Click video below to view the full service video for Sunday, January 5, 2019, posted on our YouTube Channel
Yesterday was tree chipping day in my neighborhood. Christmas is really over after tree chipping day. But for we who follow the child, who became an adult, who carried, demonstrated, invited, advocated, stood for the love of Christmas every moment, we have just begun.
Epiphany Sunday Reflection by Rev. Will Sparks
Have you ever been in a place that is completely dark? In the city that can be hard to find with all the light pollution around. Back in 2006 I took a ministry exchange to Ireland and served a couple of small Methodist churches there in Carlow and Kilkenny. I worked for three weeks and travelled for the other three with my children. I have many fond memories of that time, but one that sticks in my mind is visiting a cave that ran deep into the earth, with long stalactites and stalagmites and dripping water. We walked down, down, down flight after flight of steps all lit by electric lights into wide open cavernous spaces deep within the earth. And I remember at a certain point our tour guide took us into a room that felt like it was in the belly of the earth, gathered us around to talk about what we were seeing, and then, without warning, turned off the lights. It was dark. It was blacker than the inside of a cat as my mother used to say. It was so dark. We all waited for our eyes to adjust, because our experience tells us that you just have to wait for your eyes to get used to the low level of light, but eventually they will find some dim level of light. Not this time. After a minute or two, our eyes were aching from searching for the light that simply was not there. And then the tour guide flicked on a single flame of a lighter, and that flame lit the entire cavern, and everyone’s eyes drank from that one light like we had been in the dark for hours.
You don’t need a lot of light to show the way through deep darkness, but there’s got to be some. In history, the Hebrew people were supposed to be God’s light, a chosen people demonstrating God’s loving and just intentions for the world, which was supposed to be a source of light in the world. And if they really did, if they really followed God’s way in all faithfulness, the whole world would notice and focus, and would be drawn to them like eyes to a bic lighter a mile underground. Their demonstration of love and justice would be that source of light that eyes thirst to drink in.
Today is Epiphany Sunday, the day when we remember the story of the three astrologers, the star gazers who saw the light and followed it thinking they were on their way to worship a king, and ended up finding a baby in a barn, but recognized that baby even so as a powerful sign that God’s light was shining in the world. For me, Epiphany comes after the busy season, and after I have had long awaited rest. And I have come to appreciate that rest and listen to what happens in that time after the work of Christmas is finished. I think it is a combination of the message of hope at Christmas, the beauty of it, the deep rest, and the turn of the year that lead to the dreams- the imaginings come.
Isaiah was dreaming- he was imagining from exile in Babylon. He was envisioning. When Isaiah envisioned, he saw that the Hebrew People would get off their lounge chairs of self pity and realize that even if they were captives in Babylon, or even if they came home to a Jerusalem in ruins, they were still supposed to be the light for the world. And as Isaiah dreamed and saw he wrote, “Arise, your light is come… The Lord will arise upon you and the light of God will rest upon you… and the nations will see how brightly you shine.” That was Isaiah’s dream.
I have been doing some envisioning too. Yes I too can see God’s light and our church. And I imagine us, as a community of followers of the way, reconnecting deep within, individually and together with that very precious light. I dream that we would notice that light like the wise men noticed the star. But whereas the wise ones of old looked up to see God’s light, I believe it is given to our time to look within us and between us to see the star, the light that can guide us. I dream that we notice it as we walk through the door and find welcome and warmth- find a community that is not put off by the exterior of one person and drawn in by the exterior of another but rather sees the light within each; that we notice the light when we find ourselves in the hospital and are visited by someone in the church; that we notice it in the challenge of a new and foreign perspective; that we notice the light in the eyes and heart of someone whose beliefs and ways are not our ways; that we notice God’s light in the many many small ways in which it shines as our lives are shared and we are given strength and courage and hope by each other and by the flame burning within. We are star gazers but the stars are scattered among us.
I envision that we not only notice the light among us but that it would have power within us and within this community- that the light that comes at Christmas would be an activating force for each of us and for us together. I am imagining the light of Christ being not only a source of light that helps us to see but a source of energy that give the power to heal, that it has the power to open minds and hearts, has the power to right wrongs here and in the community. I dream that in that light of Christ we discover a road, a ministry, a reason for being that emboldens us to trust each other deeply, rely on each other for guidance and courage, that emboldens us to risk putting ourselves as a community out there as a real genuine place to be courageous Christians.
In this time after Christmas, when the trees are put away and the lights are taken down and the house is put back to its usual state, we are left with a light, a light that shines in the darkness and the darkness is simply unable to put it out. An activating light, a light that Howard Thurman wrote about in his poem, “The Work of Christmas.”
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among all,
To make music in the heart.
That is the work of Christmas, of the Christ light that remains. Opening to God’s light, like opening an honest conversation, can be risky, because it reveals and challenges. God’s light shines in the stables of our hearts and banishes the little Herods that would snuff it out. Yet God’s light shines giving us energy for the work of Christmas.
A new year. Fill it, God. Shine in it God.Amen.
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