Christ Church, St. Michaels Parish - March 22, 2015
This coming week marks the end of our Lenten journey; a time of intentional reflection, prayer, meditation and self-denial. A time during which we were tasked with pondering the nature of our relationship with God as we journeyed with Jesus, his face set towards Jerusalem; his teaching filled with prophesies of his impending death and resurrection; his passion to fulfill his role as the “Beloved Son of God” so very evident as he expressed over and over again, and in so many different and urgent words, the way to eternal salvation.
In Mark, “If any want to become my disciples, let them deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
In John, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will be my servant also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” (John 12:26)
Again in John, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:31-32)
Lent – a powerful five weeks in which we, once again, seek to discern the centrality of Jesus and our relationship with God to our way of life. Five weeks during which we perceive anew Jesus as the universal truth; the universal path. Jesus as the decisive disclosure of God in our lives and in the world. Jesus, as the way, the truth and the light.
I am fairly certain that there are many among us who, over the course of this brief Lenten journey, have also been confronted by personal challenges both big and small. Situations that, despite the best of intentions, cause us to ponder anew our relationship with God – situations that generate questions such as “Where is God in all this,” and “What is God trying to tell me.” Situations that make feeling and recognizing the centrality of Jesus in our lives an even more complex and challenging task.
Personal crises, business challenges, family responsibilities that at times seem overwhelming; FOX News, CNN, Facebook, pages upon pages of email, and the myriad social media that blast us out of and into bed and follow us throughout our day to day lives – all of these fast-paced distractions make it even more difficult to carry out our Lenten journey mandate of focusing on our relationship with Jesus and with God.
Jesus - without whom our day to day life is meaningless, draining, dead - lost in the hub bub of day to day life. Jesus, the decisive disclosure of God in our lives, slowly fading from our hearts and from our minds as each wave of day to day living engulfs us.
I don’t know about you, but for me, when I lose sight of Jesus, when he has fallen away from my mind and my heart, I am lost, confused, and unable to love myself much less others. The light goes out of my life, and I am no longer a light to others. And, that is what we are called to be – a lamp shining forth the love and compassion of Jesus – a lamp that brings those living in darkness into the light.
In Matthew Jesus said to his disciples, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23)
In the Gospel of John light and darkness define the major theme of the Gospel. They represent the opposing powers of righteousness and evil – belief and disbelief. In the opening words of the Prologue the light is the life that was manifested in Christ. Through him the divine radiance was focused on the world as a searchlight plays on a dark landscape.
The underlying concept of dark versus light is apparent on almost every page of John’s Gospel. In every contact that Jesus made, he penetrated the dark recesses of the human spirit and revealed its true character. The light of his holiness uncovered hidden hypocrisy in sharp relief. Every sign he performed was a manifestation of the light that was in him illuminating the darkness of the world.
Now, we are called to be the light that illumines the darkness. We are asked to, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.” (Luke 12:35-36)
Our Lenten journey was a mandate to seek the light of Christ within ourselves and within others through reflecting on our relationship with God.
My Lenten journey, despite its many moments of darkness, was a time in which I saw the light of Christ and the gift of God’s love more clearly than ever.
It was a time during which I experienced the incredible love and compassion of my family and friends both here and in Florida as that bright searchlight on a dark landscape. A searchlight that found me, encompassed me in its scope, and kept me safe from darkness as it carefully followed me throughout the wilderness journey of my husband’s complex and complicated surgery and recovery.
Looking back, I can still feel the experience of that light, the light of Christ shining forth from within those many friends and family, the warm embrace of their love, compassion and concern. A light that allowed me to hope, to function, and to know that God was with me every step of the way.
The light of Christ that burns within us and then shines forth throughout the world is central to our way of life; to our ability to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is the decisive disclosure of God within us, God around us – God throughout the world.
In a recent blog, Bishop Dan Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada – the bishop who ordained me – wrote, “I am convinced that all the church growth marketing and charismatic clergy we can buy will not enliven the Church. Our deadness comes from our lack of belief we have anything to offer that the world wants or needs. The problem is we don’t have Jesus in our hearts. We are not being transformed ourselves so that we can, in the power of the Spirit, transform the world. Cosmetics won’t help if our heart is not beating. For our heart to beat, there is one and only one way: we have to follow Jesus.”
Just as we have engaged in the process of examining our own relationship with God over the past few weeks, our own commitment to hold Jesus central to our way of being – so Jesus asked of his disciples so many years ago, just days before his betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection.
Jesus asked his disciples to follow him without question, without hesitation – always. Jesus is asking us to follow him to the cross and beyond, without question, without hesitation - always; dying to an old way of life so that we may be raised to a new way of life. A way that sheds love and light into a world of darkness and fear.
How did light and darkness manifest itself in your Lenten journey? When the light of Christ is extinguished on Maundy Thursday how will you feel? What will the return of light to the world through the resurrected Jesus mean to you?
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. (Psalm 51:1-13) AMEN