‘You are the light for the world.’ Matthew 5:14a
This morning I return from a month of vacation. My husband and I enjoyed long days of swimming, gardening, walking our dog, reading, and spending time with family. July is a time for us to catch up with family. When you work every weekend as most clergy do, arrangements to attend family celebrations can be difficult. Summer vacation, however, provides the freedom to catch up with people we love.
Long afternoons and quiet evenings in our home will find us reading the latest novel or a piece of literature that we have yet to enjoy. Years of spending family vacations at a cottage without a television created the ritual of planned summer reading. Room for the laundry basket full of books was a must. Food could be purchased once we arrived. Our reading material was the priority for our summer cargo.
Whether we travel or spend time in our own back yard, summer time novels continue to rate high on our list of planned activity. I enjoyed each one this year. I cannot say that they are stories of great hope. Most underline the cruelty human beings impose on each other. Whether contemporary (Frances Greenslade’s Shelter or Paul Vasey’s A Troublesome Boy) or historical (Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. Maureen Lee’s The Leaving of Liverpool, Morgan Llywelyn’s Brendan, Ai Mai’s Under the Hawthorn Tree) the novels I consumed this summer all speak to life’s challenges. Some challenges are not imposed by others, but are the consequences of our own actions or the tragedies that come our way (Lisa Genova’s Left Neglected and Sara Guren’s Water for Elephants). Let’s face it. Some times we wonder how people survive.
Tragedies happen as they always have. Illness and death can change our life in a flash, but creating pain for another because of greed, lack of respect, or power is a thread in human history that should invoke shame.
Who wants to feel shame because of the sins of our forebears or people who live on the other side of the world from us? No one, for sure, but shame like other negative emotions motivates healthy responses even if that response is a learning from another generation’s mistakes.
For some reason all of the books I read this summer share this common theme. Life can be cruel. Sometimes people, those we know and those we do not know, can be cruel to us. Such circumstances can change the course of one’s life, indeed the course of human history.
The hope I discover in such testimony is that of a redeemed way of being. Confronted with the stories the gifted authors have shared, the reader can only respond with a renewed vigour for living with a generous spirit, treating others as we enjoy being treated, and working to right the wrongs that still exist in our time.
Frankly, I believe the world continues to need the inclusive, redeeming love of Jesus. His way of being with others is energy worth embracing. His teachings provide a wisdom that leads to wholeness for entire communities. So friends, returning from vacation, rested and ready to go, let’s shine with the light Jesus sees in human potential. Following him, we are the light for the world.