This morning as I was driving to the office, I experienced such joy and energy seeing the sun and feeling its warmth on my face. Years ago during my first winter in Chicago, I quickly realized the importance of the presence of the sun in my life. Before we moved there, a good friend warned me about the dreariness of Chicago winters. Being a native to the Midwest, I assumed I knew everything there was to know about winter. What I did not know was how hard winter could be on me when the sky was overcast for months on end and I could not recall the last time I saw or felt the sun.
Perhaps I have a touch of seasonal-affective-disorder, but I believe that, spiritually, we all do. I believe that we are created to crave the presence of warm, life-giving energy. In fact, I believe all creatures are created this way. At a recent Green DuBois meeting as we were discussing the bees that we will soon purchase and house at DuBois Center for education and eventually honey, I learned something I did not know about bees.
One common known fact of beekeepers is the importance of placing hives in areas that receive good sunlight. A hive in direct sunlight enables the hive to become activated earlier. As soon as the energy and warmth of the sun hits the bees' wings, their whole bodies are propelled into movement. Arising early can essentially mean extra nectar-foraging time in prime hours of the day. Bees become active when they get warm-and they get warm sooner in a sunny location. Even though this flurry of productive activity signals the bees are warm, when you see this activity it appears the bees are "happy."
Now bees might not be "happier" in the sunlight, but most of us certainly are. Perhaps this "happier" state of being is similar for us as it is for bees. Sunlight provides a warm energy that is felt and absorbed deep into our being. Beyond the scientific advantages of natural sunlight, such as increasing the body's production of Vitamin D and serotonin, natural sunlight is a reminder of our need for warm, life-giving energy. This energy is something that can be hard to put into words, but it is evident to us when it is present among us and when it is absent.
It reminds me of the old Sunday School song, "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam." I remember singing the words of this catchy song and knowing to the core of my being what it meant to shine in a way that brought energy and warmth to others. This can and should be one of the core and essential functions of the church. Not that we are called to artificially create positive energy, but that positive energy is a natural byproduct of positioning ourselves in the presence of and basking in the sunlight of God's grace, love and joy. This is what people are looking for when they seek a family community and when they choose whether or not to remain a part of a local church.
It is not that people do not expect the winter seasons of discontent and even discord. These seasons are a natural part of life and certainly life together. Yet, when the darkness and dreariness last for too long, people become restless, impatient and anxious about when they might experience the life giving power of Christ. Sometimes, you can simply walk into a church and feel that the darkness of winter has taken over. Even before a word is spoken, you can feel the lethargic and oppressive energy. Often, it is a result of failing to place themselves in the direct and natural light of Christ's love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance, and joy.
On the other hand, you can also walk into other churches and feel the light of Christ permeating the space and the very being of those who inhabit it. You can feel the energy. You can feel the warmth. You can feel the light that is life-giving, motivating, and inspiring.
Most of the time, it has nothing to do with the size of the church, its location or its financial means. It has everything to do with whether or not the leaders, the members; the people have sought to live in the natural light that is only produced through an authentic, living relationship with the Author and Creator of all light and energy.
As the weather breaks and spring is upon us, I challenge you to consider if you have placed yourself in places and spaces that will put you in the direct light of the Light of the World. I also challenge you to consider what people experience when they walk through the doors of your church. Can they feel the embrace of the Holy Spirit's energy and warmth? Or is it time to open the windows to let in the fresh air and light of the Spirit? Where is the Spirit's life-giving presence in your personal life and in the light of your church?
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, Conference Minister