Sunday, January 7, 2018


. . . . [Remarks about reasons I have high hopes for All Saints future]

That word “hope” leads to our lesson from Genesis.
The world begins in darkness.
Then God says, “Let there be light and there is light.”

But the darkness did not go away.
Since the creation, light and darkness have co-existed.
 We experience dark times in our lives,
         times of loneliness, fear, despair, uncertainty.
Being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from that.
50 years ago, philosopher, Hannah Arendt, author of
         The Origins of Totalitarianism, used the term dark times
         to describe periods of history where democratic values
                  are eclipsed by fear, anger, and prejudice.

Some say we are living in dark times today.
Hate crimes increased by 6% in 2016
         and many cities reported a 20% increase in 2017.
So, we understand why some regard these times as dark.

As individuals, as families, as a nation,
         we are all subject to darkness.
I’ve been there. I bet you have too.

The Bible begins with darkness.
It was precisely in the original time of darkness
         that God first said, Let there be light.
 Much, much later when God’s people were vanquished
         and it was for them a time of darkness,
         God sent the prophet Isaiah to say,
         Those who walked in darkness
                  have seen a great light;
         on those living in a land of deep darkness,
                  a light has dawned . . . .
         For to us a child is born,
                  to us a son is given.

It was in the time of national despair
         that God sent a ray of hope,
         the promise of a messiah.
The times had been darkest in the region of Galilee.
They had seceded from Judah
         and been conquered by the Assyrian Empire.
The Assyrians deported all the Jews
         and repopulated the region with their own people.
Eventually a few Jews made it back there,
         but in Jesus day, Matthew still called it,
         Galilee of the Gentiles.
That is precisely where Jesus began his mission. 
Matthew saw that as fulfilling Isaiah’s prophesy.
He called Jesus the light that dawned over Galilee.

So, what is the point for us? Just this:
Light and darkness, joy and sorrow,
         hope and despair are part of life.
They happen. There is no denying it.
Nations, families, and individuals
         all have their dark times.

But that is precisely when God
speaks light into being.
John said, The light shines in the darkness.

When we are feeling down,
         that’s the precise time to keep an eye out
         for an unexpected infusion of grace.

The issue is not whether God will shine.
The issue is whether we will notice.
The prophets were driven to distraction
         by people’s obdurate refusal
                  to see the truth of God.
Ezekiel, for one, lamented,
         They have eyes to see but do not see . . . .
         for they are a rebellious people.

We are apt to drape despair around our shoulders
         as a comfortable, familiar cloak.
We are apt to wear it over our eyes as blinders.
John said, The light has come into the world
         but men have more love for the dark
         than for the light.

When blind Bartimaeus shouted to Jesus for mercy,
         Jesus did not just assume what he wanted.
Jesus asked him, What do you want me to do for you?
Bartimaeus replied, I want to see.
So, in your dark times,
         what do you want Jesus to do for you?
Do you want to see some light
         at the end of whatever tunnel you may be in?
Maybe not. Maybe misery is a familiar friend.
But if you want to see some hope,
         don’t be afraid to ask for it.

If we want to see the light of hope,
         God will show it to us if we open your eyes.
Opening our eyes means several things.
First, we have to set aside the terms and conditions
         on which we are willing to be happy.
Hope almost always comes out of left field,
         in ways we did not expect.

Second, we need to spend some time in prayer.
The Scottish novelist and statesman, John Buchan, said,
         Prayer opens the heart to God
         and is the means by which the (empty) soul . . . .
         is filled with God.
So, pray. It doesn’t matter how we pray
         or what we pray for.
Just pray honestly and it will open up
         the fields of possibility in your life.

Finally, keep an eye out for truth, beauty, and goodness.
They happen in little ways all around us.
Paul said to the Philippians,
         Whatever is true, whatever is noble,
         whatever is right, whatever is pure,
         whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy,
         think about such things.

I’d say, at least pay attention to them.
Fault-finding, negativity, and cynicism
         are addictive and blinding.
If that’s the life we want, it’s there for the taking.
But if we want to see a better world,
         it takes a little willingness to see the good.

Brothers and sisters,
         my heart goes out to you
         when you walk in darkness.
I assure you, I’ve been there too.
But time and again,
         light has broken unexpectedly into my darkness,
         and when I look at it closely enough,

                  it always looks like Jesus.