CLC Blog

You are the Light of the World: Sermon from March 22

If you aren't able to tune in live or watch the video, here is this morning's Gospel text, sermon, and prayers of the people. You can also watch worship from this morning by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uReEQ4LwPew

John 9:1-11

1As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 1
 

Now imagine a stranger smearing mud made of spit and dirt on your face. Social distance! Come on Jesus.

Now if only it was that easy – for everyone who has the virus – to spit and make a mudpie – and to smear it on them. And for all of this to go away. For social distancing to be over. It’s only been a week, for us here, but I’m terribly sick of it already. And I’m getting whiny about it! Just ask Alissa.

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Light of the world. Not to keep it to himself though – to share it. Jesus and the disciples had come upon this man who was a beggar, a beggar because his blindness kept him from doing something that enabled him to make a living. And Jesus saw him. Not as a beggar, not as a blind person. But as a human being who was at the end of his rope.

A human being whose light had been extinguished. Maybe because of comments from people like the disciples: Rabbi - who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Whose fault is it? And what was the thing that was so atrocious that he was punished in this way?

Whose fault is it? I’ve heard that so often lately. Whose fault the virus got this bad. Whose fault there aren’t enough masks. Whose fault that it started to begin with? Whose fault it got to this city? To this state? To this county? Whose fault that we can’t see our friends? Our grandchildren? Whose fault we can’t get together at church?

These are the hollow questions of anxious, frightened people who desperately want some kind of explanation for what we’re living through. People who are otherwise mostly just fine, but these winds of change have blown in, and now there’s panic. Our lights have been extinguished. Our light has gone out.

 

And so many of those tired phrases we rely on for a pick-me-up – at least we have each other. No we don’t – families, yes, maybe, but not in the true sense.  Oh, it’s not that bad. Yes it is – healthcare workers don’t have enough masks and people are dying! It’s bad.  At least we have our health. Maybe. But this virus takes like 10 days to let you know it’s camping out in your respiratory system, so we never really know if we have it.

We’re in a bad situation, we don’t know how we got here, and we don’t know how long it’s going to be like this, this social distancing.

And just like that, we’re all the man born blind. Exiled from the life we knew, or from the life we want, and it had nothing to do with anything we could have done. This is nobody’s fault. But we want it to be somebody’s fault. Something has to be somebody’s fault.

So we go from finger pointing, blaming people, to beggars.  Can you do that with me? From blaming and pointing, to begging. We’re all in this together, as beggars of mercy, now.

So, then, I’m curious about something. As congress is working on a stimulus bill and talking about what to include, people are wanting to point and blame some more. Well, in good times you’re supposed to save money, they say. So why don’t the fortune 500s have a bunch of cash sitting around? Or why don’t people who shouldn’t have spent so much on a phone or a car have more in the bank? Should have been more prudent, everyone says.

But can we just give that up, please? Can we just admit, once and for all, that we humans are finite beings and reliant on God for the very breath we breathe, and we cannot plan and store and horde our way through every crisis. We cannot think of every eventuality and know exactly what we’ll need. So far 75,000 Americans on complete lockdown. More states added to the list every day. Overcrowded ICUs. Hospitals running out of ventilators. This is not normal life that one prepared for.

So, can we stop shaming middle and lower class people for not having savings to get through this. And can we stop attacking the big, bad companies that most Americans were singing praises of just a couple weeks ago, for not having more cash on hand. From pointing and blaming, to begging together. For mercy. For grace. Because, even now, we have no idea what the future brings – in anything, and in this particularly.

We are the man born blind. All of us. Cast aside by the life we knew or want. Candles out. Begging. And Jesus comes and says: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. And I have light to share. So tip your candle to mine. And shine.

President George Herbert Walker Bush, Bush 41, said in his inaugural address in 1989: 

I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.

1000 points of light.

Beggars. Unlit candles blown out by a ferocious and global pandemic. Beggars, holding out our hands. And Jesus says: I am the light of the world, and I have light to share. So shine.

So, I know things can look really bleak right now. And it looks like things won’t start looking better, like this virus won’t stop filtering through the population, for a while. Until we take more serious measures, and really hunker down. The numbers of people infected around going to keep going up. More people will die. And so when you’re tempted to point, and blame. When you’re at the end of your rope and not convinced this distancing thing is working. Remember who you are. A beggar. Hold out your hands. Hold out your candle. Jesus comes and says: I am the light of the world. So shine.

 When, two, three weeks from now, the hospitals are overflowing and people are legitimately panicked and we don’t know how to make things better. And everybody is desperate. Remember who you are. A beggar. Hold out your hands. Hold out your candle. Jesus comes and says: I am the light of the world. So shine.

 1000 points of light. But now, we’re scattered. We can’t be here together, and so our light, together, is dispersed, into your homes, into the limited places we all venture now. But I look forward to that day, when, we don’t know when, but someday, when we can all come and be here together, united, points of light, into one great lamp of glory.

 Until then. Shine. Shine. Shine where you are.  Amen.

Prayers:

Together, we pray for a hurting world, people in need, and God’s eternal light of hope: 

Light of the world, you provide for your people throughout every calamity. Give to all your churches and faith communities the tools, balm, and strength to persistently live out your mission. Lord, in your mercy…

Light of the world, you create new days as time stretches forward. You provide beauty in urban streetscapes and quiet walking paths. You show your glory in singing birds and starlit nights. Care for our souls through the beauty that surrounds us. Lord, in your mercy…

Light of the world, you have walked with nations to create systems and safety nets to provide for people in need. Give all leaders generous hearts and compassionate spirits in this time, to provide for the common good.  Lord, in your mercy…

Light of the world, you have called nurses, doctors, healthcare administrators, custodians, truck drivers, store stockers, delivery drivers, checkout clerks, and more into vocations that are now dangerous. Sustain all who work in harm’s way. Give protection from the Coronavirus to all your people. Sustain the sick. Especially we pray for Bob, Joan, and all we name before you now….    Lord, in your mercy…

Light of the world, we are starting to miss each other’s comforting presence and healing hugs. Help us to find ways of connection during this time that help us feel loved, honored, and respected, and help us to share that with the community. Lord, in your mercy…

Light of the world, you carry humanity through every challenge. Lift up stories of saints who have worked through crises in the past and use them to lead us through this time to a better future. Lord, in your mercy…

All these things, and all the things that we left unsaid but still cry out to you, grant us O God, in the name of Jesus, our Light and our Peace.  Amen.

The Light Shines in the Darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it: A reflection on John 1:1-9

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (NRSV from Biblegateway.com)

I’m starting to realize what gave me life in the before times, before all this social distancing. Shaking hands. Sitting in a crowded restaurant enjoying dinner with my family and watching joy be experienced around the room. Chatting with the regulars at the barbershop. Dropping my kids off at preschool and daycare. Making community. It all brought me life.

And it feels like that’s all gone. I’m still enjoying life with my family. I’m still trying to find ways of making connections with friends and all of you. But, it’s different. It feels hollow. It feels, in a way, like the absence of God.

Into this hollowness God is born. Jesus comes. The source of all life speaks new moments into being. These days that we’re living through are still God’s creation. The Holy Spirit lights up the darkness. The darkness has not, cannot, and will not, overcome it. This is not at all the absence of God. It is God’s light piercing the darkness.

So, as Catherine Pino puts it in her song, shine, shine, shine where you are.

Listen to a recording here: https://youtu.be/LdtLd_gkHYs

Leaning into the Daily 5

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all humans. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, family, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9).

 

Times are hard right now. People are displaced from work and family. Systems are overwhelmed and some are shutting down. Panic, fear, and anxiety seem to be plaguing society as people stockpile resources (toilet paper and ammo being at the top of the list). The unknown of what is to be and what is to come can be overwhelming, especially because we are a people so used to “being in control” and it feels like everything is out of our control right now. Yet, like the scripture above encourages, we can control what we focus on and think on…that is, what we put our mind to. Paul reminds us to be “anxious in nothing” and to “rejoice always,” encouraging us to focus on “anything worthy of praise” rather than the worries that plagues us.

“The Daily 5” is one of the tools I use when depression and anxiety try to rear their ugly head in my life. When the world around me feels like its pressing in with everything that is going wrong, I simply step back, shake my body out, and write 5 things I am grateful for in the midst of the circumstances trying to overwhelm me.  5 things that are pure, lovely, noble, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise (like Paul encourages). I then carry this list with me and anytime fear or anxiety try to speak, I focus in on my breathing and read my list, reminding myself that there is a God working all things together for my good and the good of all people.

Because we are all scared and it can be hard to see the good in situations, I thought I would use today’s post to share with you all my “COVID-19 Daily 5 List”, and encourage you all to take a minute and make a list of your own. That way, when days are hard or moments dark, you have a list to remind you of the beauty taking place around you, even in the midst of this pandemic (because, though the sirens are blaring from all news outlets, there is so much beauty and goodness coming from this as well).

 

AZ’S 5 GRATITUDES IN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

  1. We have proven systems can change if the people are willing. As someone who has worked for systemic restoration and transformation and been told my numerous people I’m a dreamer or things are not possible or systems won’t/can’t change…we have just proven they can. Never again can we say systems can’t be changed and changed quickly.
  2. We have been shown just how connected we are as a world, and how impacted we all are by one another’s actions. We, as humans, are in this world together. May this truth carry through beyond this pandemic in ways that bring beauty, healing, and transformation to the most broken and darkest places in our world.
  3. Creation is healing. Water is clear in Venice, and smog is clearing in China and Los Angeles. While the healing taken place isn’t sustainable without change once life and industry returns to normal, we can no longer deny that humans have an impact on the environment and that if we change things can be better. There is no denying that the quarantine of humans has brought some environmental restoration around the globe.
  4. The United States is focused on health. The United States is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world, and our healthcare system in desperate need of reform.  While panic ensues, at least we are talking about health and good health practices and working to make systemic changes.
  5. Communities are rising up to take care of each other. I am seeing this here at CLC and in the greater community surrounding us. People are checking in on each other, praying for each other, offering humor and jokes, and trying to make the best of these trying times.

 

During these uncertain times, these 5 truths can anchor me when panic or fear strikes,  and help me press into trusting that God is at work in all things, even the things I cannot understand.

Your list might look different. Maybe you are grateful for time spent with your family. That is a good thing that is coming out of this. Maybe you are grateful for a much needed break from life. That is a good thing coming out of this.  Maybe you are grateful for technology and resources that keep us connected.  Maybe you're grateful as a youth for fewer restrictions on gaming and technology time. Whatever 5 things you can find that are good, lovely, pure, worthy of praise, write them down and carry them with you. Focus on them, chew on them, and allow the peace that surpasses all understanding to come.  Afterall, Paul ended by saying if we do these things, "the God of peace will be with you."  Let's welcome the God of peace by focusing on what good this God is working for us in the midst of uncertainty and upheaval. 

May love and peace fill you during these times, and may joy surround all you do. I love you. I’m rooting for us all. And I’m here if you need me.  

-Andrea

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