This has been one of those weeks that will stand out in our memories. On Friday night the news Leonard Cohen’s death spread quickly. Whether it is his own recordings or Jennifer Warnes Famous Blue Raincoat or k.d. lang’s haunting recording of Hallelulujah or The Once singing Coming Back to You – his music resonates. Leonard Cohen can weave together life, love and religion in a seamless stanza.
Then there was Wednesday morning. We woke up and found that the world had changed not necessarily for the better. I don’t usually comment on politics but somehow this seems different. The news is filled with stories of people afraid for the future. My children wanted to know if they could still go to Florida if there is going to be a wall. Immigrant children wonder if they will have to leave the country they call home. On Wednesday morning at Baylor University in Texas, a young black woman named Natasha Nkhama was walking to class when someone knocked her off the sidewalk saying, “No 'N. word' allowed on the sidewalk.” Another person walking behind, said, “Dude what are you doing?” His response was, “I’m just trying to make America great again.” https://www.buzzfeed.com/tasneemnashrulla/hundreds-of-students-walked-a-girl-to-class-after-she-was-al?utm_term=.vjAnOq3ZL1#.tyxJZxDjn6
On Wednesday morning my father sent my brothers and I an email that reflecting on his deep concern over the results of the American election. He left us with these words of hope “Yet somehow I hold to Leonard Cohen’s understanding that “there is a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in.” I am attaching a poem written by WH Auden as Germany invaded Poland and the 2nd world war began. It resonates with me.” The closing verse of WH Auden’s poem September 1, 1939 is this:
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Both Leonard Cohen and WH Auden in their poetry remind us that hope lives. In “Anthem” Leonard Cohen writes:
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
Those bells that can still ring are our voices holding on to hope and reminding ourselves and others that love not fear will have the last word. This is a promise reflected throughout scripture. Isaiah tells of day when the world will be changed. Those things that would divide us one from the other will no longer exist. God says through Isaiah “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.” (Isaiah 65:17 – 18)
Isaiah writes this after the destruction of Jerusalem and after the Babylonian exile when things looked pretty grim. Yet, in the midst of all these challenges – God says I am doing a new thing. This is God’s promise:
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labour in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord. (Isaiah 21 – 25)
Challenges may come, the world may look bleak and terrible things may happen. But God’s promise endures and you can count on it. The world is being rebuilt in God’s way of love. They wolf and lamb will feed together. The lion will eat straw like an ox. They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain says the Lord.
This is God’s promise to us. This is God promise for us. We may not be able to see that right now. But every now and then we catch a glimpse of what a world shaped with love looks like. It is hands reaching out in care. It is working to support one another. It is people standing for what is right. It is the 300 students at Baylor University in Texas who walked Natasha Nkhama to class on Friday. In tears Natasha said, “I just wanted to thank everyone for being here, and I want everyone who sees this to know that Baylor is a campus of love. To whoever defended me that day, I don’t know who you are but I thank you for being an example to everyone on campus.” https://www.buzzfeed.com/tasneemnashrulla/hundreds-of-students-walked-a-girl-to-class-after-she-was-al?utm_term=.vjAnOq3ZL1#.tyxJZxDjn6
Challenging weeks come and go, what remains is God’s unshakeable word of hope. It is the promise that love drowns out hate and that love is stronger than fear. Let us make God’s love real in the world. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Amen