Whispers of Light

Scripture Text: Matthew 10:24-27

24“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

Have no fear…do not be afraid…fear not…How many times have we encountered that in Scripture? Well, apparently, “fear not” is in the Bible 365 times according to the trustworthy Google machine.  Are you sensing a theme? So, of what are you afraid?  We’ve probably outgrown worrying about the monsters under the bed or the ghosts in the closet.  But we’re all afraid of something—health issues, financial issues, the pandemic, global terrorism, or just being found out.  Yeah, most of us are afraid that others will discover that we’re not as competent or self-assured or as put together as we project.  (Or maybe that’s just me!)  Most of us are afraid that that façade we have so carefully crafted around our lives will be pierced and we’ll have to be honest with those around us and, even worse, ourselves.

Fear not…have no fear of them…well, easy for YOU to say.  The promise is that everything will be made known. That’s what the full Light does, remember?  It exposes everything.  And imagine how glorious that would be to no longer have to hide those parts of yourself from the world!  Be not afraid!  What’s the worse that could happen, right? 

So, do you remember that whole notion of needing to die to live, die to self and be resurrected as a New Creation?  I think that’s the thing.  Living in the darkness makes it easy to hide things.  But this light, this light shows us everything.  So those things hidden in the darkness will die.  They will just fade away.  The things in the Light will survive.  The Light is coming.  Right now it’s just a whisper.  But we know what’s out there.  Our faith tells us that.  And we know that we have to let go of the darkness, we have to let go of the things that we hide.  The whispers of Light are gently showing us how to let go.  Because the Light will give us everything.

God, I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid. (Annie Dillard) 

Grace and Peace,


The Speed of Light

Scripture Text: Hebrews 10: 5-10 (Advent 4C)

5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.  7Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Yes, sometimes it’s very hard to focus on the Epistle readings that are chosen for Advent.  After all, we’re getting ready for the big day.  We’ve become accustomed to John the Baptist and his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth.  We like hearing the story of Mary and, once every three years when we focus on the Gospel writer known as Matthew, we get to talk about Joseph.  But this sacrifice and offerings rhetoric doesn’t really fit, does it?

Well, the truth is, when we remember that God came into the world in the form of Jesus Christ, we began to talk about a new way of looking at things, didn’t we?  In spite of what some try to make it, though, it is not a “replacement” of what was there before; it is a fulfillment, a broadening, a clarifying of it. It was a way of seeing who God calls us to be in a new light.  And, as has been said before, “it is very very good.”  See, Jesus did not dismiss sacrifices or offerings but instead put them in perspective.  Sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake is, and has always been, pointless.  But if that, or anything else, is what brings you closer to God, go for it.  That’s the point. 

So, this is a somewhat random question but do you know the speed of light?  In a vacuum, light travels at approximately 186,000 miles per second.  I suppose that would be pure light.  But the problem is that we do not live in a vacuum.  In measuring the speed of light (I guess, when you have nothing else to do!), Einstein surmised that light seen from a moving train traveled at only about 184,000 miles per second.  The point is that the speed of light, the way we see it, is affected by a multitude of factors—the speed at which we’re moving, temperature, wind, our own eyesight—there’s lots of things.  And if the speed of light changes, what we see changes.  Oh, for us, it’s almost nothing, but it affects the length of objects and even the colors we see.  We don’t see pure light.  So, another random point…did you know that sunlight takes approximately 8 ½ minutes to get to us?  If the sun exploded and remnants were strewn through the universe, we wouldn’t know that for 8 ½ minutes.  The point is that Light is always changing.  We can’t just look at it once and think we know what’s in it.

So, back to the God’s Will thing.  I’m sure God has in mind some way we should be.  It’s, there, in the Light.  God shows us over and over and over again.  But we are not capable of seeing pure Light.  We do not live in a vacuum.  God knows that.  God knows that the way we see things changes.  God knows that we do desire to do God’s Will.  God’s goodness and God’s holiness is a gift.  And the way we see it is faith.  It’s always been the same.  WE are the ones that change—sometimes at the speed of light.  So, don’t decide that what you see and what you think is the end of the answer.  What if it was only the beginning of the question?  What if the Light we see is only a reflection of who God calls us to be? (At least for now.)

All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light. (James Joyce) 

Grace and Peace,


Evidence of Light

Scripture Text: Isaiah 45: 1-3

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him— and the gates shall not be closed: 2I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

As this passage begins, we get good King Cyrus, the Persian conqueror who is known for taking over Babylon in the 540’s and is credited with being the one who allowed the exiles to return to their home.  So, the writer imagines this foreign ruler as God’s anointed even though it is likely that Cyrus didn’t even know God at all.  But Cyrus is known as a liberator even today.  Interestingly, the “cyrus cylinder”, Cyrus’ supposed policies on liberation and human rights, was declared by the United Nations to be an early declaration of human rights in 1971.

So, all of that said, there have been many times when what is seen as God’s work does not even involve persons who even see themselves that way.  The writer of this passage called this work the “treasures of darkness”, the hidden work of God.  The truth is, so much of God’s creative work is not that obvious to us when it is happening.  As much as we would like God to make it easy on us by extravagantly broadcasting the ongoing coming of God’s Kingdom into our lives, we are over and over again blessed with small treasures hidden in the darkness that depict evidence of Light.  Rather than giving us proof of God’s existence, God instills faith in our lives that we might look toward the Light.

Think about it.  God did not come into the world via a perfectly choreographed event in an impeccably decorated venue.  Instead, God tiptoed into the world as a baby born to immigrant visitors from a little-known town in a small place on the outskirts of the gated holy city.  God came into a world that wanted something different, something grander, something stronger and more powerful than what the world got.  God was laid in a feed stall surrounded not by armies and elites but by those who needed God most.  God came into the darkness as one of us and therein lies our evidence of Light.  It’s everything we need.  Because sometimes what is being shown to us is not the full-lit picture but rather the wonderful glimmers of Light in the darkness that guide us toward the Light.

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty if waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure. (Macrina Wiederkehr, “A Tree Full of Angels”) 

Grace and Peace,


The Illumination of Peace

Scripture Text: Micah 5:2-5a (Advent 4C)

2But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5and he shall be the one of peace.

The time in which Micah prophesied was a time of great turmoil and violence.  The Assyrians had already invaded the region, had captured Samaria (capital of the northern kingdom), and had attacked several towns in Judah.  Corruption was at its height among the rulers and the people were reaching a point of despair.  Their expectations more than likely would have been for God to send a great warrior, a ruler who would quash the growing threat and instill a sense of safety for all against their enemies. But, instead, the prophet promises a ruler who will bring peace.

Yeah, I know…we all went there. But keep in mind that the original prophecy and the current-day Jewish interpretation does not associate this promise with the coming of Jesus.  The Old Testament should stand within the context in which it was written.  This was the promise of a king that would bring a time of peace against the Assyrians and for the time thereafter.  But for the Gospel writers, this understanding was illumined through Jesus Christ.  Know that neither is the “right way” or the “wrong way” to understand it.  Either way, God offers hope and promise of new life.  

So, who is this “one of peace”?  I mean, as near as I can tell, the world has never experienced peace.  For as long as history has been written, the earth has rocked on its axis with threats or acts of war and violence and intentional ways to divide us.  Rulers came and went.  Jesus was born.  Great theologians and spiritual thinkers have written of the peaceful time to come.  And peace still seems to be elusive for us.  Could it be that the promise of peace is elusive because we’re waiting for someone else to do something?  Jesus did not bring peace as if it could be manifest with some sort of magic earthly pill. Instead, Jesus showed us a different Way, a radical Way, the Way of Peace. Jesus did not bring peace; Jesus brought the love of peace.  What Jesus showed us was indeed radical.  It was a different Way than the one to which the world was and is accustomed.  This Way of Peace is not merely an absence of war.  It has to do with so much more, a pervasive and radical re-imagining of the way we live in this world. 

Peace cannot be until we respect one another, whether or not we agree.  Peace cannot be until we honor one another’s life, until food and housing and safety is available for all.  Peace cannot be until we realize that this earth in which we live, all of its creatures, all of its resources, and all of its beauty are entrusted to us not for our consumption but for our care.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  The “one of peace” has indeed come but peace itself is up to us as children of God.  Each of us has a part. Our journey toward the Light is a Way of Peace.

Peace does not come rolling in on the wheels of inevitability.  We can’t just wish for peace.  We have to will it, fight for it, suffer for it, demand it from our governments as if peace were God’s most cherished hope for humanity, as indeed it is.  (William Sloan Coffin) 

Grace and Peace,


Take Joy, Take Light

Scripture Text: Isaiah 12: 2-6 (Advent 3C)

2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

We love this Psalm.  We love to say it.  We love to sing it.  It brings us joy.  It is our affirmation that we trust that God will save us, that we rely on that.  And we wait and watch for those lovely flowing waters of salvation.  The writer’s vision is one of liberation—to the exiles, to the world, to all of Creation, to us.  The destiny is clear.  God is walking us all toward salvation and that is indeed something about which everyone should be joyful. 

But what do we do in the meantime?  What do we do while we are waiting for the promised liberation or the prophesied salvation?  What do we do while we are waiting for our joy to kick in?  So, did we forget?  Did we forget what we believe—that God, the very Godself, the Creator, broke through all time and space and entered this world as a baby to become Emmanuel, God-With-Us?  So go back and re-read this Psalm with that in mind.

Notice that it says “God IS my salvation”—not God will be or God might be or God will come when we do something right.  God IS my salvation.  That’s pretty major.  The God who is in our midst is here to save us—not to see if we’re being good or doing right—just IS.  So, why aren’t we drawing water from those wells?  Those wells are everywhere, flowing with clean sparkling water.  We just have to get a bucket and draw out the water.  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe we don’t always have our bucket handy.  Maybe we’re so preoccupied with what we will be and the way things will turn out for us that we have neglected what God has given us to draw out water, to draw out joy, to draw out Light.

God created us in Joy.  God created us in Light.  God created us in water—lifegiving waters.  It’s all for the taking.  We are called to always go toward who we are meant to be, who God created us to be.  But the journey is here, filled with joy and light.  So take your bucket and draw out the waters.  Take joy.  Take Light.  It is yours.  God IS our salvation.  Take that too, for “great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel”—in your midst…

I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got. But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy! Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty . . . that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it, that is all! . . . And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away. (From a letter by Fra Giovanni, 1513, as quoted in the introduction of “Take Joy”, by Tasha Tudor) 

Grace and Peace,


Children of the Light

Scripture Text: Ephesians 5: 8-14

8For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

We all want this—to live as children of the light.  We want to be in the light, to have the light shine on us and on our lives.  It is comforting.  It is warm and inviting.  The notion of being in the light means that we can see where we are and know where we are going.  And, yet, that implies that the darkness is bad or, at the very least, less desirable than the light.

Most agree that the Letter to the Ephesians was not written by Paul, but rather pseudonymously by one of his students.  This passage seems to contain an insistence that there should remain a separation between “children of light” and others.   There’s a dualism that seldom ends in good results and can often become dangerous in this world.  I mean, what if being a child of the light is not about WHERE you are but rather in how you see?  What if being a child of the light is not about walking IN the light but rather becoming that light?

Our world and our churches are, sadly, filled with, well, just bad evangelism.  You hear a calling for persons to leave the world behind, to live in some sort of religious bubble of God’s Light.  I don’t think that’s what we’re meant to do.  I mean, really, what good does that do the world?  We are in the world.  We are of the world.  And God created this glorious world and filled it with beauty and life and order and, yes, us.  But there is often darkness in this world.  But darkness is not a place where God is not.  Darkness is a place where God is not known or felt, where that sense of God is somehow obstructed from our souls, where perhaps faith has faltered for some reason.  We all have those moments.  We know that feeling.  But there is Light on the horizon, always Light on the horizon.  And we are called to become Children of the Light.  We are called to reflect God’s Light into the darkness.  We are called to be Children of the Light, bearing witness to the “Light that shines in the darkness”.  Go and be Light.

We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us.  We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.  The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) 

Grace and Peace,


The Revelation of Light

Scripture Text: Luke 3: 7-18 (Advent 3C)

7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

So, again, John is not known for his pastoral ministry.  I mean, I’m thinking that calling congregants a “brood of vipers” may not be the best evangelism tool, but, sure, John, you do you!  But instead of walking out of the church service, the people responded with a question: “What, then, shall we do?”  And John answered them by telling them to, essentially, follow a different way.  The answer to the average person who barely had enough was to share.  The answer to the tax collectors was to collect no more than what was owed.  The answer to the soldiers was to not bully people and not expect more than you are due. So, in the midst of John’s seemingly harsh sermon, the people begin to see what they thought might be the Light.  And at that point, John turned his words toward the Light, the true Light, the Light of God coming into the world.   

Our ears are probably not trained to hear such harshness.  We look to the Light for peace, for hope, for the answer to our prayers.  But Light is not an anesthetic for what ails us and if we think getting to the Light will solve all the problems and injustices of the world, we probably haven’t been paying close attention.  The truth is, Light is not merely a balm; it is also a revelation.  Light illumines everything—both the beauty and the things of this world that we would rather to just sweep away.  No longer can the world hide its fault lines beneath the ground.  They are laid bare for all to see.   

As we learn to see differently, learn to see that revelatory Light, we become acutely aware of those things that do not belong in our world.  We begin to notice injustices rather than “bad luck”.  We begin to notice hunger and poverty rather than someone who just hasn’t applied themselves.  We begin to notice that peace is not just an absence of war but a fulfillment of what this world is meant to be.  We begin to see that we are stewards of this planet and not just consumers.  We begin to be a part of the Light dawning into a world that needs it desperately.

Perhaps John’s way of speaking was not the one to which we’re accustomed.  Perhaps it even turns it off a bit.  But when it was all said and done, John had one vision—to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the One who was coming to show us the Light.  But in order for us to know the Light, we have to know ourselves, we have to know this world.  We have to be a part of the Light shining into the world—the whole world.

Justice is not a case of the “haves” giving to the “have nots”.  That is far too unworthy and shallow an interpretation of God’s intent for us.  We must recognize that all people are our brothers and sisters…we are all members of God’s family.  We would want the best for our family…It is our responsibility as part of being God’s children to actively try to make God’s Kingdom come on earth.  (Desmond Tutu) 

Grace and Peace,