Scripture Lesson: Acts 2:1-21
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells
Our faith tradition is filled with images of light. The beginning of the gospel of John tells us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light shines in the deepest darkness, and the darkness has not put it out. The gospel tells us of Jesus teaching, You are the light of the world. And cautioning his followers not to hide their light under a bushel. There is the image of the woman who has lost a coin lighting a lamp and using that light to seek out what is lost. There is the story of the bridesmaids and their lamps. Five are prepared with oil. And 5 are not. In 2 Timothy we are told to rekindle the flame of love and faith within us. And in the story we heard today, the story of the Holy Spirit being bestowed upon the dispirited followers of Jesus after his crucifixion, what looks like a flame appears on the head of each believer. And they are empowered to speak in a myriad of languages to be certain that the message of the love and mercy of Jesus is heard and understood by all, everyone, no exceptions.
Light is powerful. It is a powerful image and it is actually very powerful. I remember seeing a movie many, many years ago in which a character who was blind faces intruders in her apartment at night. She eliminates all of the light sources so that in total darkness she will have the advantage. They cannot function in the dark but she always does. But she forgets one source of light in the apartment. The light in the refrigerator. And they find it. And they find her. Light is very powerful.
Think about the special blackout curtains that have been used in situations of war to prevent night time bombing. The pilots couldn’t see the targets if there was no light. So curtains and shades were kept pulled to prevent disclosure of potential targets. This saved many towns and cities in Europe during World War 2.
Light is powerful. That is why it is an image used in association with Jesus. Jesus, the light of the world, because Jesus is powerful. His love is powerful. His message of the value of each and every person, his message of compassion, care, and community to those who have been demeaned by society, it’s powerful. His teachings about material simplicity and financial generosity – they are powerful. His message about forgiveness and reconciliation – it’s powerful. His light is bright. It is a beacon of hope. And it exposes selfishness, greed, lust for power, and abuse. It exposes pain and prejudice. And from one flame, one candle, you can light thousands of candles and the flame is not diminished. The light of Jesus is very powerful.
And what we are told in the Pentecost story is that the light associated with Jesus has been given to his followers. That power has been bestowed upon them. And we have inherited that power as Jesus’ followers today. Those flames now dance above our heads. We carry the light.
Now I want everyone to light a match –
Do these flames light up the sanctuary? No. Not at all. It’s daylight. We have the lights on. But also, this is a place a light. A community of love. We are a group of caring, compassionate people. So the light of love is not going to stand out here. This is a space that is always filled with the brightness of shining love.
Where the flame of love shines most brightly is in the darkness. And beloved friends, there are dark places in this world right now among them the halls of Congress, and the state house in Tallahassee. It’s dark in schools and stores and theaters and clubs and homes. There are places where it is very dark. These are dark times. We are beset with war, violence, hatred, economic abuse, greed, prejudice, and climate change. The future of our planet and of our democracy are in peril. The world is beset with despair and pain and fear. And that is why we are needed. Our light needs to be seen in these dark times. It is in this darkness that we are needed to shine the light of love, and hope, and justice. Our light is needed to help expose reality, the truth, and to help to create new patterns of living together in community, in peace, one human family inhabiting one beloved Earth. Our light is needed to help our community and the society around us to become healthy and grow.
There is an image from Uvalde, Texas that haunts me. It is a picture of a group of law enforcement personnel standing outside the school building in the shade of an oak tree, several of the officers are drinking bottled water. This is the view outside the school while the children are being terrorized and killed inside the school.
Here is why that image haunts me. I think to many people, this is how they see the church. Off to the side, safe and comfortable, secure in the belief that that they are saved and going to heaven, while the world is spiraling into ever deeper darkness and pain. I don’t think most people see any light coming from the church. If anything, they may think the church is making the world darker.
And here we are celebrating Pentecost, where the light of Jesus is given to the church to light up the world with love.
Yesterday we went to Naples to see our grandchildren. When we walked in the door, three year old Soren, with a multi-colored balloon in hand, immediately shepherded us into the bathroom and closed the door and left the light out. That is so we could see that there was a light inside the balloon illuminating all the colors. It was a nice balloon in the daylight, but in the dark, it was really impressive!
Friends, that is what we are celebrating today. We have been given this amazing light of love to stun the world with beauty and joy and compassion and peace. Times are dark. And this light is desperately needed. And it has been entrusted to us. May we be aflame! Amen.
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