Rain came to the Bay Area this weekend, and today it falls steadily straight down, pounding our parched earth and blown sideways by the wind, pulling branches and leaves with it. We are grateful for this downpour, in spite of expected flooding in the northern counties where fire has burned away nature’s protections against erosion. The rain patters and splatters, tapping the windows in a kind of dance, and I suppose I should retain some of the credit for its appearance, since we recently washed our windows. Today, they are getting rewashed by the heavens.
And so, this morning, we chose to join our chapel’s streaming Mass rather than attend in person in Berkeley. We did not want to dodge speeding, weaving drivers on the slick highway in this storm, for they know no shame or fear. So we settled in front of our little screen at home, hymnals open and ready.
It wasn’t the same as being there in person, of course. The organ sounded thin, the video was rough, the voice of our preacher not clear. But we sang and sang and made do. And now I appreciate all the more the gathering together in real space and time with my brothers and sisters in Christ, at St. Joseph’s Anglican Chapel. Still, the rain and the singing and the words of the Mass, so familiar to my ear, comforted me in these speeding and dangerous times.
It seems each week our country steps deeper into foreign and frightening territory, a place of coercion and violence. Now we have parents at school board meetings labeled domestic terrorists, of interest to the FBI. I wish I was surprised, but I’m not. Once heading into the dark, it becomes difficult to see the way, to see the road signs. Each step takes us further from truth, freedom, and America herself. Can we turn around? I’m not sure.
A former president, whom I supported and admired at one time, has recently compared the January 6 protest in Washington D.C. to Nine-Eleven. Shame on him! The demonstrators, while guilty of trespassing, continue to languish in jail without timely charges and due process, and the “murderous insurrection” has been found to be lacking guns, quite unlike the Floyd riots, looting, and burning that crippled cities, that went on for twenty weeks over the previous summer of 2020 with little accountability.
In the midst of all this, in the midst of the the waves of tyranny and lockdowns and mandates, I have been noodling my next novel, collecting stories and ideas and characters as though I were a bus meandering through town. The theme that rises to the surface of my distracted mind is silence. The silencing of speech. The silencing of thought. The silencing, at the end of the day, of music, of sound, of bells, church bells. There are few bells left in our area, few bells allowed to ring. The UC Berkeley campanile still chimes, however, a block from our chapel, and sometimes I pretend they are church bells. But they are not. They glorify the religion of academia, the religion of woke, the religion of silence. How ironic. There was a time once, not so long ago, when academia meant free speech and productive debate, diversity of thought as well as persons. Seems another era.
Communist countries to my thinking are gray countries. There is little color and lots of sameness. There is little music or poetry or art (which feeds on freedom) unless usurped by the state’s propaganda machine. But our Creator created light and within light, prisms of color, the rainbows of de-light that are given us when the sun shines through the rain, when we are reminded of God’s promise to Noah, and thus of God’s promise to us. Our Heavenly Father will not abandon us, if we do not abandon him. He will allow hard times to come, for we have made bad choices, embraced the dark when we should have looked to the light.
I was glad to offer with others this morning my prayer of repentance and glad to hear the happy words of God’s forgiveness in turn. We can change, we can re-turn, we can choose a new direction if we desire. America can too, with God’s direction, with his bright light shining on the path before us. But we must desire this. We must trust him.
The Epistle this morning was one of the most beautiful and heartening Scripture passages I know, found in St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus (today Kusadasi, Turkey). He writes that we must take on the whole armor of God:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, praying always and with all supplication in the Spirit…”
Ephesians 6:10+, Book of Common Prayer, 1928, 219
And this is why we go to church. This is why we develop daily rules of prayer and Scripture (BCP has several). This is why: to withstand the times we are in, the times that are to come, the times on our doorstep. We need to be armed with Christ, fully armed with the sword of the Spirit.
Christians have become soft and lazy, luxuriating in America’s freedom, for she was founded upon religious liberty. Americans have become decadent, unthinking, and unappreciative. We are ripe for devouring (remember St. Paul’s roaring lion seeking to devour?). Will we turn, change, repent, in time? Will we teach one another how to love as God loves? Will we teach that we are all precious in his sight, all made in his sacred image? Will we honor him by keeping the Sabbath – Sunday – holy? Will we do our part?
I’m not sure. But I can only do my part as best I can. I do indeed desire to be protected by the entire armor of God – truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and God’s word, the sword of the Spirit.
And I desire it for my family, and all of you, dear readers – as the rain continues to fall, quenching the brown grass, as we await the sun and a rainbow, and one day again, the sound of church bells.