Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119: 105 KJV
This is not going to be a blog about religion, but it is going to reference Scripture because it is the place I first found my love of words, and how those words have helped me to continue my journey of healing and growth. Some people find that in art, or music, I heal with words.
One of my earliest memories is watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and waiting for the moment Linus steps onstage to explain the meaning of Christmas. From the time he said, “lights please” to the moment he turns to Charlie Brown and says, “And that’s what Christmas is all about”, I would speak along with every word. I remember the feeling of those words, and the way Charlie Brown got the realization that Christmas was more than the retail experience.
When I was young I would sit in the Anglican church in Portugal Cove, listening to the Lessons and the Gospel read from the King James Version of the Bible, spoken with the cadence of the Newfoundland speech. I didn’t always understand the meanings of the words, but I loved the sound of them.
When we moved to Moncton, I was 17 years old. We started attending St. George’s Anglican church, and after a few months I volunteered as a reader. I remember the feeling of nervous excitement as the time drew near for me to go up to the front. I walked up the aisle and stood behind the lectern, looking out into the congregation. I started the reading, from the King James Version. The words felt familiar and flowed through me. I felt honoured to be able to share these words with these people
Years later, I joined my husband at Holy Family Catholic church, and after “becoming Catholic” myself, I again offered my services as lector. The words were in modern language, but no less powerful. I loved seeing the faces of the people as they listened, and maybe heard something in a way they hadn’t before. One of the highlights for me was taking part in the Easter Vigil, speaking the words into the darkness of the night, as the people gathered to wait for the light.
I have read Scripture my mother-in-law and my father-in-law, and my mom’s funerals. I helped to choose the readings for each and it was my way of honouring those people who meant so much to me.
All of this leads me to this past weekend when I read scripture in a church service for the first time in years. Ray and I left the Catholic church 7 years ago. For a long time we didn’t go to any church, but in the last year we started attending services at St. Paul’s United Church in Riverview. I recently offered my services to read Scripture, and I was contacted in the middle of the week to see if I could read the following Sunday. I got out my Bible and looked up the verses, Mark 9: 30-37.
As the time drew near for me to go to the front of the Church, I could feel the familiar nervous excitement. This was different because I carried my own Bible up with me. I faced the congregation, and opened the book, and I started to read. The first verses talk about Jesus teaching his disciples and how they didn’t understand but were afraid to ask him to explain. That struck home. I continued reading, looking up occasionally, pausing for impact. Then, I got to the part where Jesus was asking the disciples what they were arguing about, but they were silent because they were arguing about who was the greatest among them. My eyes started to tear up, and I couldn’t speak. The harder I tried not to cry, the more I did. I struggled through the part where Jesus took a small child and put it among the crowd and taking it into his arms. I was in full crying mode at this point. I just whispered, “I’m sorry” in between the words that I was now struggling to see, let alone read. The last verse wrapped up everything that I was feeling
“37 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
When I walked back to my seat, I could see Ray’s eyes full of tears, and when I sat down, a lady who has become a friend, reached her hand back to me, and held mine. When Steve, the minister stood up to begin his sermon, he spoke of the power of words to touch us, and that no one should ever apologize for that. Later that day I received a message of encouragement from a friend.
I am crying again, just writing this.
I never realized how much I had missed sharing the Word in a service, but it is more than that. It is sharing my gift and love of words with a community, and that is what really touched me. They took us in their arms, welcomed us, and gave us the space to find our way. They were a light onto our path.
Share your gifts with your community, and if you don’t have one, find one. If you can’t find one, create one, and if you see someone who is alone, welcome them into your community. You will all be better for it. You have my word.