Monday, March 23, 2020

Sermon March 22 - Fourth Sunday in Lent

Here is the text of the sermon on March 22, 2020.

You can also hear it in the archived worship service on our Facebook page.

Grace and peace from God our Father and from Christ Jesus, our Lord. 

‘I am the light of the world,’ Jesus says to his disciples, and it was true then and it is true now. For without becoming too dramatic, the pandemic which has brought our society to a halt shows us once again that life can change, seemingly in an instant. The systems we have created for ourselves, the comforts we can accumulate, and the seemingly settled courses of our lives are fragile and transitory. If we are to look for anything permanent, anything life-giving, we must look somewhere else.

At the same time, the pandemic and its accompanying effects can lead us face to face with darkness. We may see the darkness become evident when we see politicians and professional opinion givers trying to blame their opponents and promote conspiracy theories about the outbreak of an epidemic. We see people hoarding necessary items and perhaps trying to resell them at a higher price.

But if we are honest with ourselves, the events of these days and the threat of the days to come can also lead us deep into our hearts to the darkness that dwells there. Fear, hatred, envy, despair, bravado, self-pity, desire, and other raw emotions and impulses may co-exist with our other more rational responses and bubble up to the surface when we least expect it. An unplanned tirade at a family member, a seemingly irrational urge to panic-buy, a stubborn insistence on our rights, or a sidelong glance at someone of another race or country of origin taking what we view to be ‘ours’ may disturb our illusions of being immune, if you will, from the madness infecting the world.

Into this world, into our hearts, the light of the world comes. He comes with the gift of sight, the sight of the soul. Into this world he comes and lays bare the irrationality of the world and the darkness which still dwells in our hearts. Into a world of spiritual and moral chaos, where everything is without form and void, he brings a light that does not dazzle, that brings order to our spiritual lives, into the state of being able to distinguish what is and what is not. In his light we can judge between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, need and want.  

We are given light to see who we are and whose we are. We are not at our core victims of a pandemic; we don’t have to be simply opinion givers and fearmongers and self-pitiers. We are God’s, and God is ours. For those who receive the light of Christ see themselves in his light and in his light only. We are sinners, yet we are forgiven; we are oppressed by the evil one, yet while we have God’s word, we are not crushed; we will no doubt die, yet we have the promise of new and eternal life.

There will be more darkness in the days ahead. Let us live in the light of God’s love in Christ. Let us live confidently. Let us live not blaming others, not nursing our anger, not wallowing in self-pity, but let us live with forgiveness and love and faith in the future. When the darkness of fear bubbles forth from the depths of our hearts, let us remember words we hear in 1 John: ‘There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.’ Let us live so that we may reflect that light to others. For in the letter to the Ephesians we find these words: ‘Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.’

Many of us must remain at home except for rare trips outside for essentials. Many of us who have direct responsibility for others must continue to work in a world of an unseen enemy. Whatever our calling in this time, this time is God’s. We dare not simply use it for ourselves. We must use our time, our creativity, and whatever we have been given in order that we may be reflections of Christ, those who reflect his light to others. The opportunities to do so will be given to us in multiple and perhaps unexpected ways in the days to come.

Into this world, the light has shined. May you rejoice in it and let us bear it forward into the darkness, until we emerge into the new world God has prepared for us.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.