at first and then realized there was a great Spirit in and around me that filled me with the certainty that I was not and would never be alone. That black cool night warmed, and the light of the stars brightened the sky. The road had been long and arduous, my own as well as that of my fellow travellers. But the awareness and certainty of the presence of the Holy Spirit was with us, in our hearts, our souls, our bones, again and we would continue our lives and remember this joy.
May this new year be a time to know the presence of the Holy spirit even while remembering times of sorrow, to be quiet amidst the noise, to be alone with the Holy Spirit among the crowds, and to meet again as a reminder of love, joy and steadfast presence.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness” – Desmon Tutu
“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.” Teresa of Ávila, a Catholic nun