"We Know the Darkness, Look for the Light:" A Letter from Bishop Reed
from the Rt. Rev. David M. Reed, Bishop of West Texas
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On Wednesday, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, a jarring phone call interrupted my drive home from an ordination in the Hill Country, and I learned of the violent mob occupation of our nation’s Capitol. A beautiful day, filled with light, suddenly became very dark. For two hours on the highway home, my car radio ranged between three stations while my feelings ranged from shock to grief to anger.
I thought of my several tourist trips to Washington D.C., remembering how moving and inspiring being there in person felt, and how the buildings and monuments call us to return to our better nature as American citizens. I thought about my late father, a World War II veteran, and of all the people in our nation’s history who willingly risked their lives like him, or gave all to defend our freedom and democracy. I thought about how I was brought up, to respect and revere our country and try to live up to its aspirations. And I was keenly aware of what today’s children are hearing and seeing.
Like most of you, I watched the news late into the night. I wanted to see our building reclaimed and cleared out, but mostly I wanted to see how our elected leaders would respond after being forced to evacuate. Overwhelmingly, regardless of party, they responded as I had hoped. They insisted on continuing their work to certify the election; they condemned the mob’s violence; they called on our nation’s core principles and abiding strength; they spoke like leaders and statesmen rather than politicians. I went to bed feeling encouraged that light would indeed scatter this darkness, too.
As with all terrible events, whether of human or natural origins, now we arrive at a time of taking stock, reassessing, and collective self-examination. There is plenty of blame to be assigned to the many instigators and participants in Wednesday’s riots, and we can all hope and pray for justice to be done; however, the most important question for us is one that Jesus’ disciples once asked him: “What then shall we do?”
First, last, and always, we are to be a praying people, seeking wisdom, drawing strength and listening for the Lord’s voice. I encourage all of you, individually and as congregations, to offer up prayers for our nation and her leaders. Consider this Epiphany season as a time of intentional prayer for the Light of Christ to be manifest in our common life. Our Prayer Book offers many prayers for times like these, including The Great Litany and Supplication (pp. 148-155), the Solemn Collects for Good Friday (pp. 277-280), and Prayers for National Life (pp. 820-823 and 838-839).
What is there in our own lives, in our words and in our actions, that contributes to the bitter distrust and division infecting our nation’s soul? Words matter, as we were reminded more than once on Wednesday, and words have consequences. We who have celebrated so recently the birth of the Word-made-flesh have a particular responsibility to be faithful stewards of our words, whether spoken or sent out through social media. Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Am I – and are we – saying and doing that which makes for peace? Or are we simply adding to the noise and confusion?
Our society’s loudest and angriest voices often seek to justify their actions by saying the “other side” started it. This line of thinking is childish. When I was a child, my father often would say to his squabbling, finger-pointing children, “I don’t care who started it, you stop it.” Followers of Jesus are to “grow up into the fullness of the stature of Christ,” which means, among other things, that our beliefs shape our actions, and we believe our Lord calls us to “Love God and love our neighbors.” Bad behavior by others does not excuse bad behavior on our part. Jesus coming into this world “while we were still sinners” and his going to the Cross “to save sinners” should be a strong corrective for any tendency toward self-righteousness and self-serving excuses.
The events of 2020 make it hard to ignore the flawed, broken parts of our national life. Yet, to say that reforms are needed does not erase or invalidate our love for our beautiful country. To be patriotic does not require ignoring issues that weaken the “more perfect union” America strives toward. To be a Christian citizen calls us into the discipline of bringing Christ’s light to bear on all parts of our life. And the stirring “America, the Beautiful” strikes the right prayerful, introspective tone in its second verse: “America! America! God mend thine every flaw/confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.”
Be Quiet and Speak Up.
I learned the term “doom-scrolling” recently, and we are certainly all prone to read bad news continuously, to fall into the bottomless echo chamber of anger and suspicion where our fears are encouraged and reinforced. Take a break from social media and breaking news. Unplug and walk away. Go outside and give thanks to God for your life. Use your phone to call up and talk to an actual person. Be modest and humble; be mindful that your grasp of the truth is partial by nature and that your opinions might be wrong or incomplete.
On the other hand, strive always to “speak the truth in love” in the face of hatred and vitriol. There’s good reason why the devil is nicknamed “The Father of Lies,” but Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are to be seekers, followers, and tellers of Christ's Truth.
Look for the Light.
Jesus is the Light of the world, and in this holy season of Epiphany, we celebrate the revealing of this Light for the whole world, even for the people on the other side of the political divide. “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9) And we not only see this light, but we see everything and everyone by it, even the terrible events of Wednesday.
We know the darkness that infiltrates our world and seeps into our lives. We know we can be captivated by that darkness, and we can see it throughout our history. At the beginning of Epiphany, evil King Herod looms large as the wise men follow the star. At the baptism of Jesus, Satan is waiting for him to climb out of the river. Confronted by this persistent darkness, know and remember this: as we seek to follow Jesus and live as his people in this beautiful and hurting land, “In Christ is life, and this life is the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)
May Christ’s Light shine on us and show us the way, and may the Lord give us grace and courage to carry the light of his love into the world.
Love in Christ,
Bishop of West Texas
"Presiding Bishop Curry's Word to the Church: Who shall we be?"
In response to the disturbing events which took place in our Capitol last Wednesday, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry recorded a brief message for clergy and congregations to consider incorporating into their worship services, released Friday, January 8, along with Conversations Across Difference, a new resource from The Episcopal Church, launching in January 2021.
Click here to read the English transcript of Presiding Bishop Curry's Word to the Church; the Spanish translation is forthcoming and will be published on the same page, when available.
Click here to access “From Many, One: Conversations Across Difference”, a campaign inviting Episcopalians and our neighbors to engage in one-to-one listening and sharing across the many differences that separate us.