Let us take a moment before we begin to pray and reflect on the things to be grieved and the things to be thankful for from 2020. Allowing each its own place in our heart, without allowing one or the other to cloud or shut out the other.
We will always have a bit of bias based on our past experiences. We can get stuck in wanting to focus on what we like or dislike in ourselves or others or experiences. We want to see our own experiences and struggles as special, and they are, but there is also a commonality in all human experience that brings us together and should not separate us.
Reflect on the things to be grieved and the things to be grateful for. We all have both from 2020 in one way or another. May we not refuse to see the grief and loss. May we not refuse to see the things to be grateful for.
Yes, we are coming back to John the Baptist again. I think he can help us in our moving forward into 2021. He comes to do two things: to clear the way and to bear witness. Maybe it feels like we should be talking about clearing the way as we end an old year and come to a new year, but if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to hold that off for next week.
This week, I want to talk about Bearing Witness. John comes to bear witness to the coming of Christ as the son of God.
Now, I want to talk about the pews. Yes, the pews. Those things we sit in each Sunday. Maybe not currently, but usually. I think it’s a good time to think about it when we’re unable to be in our usual places.
Ever notice how much we love our own pew? Our own comfortable pew? How it’s uncomfortable when we’re forced to move for some reason, or worse, not even in a pew at all (right now). We know the way the light will come in. We know how warm, or chilly, it will be. We know that all the books we need are there. We know how the cushion will feel. Maybe we’ve even marked our space or set out things for our personal needs. A blanket, a pillow, a book and some crayons for the kids.
Remember how it feels when we come in and someone else is in our pew. How does that make us feel? It’s okay to be honest. Maybe we get startled or mildly irritated. Maybe we promise ourselves we’ll start coming early to get our own pew. Maybe we feel agitated in not know where to put ourselves. Will we upset someone else?
We can laugh, but we’ve all been there. We’ve even all talked about this idiosyncrasy. But is it an idiosyncrasy?
Why are we always drawn to our own pew? Why do we get upset when we don’t get to sit in our own pew?
It’s comfort. Comfort.
We know where everything is. We know how the sunlight will fall. We know how the heat will rise. We know exactly who’s around us and what to expect from them. They’re our mini circle within the circle. We know what to expect when. When the communion cup will come to us. When the offering plate will come. We can see everything the way we like. We can hide if we like.
We can smell the coffee. Maybe the baked goods. The smell of the candles burning. Someone’s perfume.
We have all these familiar sensory impression and we can settle into place. With comfort.
It’s the place we Bear Witness from.
How many weddings, baptisms, funerals, services for new members, celebrations, and special and holy days of all variety have we witnessed from our pew?
We remember where so and so sat. We remember when so and so snapped and broke the foot rest during a service. We remember when so and so broke out in laughter…actually making a Joyful Noise to the Lord in the middle of service. We remember so and so reciting their vows and we remember and connect to our own. We can almost smell and taste the memories.
When we settle into our pews each Sunday, we connect to that memory and history. That connection in ourselves to others. All that we have born witness to. Our family, our friends, our loved ones.
I’m blessed that I also teach yoga here. I often hear that this place has a sense of sacredness that the students feel no where else…
Each Sunday is a bearing witness. To God’s word. To the cross. To one another. We listen to and hold each others hopes and dreams, concerns and sorrows. We watch each others lives and support one another. We lean on each other. We light one another’s lights when our own are dim.
We bear witness to one another’s lives.
John the Baptist bears witness to the Light of God incarnate.
We bear witness to the light in each other.
As we move into 2021, I am hopeful for an abundance of weddings and graduations and birthdays and holy days that we can celebrate with one another. I pray for a year of bearing witness to the joys in one another’s lives as family and community.
May 2021 be the year of connection and community. May the dear Lord hold us in Grace.