Learning to walk in the dark is a book I've been reading this week, by Barbara Brown Taylor. She wrote it because she came to understand that truth often resides in the darkness - that sometimes we discover things through endarkenment, rather than enlightenment. One particular passage leapt out at me which I will quote in full, this Holy Saturday. She's writing about the dark time when the moon is not showing.
'Tonight there will be no moon in the sky. For close to three days it will rise and set with the sun, leaving the stars alone to light the night. I always wondered why it took three days for significant things to happen in the Bible - Jonah spent three days in the belly of the whale, Jesus spent three days in the tomb, Paul spent three days blind in Damascus - and now I know. From earliest times, people learned that that was how long they had to wait in the dark before the sliver of the new moon appeared in the sky. For three days every month, they practiced resurrection.' (p 108)
Despite the brightness of the sun today, this Holy Saturday feels like the darkest of days. I am also, like many others, reading The Plague by Albert Camus, which is a novel about a town called Oran in North Africa, closed down by plague, and how the residents respond. By and large, they don't respond well:
'In the memories of those who experienced them ... the grim days of plague stand out like the slow, deliberate progress of some monstrous thing crushing out all upon its path.'
I'm more with Barbara Taylor Brown than with Albert Camus, though. For Camus there is an emptiness, a despair: for Brown, in the darkness there is hope and the potential for new life. Today, as we live in this strange time between death and resurrection, when there is no blessed sacrament in the church and we are all locked down and/or fighting COVID-19, is a day when we can acknowledge the dark but wait for the light.
Camus turns out to be wrong, because, in this global experiment, what seems to be emerging most strongly, and perhaps surprisingly, is love. Tomorrow morning, at the Dawn Mass 6 a.m. and again at our main service at 10.30 a.m, we will be celebrating the inexhaustible upsurging of that love. You can access the services by clicking on the link. We have put additional security measures in place so there is now a waiting room, and one of the hosts will admit you. If you're joining us for the Dawn Mass - or even if you're not - can I urge you to read the great readings from the Old Testamentwhich tell the story of salvation? A very good task for Holy Saturday.
Can I urge you too to think about making an Easter Offering to St John's? We are facing a challenging financial situation as most of our income from lettings and bookings has ceased, and our weekly collections are reduced as the congregation is not coming to the building. Can you make a donation or increase your standing order to help us continue to be here for you - especially if you normally give by envelope? One-off donations can be made here. To set up a standing order, our bank details are here. Thank you!
We are setting up a gallery of images from the lockdown. The WhatsApp group is producing many (and you can easily be added to the WhatsApp group if you would like to be) - but if you have a picture you would like to be on the website gallery, please send it to me or Lisa. And today I would like to thank Steve Rawlings, part of our Front of House team, who is doing sterling work every day on keeping the website up to date. Thank you, Steve, for everything you're doing!
Finally today, a poem by Mary Oliver which I may have sent already but feels right for today.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees,
The mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air, are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
Over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
With my love and much prayer on this most holy but most empty of days,