“Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
that's how the light gets in.”
~ Leonard Cohen
Saturday's theme: (de) Light
Although I never had him for a class, I thought of him as one of my favorite professors, because I so loved his door. Richard Bondi’s office was in the basement of Bishops Hall at seminary. I imagine it was there so that he could be close to the bookstore, which he also managed. On his door was Leonard Cohen’s words, “Ring the bells…”
I wonder if any professor ever thought to put kinder words up on her or his door at seminary. Those days at Candler were truly amazing, life-stretching and life-birthing days. It wasn’t heaven, but it certainly was a glimpse of it. There I came-out and discovered that God’s love was greater than my fear of judgment. There I learned to read and preach and write. There I was held in song and story, in hope and healing. There Mr. Cohen’s words came alive, line-by-line.
For these days that are naturally growing darker (the Solstice is soon coming), these days when the vaccine arrives with prayers of not being too late, for these days we find encouragement. It would be easy to sit in despair as many of us limp to 2020’s finish line. It’s been an exhausting and overwhelming time. “Ring the bells that still can ring…” It’s not over, and we’re certainly not done, you and I. We’ve still got bells, bells that need ringing. They may look a little battered and bruised, but bells, nonetheless. Bells were made to ring! And so, I believe were we. Sitting on the shelf they look pretty, some even beautiful shapes and sizes. But/and the truth is, bells were created to ring, to sing, to make a joyful noise, and so, I believe were we.
“…forget your perfect offering…” How many times have I hesitated or even passed up opportunities this year to say something or to do something because I was afraid it just wasn’t `enough?’ It wasn’t smart enough, or put together enough, or perfect enough. And the moment passed. Moments come and go. Rarely, if ever do moments return. Mr. Cohen must have known that feeling of having a moment or two or three pass him by. I certainly have known the deep-in-my-gut regret when I’ve realized that moment in time has been missed. “I wished I’d of…” Don’t know if I’ve ever had a perfect offering, but I do know about regrets for missing on the opportunity to give.
2020 has certainly been a year of cracks. Lord in your mercy, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have also sinned. “…there’s a crack in everything…” will echo from these days. This year has felt like lesson after lesson in ways we have wounded our planet, as well as our sisters and brothers by what we have done and what we have left undone.
And somehow grace finds us. Time and again, grace finds us, when we have eyes to see. Mr. Cohen offers us hope and healing in his fourth line: “that’s how the light gets in.” Without the crack, without the offering (however humble), without the bells – we wouldn’t know the light that is somehow, miraculously getting in. In spite of it all, in spite of us, the light is getting in. Even in these growing darker December 2020 days, the light is finding its way in and finding us. Thanks, Richard, for being a beacon from the Bishops hall basement. Sometimes life’s greatest lessons are on a kind soul’s door, right there all along.
"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.