One of my favorite plays is written by William Shakespeare and involves the fanciful frolics of fairies in the wood, which creates havoc among the lovers in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Towards the end of the play and after the fairies’ mischief has been mended, Puck comes on stage and says,
“And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate’s team
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic. Not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallowed house.
I am sent with broom before
To sweep the dust behind the door.
In his short speech towards the end of the play, Puck is there to make preparations before the other fairies arrive to bless the house of Theseus and Hippolyta. Puck is there to sweep the dust behind the door, to clean the dust that remains within the house as a way of preparing for a future that is filled with blessings and with joy.
It seems that God is calling this place, this congregation, these beloved children, to engage in the same work that Puck is doing at the end of the play. Over the past many months, you have been engaged in the difficult work of finding a way forward, of cleaning the house before inviting the gifts of a new priest to serve as your rector. The work of cleaning the house is difficult work for a congregation. It is a work that involves looking behind every nook and cranny within the house and shining a new light in those crevices. In the midst of that work, we discover uncomfortable truths about ourselves, and we discover things that we might prefer to simply pass over. And it is here that it becomes most important for us to invite the light that God sends into the world. The light of God is a light that penetrates even into the most secret places and sheds light on the truths that might be troubling for us to see. The work of shining the light of Christ upon ourselves is the work of discerning who this particular congregation is called to become as it moves towards that new future filled with the promise of blessings and joy.
The Lenten season is often characterized as a time of penitence in which we are to ask forgiveness of our own sins and the sins of the world. We often think of the season as an arduous one that places large demands upon us to become “better Christians” through the recognition of our sins. And yet, it is also a season that offers us hope and serves as a metaphor for where this congregation is in its own life of faith. The season of Lent is indeed an arduous season. Lent is difficult because it is a season in which we are asked to shine the light of Christ upon ourselves and to be honest with ourselves in a way that is so very difficult to do in an age that expects perfection, in an age in which being vulnerable to the light is seen as a sign of weakness instead of a sign of strength. Lent is difficult because it is one of the most countercultural seasons of the Church year. It is the season that demands vulnerability in order to see clearly who and what God is calling us to become.
The season of Lent, then, becomes a metaphor for the work of transition that All Saints’ is doing in the present moment. The work of transition requires the strength and courage to welcome the light of Christ into the nooks and crannies of the life of this congregation and to take a long, hard, honest look at who we are as a parish within the larger Church. The work you are called to do in this moment is to ask the difficult questions and listen to the difficult truths, but it is important to do this in a very particular way. The difficult truths that surface in the work of transition need to be heard, but they can only be heard if we are willing to listen to what we are saying about ourselves – as individuals and as a parish. The challenge that we face in listening to the difficult truths is to actually listen to that truth. It is to shine the light of Christ on the places that we would rather keep secret, and it is to acknowledge how shining the light in those places invites healing because the dark places are no longer dark but are full of light. To actually listen to a difficult truth is to allow it to be named, to allow it to exist as a reality that is being faced, and to resist the temptation of offering up easy excuses or defenses.
As the light pierces the places of darkness, we begin to realize that it is by shining the light on the entirety of who we are as a parish that we are able to hear how God is calling us into ministry as a parish. The light of Christ pushes us into the work of discerning how God is shaping us and how God is calling forth the gifts of All Saints’ to be shared with the wider world. The light shines on and around the life of this congregation in order to rediscover how we are able to harness the gifts of each individual member of the body in order to glorify Christ and to remember that we are a people not born of blood but of the Spirit. The light demands that we recognize these gifts while also recognizing who we are not. In recognizing who God is calling us to become, we are preparing the ground for renewed ministry as a parish that is situated on the New River in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. We are able to recognize precisely how we can be the hope that this community needs in a time that has no shortage of despair and loneliness.
Unlike Puck and the fairies that run from the presence of the sun, we are called to move towards that light and to allow the light to pierce into the very essence of our being as individuals and as a parish. The warmth of the light enters into us and allows us to become a renewed people earnestly striving to be a faithful disciple of Christ. The warmth of that light helps us to see that “those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”