Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Even When the Light Goes Out...

...there is some remnant, some residue that is left behind. This morning as I entered the chapel to say Morning Prayer I noticed that everything was in place and ready to go. A dear parishioner was there ahead of me and made sure that the candles were lighted, noted that the sanctuary light was burning, and had her prayer book marked and ready to join in. We dutifully - and joyfully - said our prayers. As we ended the service I got up to extinguish the candles on the altar and noticed two things:
1) The Sanctuary Light (just like the one pictured right) had gone out
2) There was this bizarre residue - a sooty filament remainder of the original wick that stretched from the bottom center of the tall glass votive to rim-height, rigidly standing in place.

I looked at the parishioner and noted that the light had gone out and she confirmed that it had been still burning when we began prayers. Then I showed her the "residue" - and we both said, "how funny - how strange." Could this be a miracle? OK, no. But...

It set me to thinking and the passage from 1 Samuel, chapter 3 came to mind where Samuel was ministering to the Lord under the old priest Eli: "the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision...Eli's eyesight had begun to grow dim...[but] the lamp of God had not yet gone out."
There have been many times when I've felt like this about the church: where it seems that we're not hearing from God (because our ears are stopped up with our fingers?) - where there's a real lack of vision (because we've turned our heads away from what's right in front of us?) - and as a result, our ability to see what is there begins to fade away. It worries me that we might comfort ourselves by saying things "well, yeah, but - the lamp hasn't entirely gone out." The problem with that attitude is that when the lamp has burned that low, we probably won't notice when it does go out. If there's a miracle here, it's the fact that even when the light does go out, that there is still some residue, some possibility of a remnant that is present and visible - if only just. And we are surprised by it.

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