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Monday, January 31, 2011

Blinded by the Light

Hildegard of Bingen was a controversial and influential teacher, writer, composer and artist, and nun, and mystic who lived in the 12th century. Hundreds of years after her death, people of many different faith streams are still fascinated by her writings, and artwork, and musical compositions. (One of the legends about her is that on September 17, 1179, her sisters claimed to see two streams of light appear in the sky, and cross over the room where she lay dying. )

My theme for the sermon and worship service this week was how each person, each child of God, is a necessary part of the body. I worked from the text in the twelfth chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, in which he uses the image of the human body as a metaphor for the faith community.

One of the hymns I chose for this week was “Many are the lightbeams”, which uses the image of light to talk about the value of unity and diversity in the community of faith.

Hildegard often wrote about her experience of God in terms of light- she described visions in which she was “blinded by the light”. This is reminiscent of St. Paul, who was blinded for three days following his life-changing vision on the road to Damascus.

Hildegard is quoted as having said, "Every creature is a glittering, glistening mirror of divinity" and again "Every creature is a ray of GOD." People like Paul and Hildegard, who had visions from God that pointed them towards new ways of living, have often been amongst those who are left out or forced out of the “body” of faith communities. The light they reflect is not always viewed as a gift.

I have been following the story of an American pastor named Amy De Long. In February Rev. De Long will literally be put on trial by her own denomination, the United Methodist Church, for violations of church discipline. Her church trial is set to begin on April 11, 2011 at a church in Appleton, Wisconsin. For more information, check out

Rev. De Long’s ordination and livelihood are at stake because she officiated at a same sex union, and she herself is in a committed lesbian relationship. Her story challenges me on a deep level, because people who claim faith in God, and who follow the way of Jesus, as I seek to do, do not seem able to embrace a diversity that includes this woman.

Rev. De Long is the executive director of Kairos CoMotion. I found an apt comment about 1 Corinthians 12 on their lectionary dialogue blog, written by Wesley White:

“I am that which I am joined to and have both communal and individual identities. Like it or not, being part of the body of Christ puts me in connection with some very questionable characters, including Jesus. To pull my individual Christian identity too closely around me would finally isolate me from every other Christian and to have theirs pulled too closely around me makes me want to give up an identity I have cherished. It is important to claim Christ as larger than any of our Christianities.”