What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
–John 1:4-5 The Message
I remember it like it was yesterday. Cold winter had set in, and I had decided it was finally time.
An embarrassing detail came up when I was asked to take a position in the church we’d attended for eight years. I hadn’t actually ever joined the church. It required more than I was willing to commit to and another confirmation, which I’d felt I’d taken care of properly many years before in the Methodist church. Honestly, I was a little miffed that the church didn’t recognize my profession of faith. After some deliberation and a bit of rebellion, I relented and decided to be confirmed on that cold Tuesday evening in January, the sixth day, Epiphany 1993.
I got to the church a little early and stood at the back of the sanctuary. Candles were lit everywhere to depict the day our church celebrated Jesus as Light of the World,–not just Light to the Jewish people, but Light to the Gentiles and the whole world, and that particular Epiphany night, the Light to my heart again. The bishop was coming and the ladies working altar guild were bustling around preparing the altar with perfect detail for Communion. The warm glow from the candles cast a beautiful light on the Cross that hung from the ceiling and a mysterious wavering shadow behind it. It was the perfect evening for an awakening (epiphany).
My family was all a bit under the weather and couldn’t be there. I was okay with it until the bishop invited each of the confirmands to come to the altar, and he asked for family members to come and stand behind us. Everyone had their families there but me. I knelt down and told myself that it was a private moment anyway, and I didn’t need anybody but God and me to know. As quickly as I quieted my heart over being alone, I felt a hand softly touch my right shoulder. I couldn’t turn around to look but I knew someone was there for me. Finally, it was my turn. The bishop laid hands on me, and I felt a physical electricity go through me. I can’t explain it any better than that. I sensed God was pleased, maybe at my submission, my obedience, or maybe He was just pleased and was very present. I turned around and saw my sweet friend Liz, who’d been my witness, my touch on the shoulder. It tendered my heart so deeply. The vastness of the moment overwhelmed me, and I honestly couldn’t quite grasp how sweetly He’d shown me His love, His presence that night. Afterward, we took Communion together as a church family. I tasted the wine and the bread, and smiled to myself, thinking they’d bought good wine since the Bishop was visiting. I later asked the Associate Rector and she said it was the same wine we always had. It definitely wasn’t. It was new wine to this prodigal. New Life. New Grace.
And almost twenty years later, I still don’t know totally what to make of that night. But I’m grateful. For a good God and a dear friend.
PS For old time’s sake, how about a sunday’s song?