Sunday, Sep 15, 2002: “A Ray of Darkness”: Chapters 2 and 6

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary

“A Ray of Darkness” by Rowan Williams

Chapters 2 and 6

“Knowing and Loving” and “Not to Condemn the World”

Sunday, September 15, 2002


This is the first in a series of five informal discussions led by Rev. Mike Kreutzer, which will attempt to analyze and more thoroughly understand the book of sermons and reflections entitled A Ray of Darkness written by the Right Rev. Rowan Williams. Bishop Williams, who is of Welsh origin, has been elected to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury.  He has served as Professor of Theology at both Cambridge and Oxford.  This week’s discussion was on chapters two and six.

From group discussion it was noted that chapter two seemed harder to read and understand than chapter six.  There is a lot of subject matter in chapter two entitled “Knowledge and Love”.  Knowledge can often times be viewed as a threat.  It can be used as a method of control.  Jesus said that he judges no one and uses compassion instead of judgment in dealing with others.  Many atrocities have been committed in the name of Jesus and religion.  This was not the meaning that Jesus meant to convey.

It is observed that chapter six, “Not to Condemn the World”, was actually a Christmas sermon.  Some people only show up at church on Christmas.  People will visualize God as the “cuddly God” who they can mold and make do as they wish, which leads them to believe that they have life under control.  A person may think he or she has learned everything they need to know by age sixteen.  Yet, as they grow older, there arises more and more questions and the realization there is much one doesn’t know or understand.

Discussion then turned to communication with God by utilizing different means or different languages.  Much like there are many words in a foreign language which cannot be directly translated to English, so to there are many ways to communicate with God.  Some of these means may be through various forms of meditation, which cannot be adequately described by words since our other senses may be involved.  The means of communication with God may also change from day to day as one’s experiences change.  The Bible is always pointing beyond our knowledge.  The different authors look at Jesus from differing perspectives.  Williams draws a lot from comparing the Bible to other literature forms such as works from Shakespeare and T. S. Eliot.  Since people may have many different ways of communicating with God, it can be very difficult for a minister to find a liturgy that everyone will be satisfied with.  This can be especially true in a very large congregation where they may support two or three different types of services.  It was noted that the use of a foreign language, such as Latin, in certain portions of the service may greatly enhance the mood, even though the direct meaning of the words cannot be fully understood.  Even saying the Gloria versus singing it can have different effects.  Music can also have very profound effects upon people as noted by St. Augustine. 

Returning to discussions from chapter six, it was noted from the Christmas hymn that the little Lord Jesus “no crying he makes” was quite an accomplishment, especially as he was surrounded by a herd of noisy cattle!  While we all enjoy singing and thinking about these songs, God was more like the crying infant rather than the silent one.  He will get your attention!  Just like the crying infant, God is telling us there is something wrong, but is not specific in its description.  God’s weakness is his power! Just as Paul writes in II Corinthians, “my grace is enough for you”, the real power of God is made perfect in weakness.  

In summary, God has been used as a weapon by many in the past, both Christian and Islam.  It should be remembered, however, that God so loved the world (not just the western world, not just a specific nation, not just a specific group).  This, of course, is a significantly different message than was conveyed in the Old Testament, such as in Joshua and Judges where innocent people were killed and slaughtered in the name of God.  We have been guilty of these types of behaviors in the past such as when we fought with the Native Americans.  It was noted that Spanish conquerors tended more to not kill these peoples, but to capture them, try and convert them to Christianity, but also to use them as slaves.  Then discussion turned towards the modern day situation in Iraq.  The United States is campaigning for invasion of Iraq due to its amassing weapons of mass destruction.  However, both oil and politics are also surely involved in the reasons.  What is God’s will in this situation?

Next week’s discussion will focus on chapters seven and ten.