Where do we see people “Witnessing To The Light” today?
How are you doing this day by day?
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came intobeing through him, and withouthim not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of allpeople. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
A PDF of the sermon as distributed at Calvary is available for download and printing.
Epiphany donates a sudden momentous realization – potentially life changing. The season of Epiphany begins tomorrow, with the visit of the Magi to the child of Jesus.
These people were astrologers whose vocation was studying the stars for signs of something REALLY BIG happening. Today we might call them a “think tank”. We have deduced that there were 3 of them because 3 gifts are listed in Matthews gospel: Gold denoting the royal lineage of this child; frankincense donating his divinity; and myrrh denoting his mortality. Actually, there was a 4th visitor who was spurned because he came bearing a fruitcake. Imagine: gold, frankincense, myrrh and fruitcake.
No, really. Today, we laugh at the idea of looking to the stars to guise our thinking and to perceive trends. Instead, we look for signs in opinion polls, the Dow-Jones and Twitter and most of us do read our daily horoscopes.
However we view these guys, we must acknowledge that they ACTED following the best light they had and they were open to a new vision. They could not load up the car, set the GPS and hit the interstate. Their journey involved organizing for animals large and small, armed guards, lots of slaves and camping provisions for all that. I wonder where they got their funding.
Today’s reading from John’s Gospel brings into focus a story of someone else bearing witness to the Light of God. The reading issues the call, the challenge, the privilege, of both discerning where God’s Light is breaking into the Darkness and we ourselves becoming witness to that Light which can never be extinguished.
The Light of God can never be overcome. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT?
Let me say, that I agree with the theologian who asserted that “our hope is not in human progress. Our hope is in the sovereignty of God.” And I am guided by the Liberation theologian who decades ago wrote: “Unconditional love can allow itself the most absurd desires. It can pray for them, and work for them. Precisely because it does not make the existence of God dependent on the fulfillment of those desires.”
Still I resonate with the words of a longtime Quaker activist for justice, encouraging us to “pay close attention to the positive news lurking beneath the OMG headlines.”
Victor highlighted some of that positive news in his Christmas Eve sermon. Here are a few more.
The Governor of Tennessee announced that refugees will be welcomed in Tennessee and helped to rebuild their lives. In so doing, he defied and incurred the wrath of the titular head of his political party, as well as some wealthy and influential individuals. He has risked his career. Why? “My faith,” he said “led me to this decision.” Bill Lee, bearing witness to the Light of God’s love coming into our world’s darkness.
Shift the locale. Sex trafficking gangs all over the world prey on the poor and the vulnerable. In Pakistan, it has been documented that in less than 2 years, 629 girls – as young as 10 – have been sold to China ostensibly in body and mind from the brutal treatment they endured.
Saleem Igbal is part of a group of Christian activists who have rescued some girls and successfully intervened in the sale of others. The Pakistani government, mindful of lucrative trade in China, has ignored and interfered with the efforts to save these children. Bill Lee risked his career. Saleem Igbal and his co-workers are risking their lives to bear witness to the Light of God shining in that terrible darkness.
Come to San Francisco.
Barbara came to SafeHouse with a mission: to earn back her nurse’s license. Barbara led the police on a 3 county chase until her car ran out of gas. She was drunk. As a result, she lost that nurse’s license which allowed her to carry out what she belived was a God-given calling and she ended up on the streets. Beautiful. Statuesque. Addicted. She was the instant target of traffickers. When she came to SafeHouse, Barbara’s self esteem was blasted by jail and streets, she sabotaged herself over and over. Bu the months of therapy and loving support she received brought her to healing and graduation. 10 years ago she took a job cleaning an upscale fitness center just to earn money to continue working through the arduous and expensive regimen required to let her live out her calling again. SHE MADE IT. She worked at San Quentin and Soledad. Now she works for an agency in Alameda, going into scuzzy hotels and crossing railroad tracks to find ‘her patients” in encampments. They need help staying on their medications or receiving the healing injections she gives. “Its so awful, Glenda,” she said with tears in her eyes. “there is so much suffering. It should not be like this.”
“Are you afraid?” I asked. “No. I have faith that God will take care of me whatever happens.” With a wry smile, she added: “I wear hospital scrubs so everyone recognizes me”. With the power of the Holy Spirit, this woman transformed her life and now risks her life, bearing witness to the Light of God’s Love. For 3 years, Barbara has had a life partner who is also in recovery. A devout Catholic, Barbara said: “It is so good to be with someone I can pray with. Even if he is a Baptist.”
Another Safehouse graduate left a well-paying job for lower wages working at SafeHouse. Recently, she led the effort to open an outreach Center for homeless, sex trafficked and prostituted women. It is not easy to find an affordable sire in SF. Even so, they rejected a place which had formally housed a pornography shop. After a long search for location and funding to operate it, a center was opened on Hyde Street offering individual therapy, groups focusing on trauma recovery, women’s empowerment, addiction treatment, case management, a way to keep in touch and initiate securing housing and a welcome respite from the streets.
Soon thereafter, some members of this congregation purchased and prepared a feast for the center. A discreet sign on the buffet table told that this came from Calvary Presbyterian Church. Near Christmas, sandwiches were prepared here and delivered in bags which the children had decorated. Bearing witness to the Light of God’s Love for Her daughters – our sisters – on the streets.
Let a New Year’s resolution be twofold
Persistently look for those places, people, events where the light of God is breaking again into the darkness of our world. And when you find these, pause, take a deep breath and give thanks. REALLY give thanks. “How nice” doesn’t do it.
Seek and open yourself to epiphany – a potentially life changing breakthrough in your consciousness. When you look at God’s beloved world, what breaks your heart the most? Find others working on the same societal injustice, the meanness, the violence you see write large in political structures and resolve like the Magi, to ACT, becoming one bearing Witness to God’s Light shining in the darkness.