Life is hard. For many of us. Life is a long hard slog. Recently I’ve felt like I’ve been drowning in the dark, just surviving until the end of each day. There has, however, been a thread of light which is getting me through these times. Without fail, I think I have listened to the soundtrack from the musical ‘Come From Away’ everyday in the last four weeks since we saw it. This musical tells of the 38 planes which were grounded in Gander, Newfoundland, in the week following 9/11. It tells so many stories from that week of how the locals cared for the ‘come from aways’ and many incredible stories from people on those flights and how they coped with life against the backdrop of such a hideous moment in history. I am in love with this musical because it is so full of human hope and dignity. In a time where the worst of humanity was on display, the best was also able to shine.
I can’t stop listening to the lives of the people caught up in these events. One song is dedicated to telling the story of the first female American Airline Captain who just happened to be flying one of the planes. The real life pilot has watched the musical over 60 times in awe of the way her part in history has been honoured night after night. I’ve watched everything I can on YouTube about this musical and been astounded by the way it’s brought together the actors and their real counterparts.
I love that this story has been told again and again and again. I love that hope is being shouted loud from the rooftops and that hospitality is being honoured as a way of bringing light in this world.
I love the powerful sense of identity that comes across in the community of Newfoundlanders. The refrain ‘I am an islander’ plays loud and strong in the opening song ‘Welcome to the Rock’. The rest of the musical unfolds and expands on what it means to be an islander, to welcome the ones who have come from away, to always keep the light burning for those who have left and to let all know that the door is open and the kettle is on.
To the ones who’ve left
You’re never truly gone
A candle’s in the window
And the kettle’s always on
When the sun is coming up
And the world has come ashore
If you’re hoping for a harbour
Then you’ll find an open door
(From ‘Welcome to the Rock’)
It’s here that I choke up the most. Because. You know. You have to know where I’m going with this. It is not a hard leap to see that this story of hospitality and harbour echoes loud and long the story of the hospitality and harbour of the Maker of this world.
I love this musical because it has become, for me, a profound symbol of God in this world, a profound statement of the God who always leaves the light burning. Who always welcomes the ones who have come from away, who always has a fireplace to come and sit around.
The other week we sat in church and Dave our pastor asked us to imagine God with us, to imagine enjoying God. I wasn’t really in a place where I wanted to enjoy anything but I closed my eyes and tried. Something new came to mind. I’m pretty sure it was influenced by this musical entrenched in my soul. It was of an old fisherman’s cottage on the shore of an island. It was an image of a darkening sky, an open door full of light, a fireplace glowing, 4 chairs around it, three figures in the room. They were the ones, the ones who’ve walked this life with me, a couple of them turned to me in welcome, the other put the kettle on and all smiled that knowing smile of ‘Kath, dearheart, we’ve been waiting for you, come and sit with us a while.’
God in their personhood. God in their welcome. God in their trinity relationship dance of knowing warmth. God whom I could enjoy. God my harbour and open door. God my friend, my counsel, my smile of knowing, my safety.
There is hope. Walking around with us. My soul may be storm battered and bruised but I will always have a harbour. There is hope. There is a presence with us in the storm, a light that will not go out and an unseen reality I can no more deny than the air I breathe.
Now to figure out how I can preach on this in a few weeks time when I’ve been given free rein of talking about anything 🙂