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Reflecting with the Rector: Poems Matter

I am still finding myself mesmerized by the poignant poem Los Angeles native Amanda Gorman recited at last month’s presidential inauguration. Gorman began her poem with a pointed question, “When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”

Over the past few weeks and months I have joined friends, colleagues, mentors, and even bishops in ruminating about where we individually and collectively go from here. After more than four years of bitter national polarity and almost one year of pandemic, where do we even look for light? Where do we even begin to look for hope?

The Christian tradition differentiates between what we call chronos time and kairos time. These words have different meanings in ancient Greek but are translated the same in English simply as “time.” Chronos time is quantitative. It is that steady, even relentless, measure of time by which we denote our days, weeks, months, and years. We use chronos time to speak about our waiting, preparing, watching, and even working. I think we can all agree that it has been a long four years of chronos time.

Kairos time, on the other hand, is qualitative. It is that exceptional, even royal, form of time whereby God breaks into our lives and into our world, offering promise, presence, and fulfillment. I avoid wearing my wristwatch during worship as an acknowledgement that worship occurs within a different form of time and space than I regularly operate on in my life.

For me, a poem that still resonates, weeks later, is a poem that matters. As I revisit Gorman’s poem, I do not just believe, but know, that we as a nation, and we as citizens, can actually effect change going forward. I begin to hope for a future better than our present. And, that feels godly. That feels like grace.

Gorman ends her poem with the commanding words, “For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.” I wonder what it would look like for us to take the time to find, share, and be lights for one another?

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