Let’s face it, finding or keeping one’s balance has never been the easiest thing in the month of December. Calendars crowd us with events. Cultural expectations for comfort and joy abound, keeping everyone too busy to have much of either. All the markers of the season (gifts, cards, baking, decorating, travel plans, parties …) can put the best of us “on tilt.” And, as we noted last week, the recent arrival of Omicron has made our footing in this moment feel even less certain.
Perhaps this is the moment, then, to talk as a church board about balance: what do we mean by it, and how do we seek it through our work together, in a time and a world so atilt?
American poet Amy Lowell (1874-1925) offers one place to start your conversation about balance, albeit with a poem fashioned for a different month and year.
by Amy Lowell
This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.
The Gospel of Luke offers another very different place to start the conversation.
It’s no wonder that the government of Argentina banned the public reading of the Magnificat several decades ago because it was deemed “too subversive.” Mary’s song in Luke 1 achieves a beautiful description of balance. The balance, however, comes at a revolutionary price.
God’s mercy is for those who fear God
from generation to generation.
51 God has shown strength with his arm;
God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:50-53)
When you were asked to serve on your church board, it is doubtful you were given a description of your role that said: “You are called to help guide your congregation in unbalanced times as you consider beauty, mystery, faith and hope alongside budgets, volunteer recruitment, building maintenance, and ways to serve communion in a pandemic.”
We’re quite sure you were not told: “Look for where God is strong…you will see it where the proud of your world, community, and church are scattered; you will see it when the lowly are lifted up; you will see it when you experience God filling those who are empty—watch for that activity and, with your board, run toward it!”
Very unlikely descriptions of the role indeed. But they describe your role today—to find the balance of God’s hope and challenge in a world on tilt.
What are the details of Lowell’s September afternoon that stand out to you?
Why does she put that afternoon in her “lunch-box”?
What does balancing require of us, according to Lowell…or Luke?
Assuming Mary’s Magnificat in Luke is more than metaphor, where do you see “Magnificat activity” in your congregation and community?