Monday, April 4, 2011

Change Your Course

In Ephesians Paul says,
“Once you were darkness.
Now in the Lord you are light.
Live as children of light.”

A navy ship was out at sea when the captain saw the light
of an oncoming ship.
He radioed a message:
“This is the USS (whatever his ship’s name was).
Change your course 10 degrees to starboard.”
The answer came back. “No. Change your course.”

The Captain was offended so he radioed back.
“This is Captain John Williams of the United States Navy.
Change your course.”
The answer came back,
“This is Willie Brown, seaman second class.
Change your course.”
The captain was really angry now.

He radioed back,
“This is an Iowa class battleship.
Change your course.”
The message came back.
“This is the light house.
It’s up to you.”

Brothers and sisters, the world needs you.
The world needs you because you are the light.
You are the lighthouse.
When people see the light of Christ in your lives,
that’s what they have to steer by.

But where do we need the light? Where should it shine?
There is an Islamic story about a famous fool,
Mullah Nazradin.
A friend saw him one night crawling around
on the sidewalk under a street light.
The man said, “Mullah Nazradin can I help you?
What is the problem?”

Nazradin answered, “I dropped my keys
and I am looking for them.”
His friend began looking around too.
Eventually he said, “Where were you standing
when you dropped your keys?”
“In my bedroom inside the house,” Nazradin answered.
“Then why aren’t you looking in your bedroom” his friend asked.
Nazradin replied, “The light is better out here.”

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”
He meant for us to shine in the world.
The light isn’t for the church.
Our mission is to be the light out there
where people live.

In our Old Testament, Samuel anointed David.
He poured oil on David’s head.
In those days, oil was used in lamps.
It burned. It was energy. It gave off light.

The Bible says from the time he was anointed,
“the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David
from that day forward.”
So David was anointed with power,
the energy kind of power like electric power today
– power that gives off light.
We were anointed at our Baptism for the same thing,
for God’s Spirit to come mightily upon us
empowering us to be the light of the world.

But where did David serve the Lord?
Not in the church for there was no church.
Not in the temple for there was no temple.
Not in the synagogue for there was no synagogue.
All those things were centuries away.

David anointed to serve the Lord as a political leader.
David served God in the public affairs of his people.

Filled with the Holy Spirit,
David made a difference in people’s lives
– not by showing up for regular worship
but by fighting for freedom and justice in Israel.
That’s where David brought the light of Christ –
in the public square where justice was at stake.

Now let’s look at our Gospel lesson.
Jesus is the world’s true light.
That’s what we see whenever Jesus heals a blind person,
as he did in today’s lesson.
Jesus brought light into the darkened lives of the blind.

But where did Jesus heal the man?
He wasn’t in the Temple. He wasn’t in the synagogue.
Not once did Jesus ever heal a blind person
in a place of worship.
Jesus was on the road, the public highway.
He said, “I am the light of the world” and showed that man the light.

Are you getting my point?
What we do here in Church is necessary.
It’s where we recharge our batteries.
But the Christian life happens when we carry the Christ light
out into Las Vegas.
You do that in your homes and at your jobs and in your neighborhoods
when you act in ways that are shaped by faith.

Yesterday, a lot of Episcopalians were on the Strip
for a rally against Human Trafficking.
That was one rare occasion of our shining the light for justice.
It is too rare.
When I represent the Episcopal Church at Las Vegas Interfaith,
where we join hands with other people of faith,
to make this a better place to live,
it is always Fr. Bernardo, Fr. Hilario, and myself.
Rarely anyone else.
It is rare when we shine the light for justice in Nevada.
So I was grateful for yesterday.

Such things are not rare in the Philippines.
The Diocese of Santiago speaks out boldly on issues of justice
– especially land reform and government corruption.
The Episcopal Church in the Philippines gets its hands dirty.
The Church there organizes agricultural cooperatives.
It forms businesses to give people jobs.

Episcopalians there don’t just provide houses of worship
where they find other Episcopalians.
They form cooperatives and improve people’s lives
in towns where there are not any Episcopalians;
then the people in those towns say,
“Thank you. Now can you send us a church?
We like what we see in you.”

We carry the Christ light into the world
by being visibly Christian at home,
at work, and in our communities.
We carry the Christ light by having the mind of Christ,
by modeling everything we do on his example,
and then living that way in Las Vegas, Nevada, year 2011.
When we fail to live our faith in the world,
the world is left in darkness.
Without a lighthouse, people we know
and people we do not know,
crash into the rocks.
Our children and other people’s children crash into the rocks.
The ship of state crashes into the rocks.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world . . . .
Let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

May we follow the good example
of our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.
May we follow the words of Jesus and of Paul.
“Now in the Lord you are light.
Live as children of light.”

Brothers and sisters, be the lighthouse
saying to the battleship, “Change your course.”
Call out to this world -- hell-bent as it is for destruction,
“Change your course.”

Brothers and sisters, stand for justice.
Show mercy to the suffering.
Welcome the stranger.
Care for the outcast.
And do it all in the name of Jesus.

Let Las Vegas know the Body of Christ is here.
The Light of Christ shines here.