Corona Sabbath 2 Reflection 3.29.20

Scripture Lesson: John 11:1-45. The Raising of Lazarus

There’s another story in the New Testament involving Mary and Martha. In that story, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to him. And Martha is busy with much serving – making dinner, setting the table. She wants help from Mary. But Jesus reprimands her and affirms Mary as the one who has chosen the better portion. All of you who know me know I tend to sympathize with Martha and I don’t think she deserves the put down attributed to Jesus. But in this story, Martha shines. When Mary encounters Jesus, she manages, ‘If you had been here, Lazarus never would have died.’ But when Martha gets to Jesus, after her brother has been in the grave four days, she tells him, ‘If you had been here, my brother would never have died! Yet even now, I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask.’ Martha goes above and beyond. She expects something more. Her faith, hope, and trust lead her to look past what would normally be expected. She sees a new reality.

This past week, the President has informed us that he wants the nation “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” He wants people back to work by then and the pews full on Easter Sunday. He wants things back to normal. That’s about two weeks from now. In that time, the President wants the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic to be over. He wants us all freed from life on lock down. Roll away the stone. Come out of the tomb and get back to business as usual.

Business as usual. That is not what Martha wants. She knows her brother is dead. But she knows that there is more. There is something more than normal. She puts her faith to work expecting a new reality. And she gets it.

What if what we want in the face of this pandemic is not to go back to ‘normal’ but to expect something more; to see this as an opportunity for creating a new reality beyond usual expectations and business as usual?

Yes, thousands have died in this pandemic so far and thousands more will die. They will not get their physical health back. Those loved ones will not return to their earthly life. But what if this pandemic means the death of limited access to healthcare in this country? What if this crisis means the death of misspent resources? What if it puts some greed and lust for gain in the grave? What if this pandemic awakens our concern for children, elders, and those who are vulnerable? What if it resurrects our commitment to the common good over selfish individualism? What if this coronavirus calls forth compassion for other people and other life forms? What if it brings out patience? What if COVID-19 calls to life solidarity in grief? What if it summons a reverence for nature? What if this pandemic wakes us up to the value of reflection, rest, relationships, the arts, and play? What if it renews our appreciation and respect for those who work in the healthcare sector?

What if we don’t go back to normal, but awaken to a new reality that is better than the one we knew?

Did you notice in the story of Lazarus that for the new reality to emerge Jesus practices social distancing! Think about it. The way the story is told, Jesus is informed that Lazarus is sick. Lazarus is Jesus’ dearly beloved friend. Surely Jesus’ first impulse is to go to his friend, to be with him, to heal him. That is what’s normal. But Jesus waits. Two whole days – which can seem like forever when someone is sick. By the time Jesus goes to Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days. Imagine the self discipline and the restraint that Jesus employs. He doesn’t go to his friend, he holds off, for a greater good. As usual, Jesus is our example!

Maybe the President wants things back to normal in two weeks. But our faith invites us to expect something more than “normal” to emerge from this pandemic. And it may require much more of us in terms of sacrifice and self discipline and restraint.

May our faith, hope, and trust persist and grow exponentially so that we may all see the power of Divine Love creating a new reality before our very eyes!

Corona Sabbath 2

cornerstoneThese weeks when we cannot gather in person for Sunday worship, Lakewood United Church of Christ is providing brief weekly sabbath programs for you to listen to on your own or with those you live with. They will be posted on Friday so that you can schedule your sabbath time to suit your schedule and your spiritual inclinations. We hope these programs are of spiritual support to you in these difficult times.

Find a quiet place, inside or outside. Light a candle. Breathe. Be present.

When you are ready, start the video below.

There is a scripture lesson and a brief meditation by Pastor Kim Wells followed by music offered by Music Director, Hilton Kean Jones.

As you listen to the music from Hilton which follows, you are invited to pay attention to the thoughts and feelings and reflections that arise for you.

After viewing the video and listening to the music, you are invited to offer the following closing…

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. -Albert Camus 1913-1960

Breathe. Extinguish your candle and engage whatever may come with a sense of peace and a desire to serve.

LAKEWOOD UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

The mission of Lakewood United Church of Christ, as part of the Church Universal, is to:

  • Celebrate the presence and power of God in our lives and in our world;
  • Offer the hospitality and inclusive love of Christ to all people;
  • Work for God’s peace and justice throughout creation.

 

Sermon 3/8 The Ripple Effect

Date: March 8, 2020
Scripture Lessons: Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4:5-42
Sermon: The Ripple Effect
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

This past week our daughter, Angela, and her husband, Andy, and our grandchild,
Soren, came to visit from the Boston area. While they were here, Angela and Andy
went to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City. Now Andy is very political and has a
master’s degree in public policy so he tends to make his views known. On this
trip he brought a Warren for President hoodie and a Support Planned Parenthood t-shirt. As they were getting ready to go to the Strawberry Festival, Angela
specifically instructed Andy not to wear anything from his political wardrobe. She
didn’t want it to cause problems at the Strawberry Festival. And, as it turns out,
there was quite a bit of open support for the current president at the Festival from
flags at booths to stickers on food trucks. From Angela’s perspective, they were
going into enemy territory and she did not want to have to engage with the enemy
she simply wanted to eat strawberry shortcake and go on the rides in peace.

In the story we heard this morning about the encounter between Jesus and the
woman at the well, Jesus is in enemy territory. The Jews and the Samaritans were
bitter enemies as often happens with different branches of a religious movement
that stem from the same stalk. The religion of the Jews and the religion of the
Samaritans had roots in ancient Hebrew culture but they divided in a controversy
over the correct location for the cultic center of their religion. The Samaritans
thought that Mount Gerizim was the proper center for cultic worship. The Jews
thought that Jerusalem was the correct location hence the comment from the
woman at the well: “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that
the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” [4:20] This dispute had
persisted for hundreds of years.

So, as the story starts, Jesus is in Samaria, enemy territory, which incidentally had
a very arid climate. And it is the middle of the day and he is thirsty and has no way
to draw water from a well. Jews and Samaritans don’t intermingle. Also, a male is
not to talk to a female in public. Period. And a rabbi certainly is not to be
speaking openly with someone with a questionable lifestyle. As we hear in the
story, Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, encounters a Samaritan woman at the well. And she
has had 5 husbands and is currently living with yet another man. So, no
conversation, of any kind, should ever be taking place between these two people –
as the disciples point out when they arrive on the scene: “Why are you speaking
with her?” [4:27]

Jesus is definitely making waves. He is troubling the water. Talking with a
Samaritan. And a woman, no less. And a sinful woman at that. He is defying the
religious, racial, gender, and social dictates of his context. This conversation
should not be taking place. But instead of casting this conversation as an
interaction between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman, Jesus casts this
conversation as an exchange between between two human beings who have
something to give each other. She can give him water from the well. He can give
her living water. Reality is turned upside down. Social dictates are eroded.

Jesus offers the woman living water; water that is moving, bubbling, fresh,
flowing, springing forth with new life. It is not stagnant water that cannot support
life, that has no refreshing power. Jesus offers this nameless woman a new reality
and she accepts it. Whatever it is that honors her full humanity, she is ready to take
it.

And then we see how life giving and life changing this living water from Jesus
really is. You see, this woman is at the well at noon. That is not the time to be
coming for water. Women go to the well in the early morning when the
temperature is cool. And they go together because it is a time of important social
connection and community. But this woman, with her five plus husbands, is not
welcome in the community of women that go to the well together each day, and
share their joys and concerns, and laugh and cry together. No, she is not welcome
in the company of women. She is ostracized, vilified, shunned. So she goes to the
well alone, at noon, in the heat of the day, to avoid any unpleasant encounters. She
lives in enemy territory herself even though she is a Samaritan living in Samaria.
But this living water she has received from Jesus is life giving water. It is rippling,
running through her. And she is so stunned by its power, that she rushes back to
the village. Leaves her water jug behind. And she pours out her experience to the
people of the village. She shares her life changing encounter with the villagers, her
enemies, because she does not want them to miss out on this living water, this
spiritual life force. She ventures into the enemy territory of her own town to save
her enemies.

The living water of Jesus is having a ripple effect beyond Jesus to the woman and
beyond the woman to the town. And on from there. It is still rippling in us today
as we share this story. When we experience the love of Jesus and seek to follow in
his way, we find that he erodes our prejudices, he washes away our gender bias, he
carries off our religious exclusivism, he cleanses us of our nationalistic narrow
mindedness. Jesus washes us clean of everything that sullies our pure humanity.
Everything that obstructs community. His living water cleanses us of hatred and
arrogance. We love even our enemies and, like the woman at the well, seek their
highest good.

The course of the living water of Jesus is a path of forgiveness, a way that washes
away barricades and walls, and creates bridges and connections. Once we have
received it, once it has refreshed us and washed away all that obstructs our being in
the new reality of Divine Love, we are born anew awash with living water like
amniotic fluid. A new beginning.

The authenticity and the sincerity of the Samaritan woman’s spiritual experience
can be seen in the fruit that is borne. She is not just happy to be forgiven and
accepted and set straight in her theological thinking. She is not just grateful for
what Jesus has done for her. Because with Jesus, if it is real, it means that it is not
just for you, it is for you to share. And share she does. She goes to her hostile,
mean spirited village, and offers them the life-giving experience she has received.
She shares. She offers to slake their thirst once and for all.

That is the way of Jesus. If you do not see evidence of the ripples of the way of
Jesus, of his crossing divides and dismantling barriers and affirming our common
humanity with compassion and grace, then its probably not the living water of
Jesus Christ. His living water is not just for us, it is for everyone, and it always
ripples away from us to others.

A couple of months ago, we went to a political rally in Straub Park here in St.
Petersburg. It was a demonstration in support of the impeachment process. Now I
know we don’t typically discuss politics to this degree in church but regardless of
your party affiliation or your voting preferences there is simply no way to square
the beliefs and behavior of the current president with the way of Jesus. So, we
went to this rally and there were a couple of supporters of the president at the rally
with signs and MAGA swag. As the rally was ending, I made it a point to go up
and talk with them. I introduced myself. I shook hands with them. They asked if I
supported the president. I said no. But I wanted to thank them for coming to the
rally. I told them I believed that everyone should have free speech and should be
free to express themselves. They deserved to be respected because they had a right
to be there like everyone else. I said we all have to live here together in this
country. We need to understand each other. I told them I respect their dignity and
their right to self expression. They were surprised at how friendly I was.

I hope when they get the next email from the current administration telling them
that “they” – the liberal progressive left – hate you, they will remember the woman
from Straub Park who was so friendly.

As an aside, a demonstration supporter came up to me after I spoke with the
Trumpers and asked if I supported the president. I made my views clear. He
proceeded to yell at me for talking with them. I told him the same thing I told
them, we all have to live here together in this country. We need to understand each
other. And everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.

We have to let the living water of Jesus wash over us, well up in us, bubble forth
from us, flow out around us. The world is in desperate need. Conditions are
perilous. Life is threatened.

Living water is powerful. Rivers wear away stone. Cataracts carve the landscape.
After the Japanese tsunami of 2011, currents carried personal belongings washed
from Japanese homes over 5,000 miles to the west coast of North America. May
the living water of Jesus ripple through us to transform the world. Amen.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For
additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

Sermon 3/1 On Liberty and Slavery

Scripture Lesson: Matthew 4:1-11
Sermon: On Liberty and Slavery
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

Fourteen hundred and ninety-two. Of course. We know what happened then.
Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That is drilled into us in school. 1776. We all
know that year. The birth of a nation. But what about 1619? Recently, there have
been efforts to make sure that all of us are clear about 1619 and what happened in
that year for it is a year that is as important to our identity and heritage as a people
as 1492 and 1776.

What about 1619? I didn’t learn anything in school about that. The 1619 project
of the New York Times is helping us all to learn that in 1619 the first African
slaves arrived in the English mainland of North America. It is an important marker
in our history as a nation.

Yes, we all learn about slavery. In elementary school I did a book report about
Frederick Douglass entitled, “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” We learn about the
plantations. We may read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We watch “Gone With the Wind.”
We read Toni Morrison’s Beloved and learn of a mother who felt it was more
loving to kill her child that have the child grow up a slave. In more recent years
we’ve seen “12 Years a Slave” and “Harriet.” But for all that exposure, for all the
reading and the films I’ve seen, from the places I’ve visited including the National
Lynching Memorial and Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, for all of the
conversations I have had with people, I still don’t feel that I understand or
comprehend slavery. Not intellectually. Not emotionally. And certainly not
morally.

I can never pretend to empathize with the ravages of slavery upon the human
psyche and all of the continuing aftershocks of slavery that are still being felt on
the streets and in the stores and in the offices and on the playing fields even of our
city here today.

My ancestors chose to come to these shores from Europe in the last century. They
chose to seek new life here. One of my grandfathers chose to leave his country of
origin, Italy, chose to leave his wife and children, and chose to come here to start a
new life with a new wife and children. It was his choice. No one forced him. No
one captured him. No one tied him down and put him on a boat and brought him
here against his will. That leaves a heritage completely different from the legacy
of slavery. I cannot pretend to understand what it feels like to be the descendent of
slaves.

It is hard enough for me to try to comprehend the inheritance of whiteness. For
slavery to thrive, the concept of whiteness had to constructed, invented, designed
and instilled so that slavery could be maintained. That is baffling to me, as well.
How could people, especially supposedly Christian people, create a social system
that places a value on people based simply on skin tone? Something so random?
Yet slavery and racism only “work” where the concept of whiteness is associated
with superiority and every other skin tone with inferiority. There is nothing
“natural” about the racial constructs of slavery and the reality that was constructed
to imbed and maintain slavery in American society. Slavery is a social and
economic construct. Devised and perpetuated by people. Slavery and its aftermath
are the result of human choices.

This morning, we listened to the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
It is the classic story for the beginning of Lent, a liturgical season of soul searching
and repentance. In the story we are told of Jesus going into the wilderness by
himself for 40 days. Here he is not under the influence of society or the power
structures of his day. He is free to look within. To search his soul. To give his
heart fully and completely to God. In the wilderness, he can define himself in
relationship to the transcendent and creation, and not in relation to the constructs of
human society with its power arrangements and economic systems.
Then he is tempted; as he will be when he returns from the wilderness. Jesus’
strength of resolve and identity are tested. Can he stay true to the reality of the
commonwealth of God, the dream of God, despite other competing visions and
voices? Does he have the capacity to chose the way of God/Love even when confronted with other choices that appear morally good or just simply benign?
Can he stay aligned with God regardless? The story tells us that Jesus stays true,
centered, and grounded, in his devotion to God and God alone.

In this story we see Jesus free himself from the constructs and constrictions of
religion, ethnicity, gender, class, tribal identity, and status that are in conflict with
universal unconditional Divine Love.

This desert testing conveys a grueling confrontation. Yet a necessary one. For to
be true to our faith is a difficult challenge.

In his book, Meditations on the Sand, Alessandro Pronzato reflects, “If you
therefore go to the desert to be rid of all the dreadful people and all the awful
problems in your life, you will be wasting your time. You should go to the desert
for a total confrontation with yourself. For one goes to the desert to see more and
to see better. One goes to the desert especially to take a closer look at the things
and people one would rather not see, to face situations one would rather avoid, to
answer questions one would rather forget.”

The season of Lent is a time for this kind of honesty and self assessment. It is a
time to test our words against our deeds. It is time to examine ourselves to see if
our hopes and dreams are aligned with the intentions of God for the good of all.
And we will not like everything that we see. That is why Lent is a season of
forgiveness, atonement, and reconciliation. Our faith gives us a way through the
morass that we may find as we examine ourselves and our relationships with
others, individually and socially. It gives us a path to freedom.

What Jesus ultimately finds in the wilderness is his freedom. The story of
temptation and testing shows us that he remains free. He is not controlled by the
society or the values or even the religion of his day. He is not seduced by
popularity, power, or comfort. He limits the control of other influences upon his
life. He is choosing for himself. He is free.

This is the highest goal of the human journey. Freedom. Our faith is about
freedom. We believe that the truth will set us free; that we have freedom of choice.

I’m not going to say that we are all enslaved because slavery was about people
being forced into a situation where against their will.

As Christians, we believe that we are tethered to the reality we are in by choice.
We have choices about what we accept and whether or not we accept the reality we
are being given. We have the choice whether or not to accept the construct of
whiteness. We have the choice whether or not to accept racism in our community
and country. We have inherited the ravages of slavery but we have the power over
what we do with that inheritance. We do not have to accept social constructs that
define things by race and we do not have to accept the perpetuation of the legacy
of slavery and its assault on human dignity and human value. We have choices
about how we reckon with the legacy of slavery. Or don’t. We do not have to
accept the social arrangements or economic arrangements that continue oppression.
We have the freedom to embrace an antiracist reality. We can accept the reality of
reparations. We can accept the reality that Jesus shows us of universal,
unconditional Love. Consciously or unconsciously, we are making choices. So if
the racism persists, this has to do with our choices as individuals and as a
community; as people of European descent and people of African descent; as
Americans. We are choosing.

Our faith liberates us from captivity. In the story of Adam and Eve, they eat the
apple and their eyes are opened. They have choices. They have free will. We
have choices. Our faith is about what we do with our choices and our free will.
We will make mistakes. We will cause harm. So our faith also has a path for
repentance, for reconciliation, for restitution and for new life, new birth, and new
creation.

We have the freedom and the opportunity to create our reality. In fact, we have the
obligation to create our reality. Others are trying to create our reality for us all the
time. But finally each of us has choices to make. These choices are not necessarily easy, but we can be at our fullest, our freest, and our most human when
we take responsibility for our choices. Like Jesus, we have the choice to align
ourselves with the God of Love and that God alone. That is when we are truly
free. Former slave, George Moses Horton, celebrates that freedom in his poetry-

Oh, Liberty! Thou golden prize,
So often sought by blood –
We crave they sacred sun to rise,
The gift of nature’s God!
Amen.

Following the sermon, the choir sang the anthem, “On Liberty and Slavery,”
composed by music director Hilton Kean Jones, based on the words of the poem by
George Moses Horton. It was the premier performance of the anthem.

The words of the poem are included here and a biography of Horton.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For
additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

George Moses Horton 1798–1883

Born a slave on William Horton’s tobacco plantation, George Moses Horton taught himself to read. Around 1815 he began composing poems in his head, saying them aloud and “selling” them to an increasingly large crowd of buyers at the weekly Chapel Hill farmers market. Students at the nearby University of North Carolina bought his love poems and lent him books. As his fame spread, he gained the attention of Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz, a novelist and professor’s wife who transcribed his poetry and helped publish it in her hometown newspaper. With her assistance, Horton published his first collection of poetry, The Hope of Liberty (1829), becoming the first African American man to publish a book in the South—and one of the first to publicly protest his slavery in poetry.

Horton hoped to earn enough money from the publication of his book to buy his freedom, but his attempts were denied despite significant support from members of the public, including the governor.

He learned to write in 1832. In the early 1830s, with a weekly income from his poems of at least $3, Horton arranged to purchase his time from his owner, and became a full-time poet, handyman, and servant at the university. He continued to buy his own time for more than 30 years while publishing a second collection of poetry, The Poetical Works (1845), and continuing to appeal for his freedom.

After the Civil War, Horton traveled with the 9th Michigan Cavalry Volunteers throughout North Carolina. During those travels, he composed the poems that make up his third collection, Naked Genius (1865), published in Raleigh. After 68 years as a slave, he settled in Philadelphia for at least 17 years of freedom before his death, circa 1883.

His legacy is celebrated by the residents of Chatham County: he is the namesake of Horton Middle School, June 28 was declared George Moses Horton Day in 1978, and in 1997 he was declared the Historic Poet Laureate of Chatham County. Horton’s poetry is featured in the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and in 1996 he was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. A selection of his poems appears in The Black Bard of North Carolina: George Moses Horton and His Poetry (1997, ed. Joan R. Sherman).

Horton’s poetry displays a keen ear for rhythm and rhyme and a circumspect understanding of human nature. His poetry explores faith, love, and slavery while celebrating the rural beauty of Chatham County, home of the plantation on which Horton spent much of his life.

A historic marker stands near where Horton’s plantation was located.

Source: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/george-moses-horton

Sermon 2/23 Living in the Light

Scripture Lesson: Matthew 5:13-16
Sermon: Living in the Light
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

The Last Englishmen: Love, War, and the End of Empire by Deborah Baker is an
historical account of the early British efforts to summit Mount Everest set in the
context of colonial India and World War 2. Following an unsuccessful attempt on
Everest in 1933, a reconnaissance expedition is sent in 1934. This small team was
to map more of the area and take photographs so that a route could be identified for
another attempt on Everest the next year. Along the way, the small entourage stops
in a village in Tibet but they are turned back and not given permission to continue.
They must head to another route to continue their surveying and examination of the
terrain. The head of the expedition asks the head of the village why they are not
being permitted to pass through the region. The headman of the village gives this
explanation:

“Western ways leave behind nothing but unhappiness,” the headman replied.
“What will I do with the 200 rupees you have paid me for the use of my ponies?
Where there is no surplus there is nothing to buy. You have only to open your eyes
to see that in this country soil, crops, and people exist in a delicate balance. Money
can’t replenish the fodder consumed by transiting yaks. Money will simply
provide grounds for the headman in the next village to be jealous thus establishing
the conditions for perpetual strife. This is the material and spiritual effect of an
expedition passing through our lands. This is how unhappiness and suffering are
introduced into our lives.” [4 minutes and 45 seconds into the recorded book]

What a piercing ray of light and truth spoken to these Englishmen, so sure of
themselves and of the importance of their mission. The Tibetan leader speaks his
truth. Shares his insight. Tells his story. Reveals the reality of life for himself and
those of his culture and community.

As we heard from the Sermon on the Mount this morning, Jesus is remembered for
declaring that his followers are the light of the world. Not one of them but all of
them are the light of the world. Not just Jesus who appeared aglow with light on
the mountain top. And the verb used is present tense. They are the light of the world. We are not told that they will be the light of the world. At some future
point. When they have proven themselves. Or when they have passed some kind
of test. They will not become the light after they have been given a license. Or
obtained a permit. Or made a donation. Or earned a diploma. No. There is no
test or measurement or criteria. The followers of Jesus are, simply, the light of the
world. This is a way of saying that God is present. It is an acknowledgment of
Divinity within. It is a way of expressing the power of each and every person for
good, for truth, and for healing.

Light is a functional metaphor. Light shines. It does something. Has an impact.
Light is visible, public. It is not to be hidden under a bushel. Following Jesus is
not just a personal, private matter. This image of light has power. Light makes rats
scurry and it draws moths.

We don’t know that we will have to face in this life. But we know that we can trust
the light to show us the way, to lead us, to give us strength because, fundamentally,
light is life giving. It is like the light necessary for a plant to grow. Light is
healing. Light is warmth. Light reveals beauty. Light is energy. Light is vision.
We need light to live fully, knowing the deep experience of our humanness.

But it’s easy to resist this metaphor of light. It is easy to be reluctant to accept this
teaching. If we have this power, then we must be responsible for what we are
doing with it. The light within must be allowed to shine. Our story, our reality, our
experience, our perspective is to be valued and shared.

And here is the real problem with light. We may not like what we see. We may
not like what it shows. It may be horrific. Scary. We may not want to see what is
exposed by the light.

Maybe we don’t want to see that we are in an abusive relationship. Or that
someone we love is in such a relationship. Maybe we don’t want to see the
ramifications of something we have done which is causing harm to others. Easier
not to know the story of the farmworkers and just eat those tomatoes they have
picked. Who wants to see the truth of global warming and the devastation and
destruction that it is already causing on a daily basis? Who wants to know about
the continuing legacy of slavery that plagues our society today?

To think that we have some kind of light that we are compelled to shine, it can justseem like too much responsibility, too heavy a burden, too overwhelming.

Thomas Merton, mystic of the 20th century, reminds us that we are not alone. He writes: “I have the immense joy of being…a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

In the verse we heard this morning, “You are the light of the world,” the word ‘you’ is plural. It’s not just you, or you, or you, or me. It is all of us. Each of us has light that is needed to overcome the darkness of our spirits and the darkness in. the world.

We are all light. The light of the world. Every one of us contributing like an array of solar panels. Enabling vision and insight. Driving out fear.

And the light is needed especially when it is darkest. That is when the light shines most brightly: When people are being mean and hurtful, a beam of kindness and understanding. When people are hostile and at odds, even engaged in violence and war, a ray of understanding and peace. When things are swirling in a confused muddle of corruption, lies, and betrayal, a beacon of right, of ethical grounding, of moral good. When selfishness and greed seem to be winning the day, there is a stream of generosity, justice, and compassion.

No matter the extremity of the darkness, there is light, and it shines from others, it shines from us. We have not chosen to bear the light. It has been given. Like the sun. To light of the world. Amen.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.