“We cannot live in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a hope. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening. To use our own voice. To see our own light.”
–Hildegard of Bingen
Being able to see is important; if you’ve ever had to stumble through a dark room, walk to your car on a dimly lit street, or be ‘led’ while blindfolded on one of those trust walks, you know how important seeing can be. But being able to see clearly doesn’t just refer to our eyesight, it can also reflect our ability to understand and articulate a vision for who we are and what we do. Jesus, we remember, heals those who have trouble seeing and the church has tried to follow that model, with mixed success. There are many of us who experienced the church as controlling, judgmental, hypocritical, and fake. And yet, we make up the church, we are the body of Christ on earth; what happens will happen because we do, or don’t, do it. Where humanity and God meet is encouraged or hindered by what we do. We gather in worship to participate in Eucharist and in prayer, because it’s where you see yourself in God’s story, see what keeps you distant from God, and see that you are loved, forgiven, and valuable to God.
As we begin Lent this Wednesday, I hope you experience in the ashes placed on your forehead and in the bread and wine you consume an invitation beyond the loneliness we all feel, all the false promises you’ve been told, all your fears about God and about your future. I hope you experience a welcome beyond isolation, a relief from the emotions of yourself which control you, a need for attachment to another person, an idea, an evaluation. I hope you find the courage to engage, listen, let go so that all the substitutes we use to cope are seen for exactly what they are, substitutes. All of these things: ashes, bread, wine, prayers, inclusion, connection, and love are about a vision we find when we stop worrying about whether or not we’re on the right path, and trust in the presence of God and one another to find the way by what sight we have.
The church isn’t perfect, and that’s because you and I who make up the church aren’t perfect. Lent is about recognizing we don’t have to be perfect, only faithful. And this week, this Lent, is an opportunity to begin again to use our own voice, and see our own light which points us to God. God is already there, eager for you to connect your sight and your voice with something more than what you have in a world interpreted by others.