Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This week the clergy of the Diocese of Leeds met with the new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell (by Zoom) who talked with us about the world we live in. Not the would we should live in, but the world we do live in. He began with an image of a tunnel and the old saying, the light at the end of the tunnel. This reminded me of a bike ride I went on many years ago, back home in Washington State. My two friends Dennis and Nancy, along with two of our children and I decided that it would be “fun” to ride through the Snoqualmie foot and bicycle Tunnel on our bicycles. The tunnel is about an hour out of Seattle on the Highway 190, way up in the Cascade mountain range. It was built as part of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul and Pacific Railroad which connected Chicago to the Salish Sea of the Pacific Northwest (including Seattle) and operated from 1909 until 1980. Now it forms part of the Palouse to Cascades rail trail, in Washington State.
That day we loaded up our bikes into my friend’s pick-up truck and drove a couple of hours from our homes to the trail head. Now I just want to say I have always been the most ‘recreational’ of bike rider. And the pedal bike I owned was very much for ‘recreational’ use. But I wasn’t worried, the tunnel had a hard-packed surface and was only two miles. What possible problems could there be???
So we got there, unloaded the bikes, and prepared for going into the tunnel. Now part of the preparation is making sure the headlight on your bike works. Dennis, being a serious bike rider had a real made for purpose bicycle headlight. The kids and my friend Nancy and I had to make due - we duct taped flashlights (torches you know) onto our handle bars….what could go wrong? You see, you can’t actually see the light at the far end of the tunnel when you start, because the tunnel curves, and the end doesn’t become visible until you are nearly a mile and a half in. Before that it is dark…dark as in absolutely no light at all, you are completely reliant on the light source you bring with you.
Well, as you can imagine it all became quite comical. My flashlight kept slipping down so it only pointed to the ground and a few times even fell off. The kids and Dennis were way ahead of Nancy and I and we quickly lost sight of their lights. Nancy’s light seemed to stay on her handlebars better - not sure why, so finally I just followed her little light surrounded by the dark, trying not to run into her. Its was funny, and terrifying at the same time and I was sooo grateful to see that light at the end of the tunnel - it began as just the smallest pinprick of light that grew larger and larger, with the light from Nancy’s flashlight becoming unnecessary as we neared the end of the tunnel and emerged into the beauty of that lovely summer’s day.
So when Archbishop Stephen began with his image of the light at the end of the tunnel this experience immediately came to mind. Now his point was that as Christians, we don’t really live for some light at the end of some long, cold, dank tunnel. We live always surrounded by the light through Christ Jesus. And just as the caution on the web reminds would be bike riders through the Snoqualmie Tunnel, we are completely reliant on the light source that we bring, or if you don’t mind me modifying the analogy a little, the light source that we accept. And sometimes, like me in that tunnel, we have to rely on the light others bring when we can’t quite get our connection to the light quite right, and that is okay. That is what being part of the Body of Christ is all about.
We are soon to enter the dark time of the year, but darkness is only darkness if you have no access to the light. Christ brought us this light. And today given the present very disturbing news coming out of the U.S. and the rest of the world I think it is important to remind everyone of what St Paul says in Romans 8: 35-39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us remember that we live in the light of God’s love, God’s presence. As we are told in the Gospel of John: What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
All of us are part of this light, all of us at times can and indeed must, hold the flashlight, as it were, for others when we find ourselves in dark places. And all of us, at times, need to rely on the light others carry. We go into the winter time - a time of uncertainty, a time of anxiety, a time perhaps even of danger. Many, many others have gone before us. What we need to do is to keep our eyes open, spend time basking in God’s light through prayer, through worship, through singing of songs, through reading of scripture and other good books, through loving our neighbors and our family as best we can. Then we are the light receivers and light carriers and then no one and nothing can overcome us, can interfere with our journey in light to the light.
With all Blessings,
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas