“Bathed in Light”
February 5, 2017 – 5th Sunday in Epiphany – Year A
At the beginning of World War 2, King George VI gave his traditional Christmas greeting. He used these words:
I said to a man
Who stood at the Gate of the year,
‘Give me a light
That I may tread safely into the unknown’
And he replied,
‘Go out into the darkness
And put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you
Better than light
And safer than the known way.’
By Minnie Louise Haskins
Jesus says: “you are the light of the world.” We are beacons in darkness and glowing lights in dark places. We are sunshine after days of dullness. We are hope when despair sets in.
In the Book “Bridges of Madison County,” the main character Robert Kincaid, played by Clint Eastwood in the movie, comes to Madison County, Iowa, to take pictures of its bridges. As he reflects on his work and how he has developed as a photographer, we are told that: eventually he began to see that light was what he photographed, not objects. The objects merely were the agents for reflecting the light. If the light was good, you could always find something to photograph.
This interest in the light, and the fact that objects are vehicles for reflecting the light is precisely what interests us when we read the Bible. It’s not Abraham or David or Mary or Nicodemus who interest us per se; rather, it’s how they serve as instruments for reflecting the light, it’s what they reveal to us about the light that sets us coming to church on Sunday mornings. This is true not only of Bible characters and stories, it’s true of our own lives. Finally, what weight or dignity we have is best understood in seeing ourselves as vehicles for reflecting the light. And if bridges in Madison County could bring Kincaid to Iowa, and if a haystack reflecting the sunlight could entrance Monet, should not an ordinary Christian reflecting Jesus’ light captivate the world?
Many of us are familiar with the scripture text of “you are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the earth,” but most of us would be hard pressed to quote the rest of the passage, me included. But, the story teller goes on to remind us that we are to live the way of passionate love towards all humanity, graceful blessings, and faithful compassion. We are to be disciples of righteousness. And lest we think that is an easy directive, we are told that even the scribes and Pharisees are to be exceeded. It is a tall order. But in following the light, we bring the reign of God ever close.
Frederick Buechner, a noted theologian, points out, “The darkness of Genesis is broken by God in great majesty speaking the word of creation: ‘Let there be light!’ That’s all it took.
“The darkness of John is broken by the flicker of a charcoal fire on the sand. Jesus has made it. He cooks some fish on it for his old friends’ breakfast. Along the horizon there are the first pale traces of the sun getting ready to shine. “All the genius and glory of God are somehow represented by these 2 scenes, not to mention what Saint Paul calls God’s foolishness.
“The original creation of light itself is almost too extraordinary to take in. The little cook-out on the beach is almost too ordinary to take seriously. Yet if scripture is to be believed, enormous stakes were involved in them both and still are. Only a saint or a visionary can begin to understand God setting the very sun on fire in the heavens, and therefore God takes another tack. By sheltering a spark with a pair of cupped hands and blowing onto it, the Light of the World gets enough of a fire going to make breakfast. It’s not apt to be your interest in cosmology or even in theology that draws you to it so much as it’s the empty feeling in your stomach. You don’t have to understand anything very complicated. All you’re asked is to take a step or 2 forward through the darkness and start digging in.”
We gather today in the shadows of the massacre on the Muslim temple in Quebec City. Surely if ever there is the need for the light of tolerance, it is now. If ever there is the need for the light of acceptance, it is now. If ever there is the need for the light of understanding, it is now. We live in a world that sorely needs light to illumine the way of peace, justice and compassion. We cannot listen to the news or open a newspaper without being bombarded with reports of bloodshed. Headlines tell us of unrest both here at home and around the world.
What will it take for the way of light to cast its rays to darkened corners? Barbara Brown Taylor answers this question by writing in a sermon entitled “Laboring in Vain:” “Stop doing a job,’ God said. ‘Start being a light. Stop doing your duty. Start being mine. Stop worrying about whether or not you have done a good job. Start leaving that up to me. You can’t see it the way I can. You just let your light shine and let me take care of the rest. I chose you and I’ve got good taste. I made you and I can be trusted.” That is not an authorized translation, mind you, but what if? What if the real test of our success as God’s servants is not what we do but how we do it? What if the real measure of our extraordinariness as Christians is not our thoughtfulness or our friendliness or our busyness but our spark? What if the real sign of our witness to the light is not how much we accomplish but our own light-ness, our own reflection of the bright God who has chosen us and lit us up and sent us into the world like candles into a dark room?”
May we be light that shines into the dark corners of this troubled world. May we be salt that gives flavour to the bland Pablum that nourishes hungry bellies. And may righteousness surround this glorious world, so that hope might be known. Amen.