When we proclaim our profession of faith, we say:
‘We believe on One God. . . God from God, Light from Light’. . .
I imagine that all of us have been afraid of the dark at some time in our lives. . .
afraid of the monster under the bed, . . .
the creature in the closet, . . .
the shadows on the wall, . . .
the distance of darkness between us and the nearest room with light.
These dangers may have been imaginary, but everyone has had periods in their life as children and adults when darkness has stricken us to our very core with fear – shaking, our hearts thumping with fear!
I have a confession to make. I do still get a little anxious when I’m walking in a dark or unfamiliar place by myself; maybe it’s not being able to see; or maybe it’s not knowing who’s there or what to expect. Or maybe it’s that being alone in the dark feels so just really alone. On the other hand, I find it amazing that light, any light, quickly dispels the anxiety darkness provokes. Just to see a light, is so comforting, even if it’s some distance away. In some way, it’s like a visible reassurance that there is somebody there, somewhere. And, of course, the closer you get to the light, the less you feel that anxious fear.
As we grow up, we learn that all of these dark fears are baseless, just childhood imaginations.
But as we grow up, we find that darkness takes other forms – mostly fear – a sort of psychological darkness or
fear of being lost,. . .
fear of failure, . . .
fear of personal unworthiness, . . .
fear of concern for our ability to care for our families, . . .
fear that we will not make correct choices, . . .
fear of illness, . . .
fear of loss of loved ones, . . .
fear about what is happening in our nation and the world.
Last week has been full of significant events: we honored Martin Luther King, Jr. for the stand he took to bring for equality to all. Indeed, he gave his life to bring light to the darkness of racial discrimination.
Our nation, bitterly divided about our recent election and its consequences, just saw the inauguration of the next President of the United States. There is fear that this inauguration will have consequences so far-reaching that history will record difficult and disastrous changes to the United States and the world. We also see that much of the world is fearful too!
So amidst all this fear – this dark unknowing and black negativity –
where is the light?
How can we find that light?
How can we be that light?
If the new administration begins to mark people as “other” (based on their creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, income, age and health status) and targets them for deportation and various forms of discrimination, we need to step in to protect them from the looming darkness. As people of faith, we know no “other”; we are one, and when one of us suffers, we all suffer. We are all children of God.
During the Civil War, Union generals told President Abraham Lincoln that the Union would win because
‘God was on their side’.
But Abraham Lincoln wisely asked:
‘But are WE on God’s side?”
When people believe they are entitled to hate – when they see their leaders model vengeance and retaliation as acceptable, it’s time to remember that God DEMANDS that we love all people—especially those that have been marginalized and rejected.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote,
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It is my deep conviction that justice is indivisible”.
So, it is our job, as citizens of the United States, and especially as Christians, to bring light to the darkness of fear and separation that could permeate our world. We are called to be disciples of Jesus; to bring relief to the suffering, acceptance and wholeness to those who are maligned, and security to those who are lost.
To be a disciple means to commit ourselves to a ministry for the least and the lost. We don’t get to choose who is worthy of Jesus’ attention, of receiving the Messiah’s light in their darkness. We are just to reflect it to everyone we meet. We are simply to remind everyone that they are called to be children of God. And if we are open to being God’s children, we will find all kinds of things to do in response to God’s call. Maybe the “doing” will come through our work, or volunteering, or being a good neighbor or starting a community involvement group. We need to remember that our living into our call will come through forging relationships with others. No matter how God may use all of us – it’s important to remember that before God calls us to do anything God first calls us to be His beloved children. And knowing this, we can trust that the opportunities for witness and action will follow.
And we can’t let it stop with each of us, individually. This calling is also for our congregation. In a world that often does not take the church seriously, God calls us to be ‘the church’. In responding to that call, we enable God to shine his light through us into the darkness of the world. I believe that God is calling Saint John’s to be the gathering of God’s beloved children. God is calling all our congregation to be a place of welcome and acceptance. God is calling our congregations to be sanctuaries where God’s word is taught, lived, and where all find justice and healing.
We live in a turbulent time in our country and world, where the needs run great. So I can understand if we want to get going and do something. But if we can first focus on being – just being – God’s beloved children, and let that grace-filled identify seep into the deepest parts of ourselves, I have little doubt that those things we are called to do will become clear in time.
Just as Jesus called the first disciples, saying
“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)
Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We must remember we serve Jesus Christ,
‘God from God, Light from Light,’
And we shall not be left in the darkness! And we cannot leave others in that darkness!
One of my favorite songs, ‘One Voice’, was written by Barry Manilow, and reminds us
‘Just one voice singing in the darkness,
All it takes is one voice
Singing so they hear what’s on your mind
And when you look around you’ll find
There’s more than
Singing in the darkness
Joining with your one voice
Each and every note another octave
And hands are joined and fears unlocked
If only one voice
Would start it on its own
You need just one voice
Facing the unknown
And then that one voice
Would never be alone
It takes but one voice!
Just one voice singing in the darkness
All it takes is one voice
Shout it out and let it ring
Just one voice
It takes that one voice
And every one will sing.’
So let us rise up, get out of the pews, go into the world, be vigilant to what is happening, and bring light to those who need it most so that
people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16).
‘We believe on One God. . . God from God, Light from Light’
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 22 January 2017