Monday, August 31, 2015

Beloved, Be A Light

Proper 17B, 2015, St. Clement’s
Scripture appointed for Proper 17B can be found at

“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

The island of Maui emerged through the volcanic activity of the Volcano, Haleakala.  Growing up on the side of this dormant volcano, I was ever aware of the relationship between the sun and the earth.  From sea level, you can watch the sun gradually rise up from behind the volcano’s dome.  And, as the sun dips you can see the shadow cast by mountains and the interplay of light and shadow on the slopes of the volcano.  

Rising from the caldera and sinking into the sea with the attendant breezes and tides, the smell of salt and burnt sugar cane. The cattle lowing and roosters crowing.

From the slopes of a volcano looking out over the vast pacific, it can seem as if the world entire is in sight.  Anything beyond the horizon unimaginable and the sun more tangible than any continental mass.

And, from this interplay of light and shadow, of ocean and land, of smoke and wind--comes an understanding of the divine grounded in creation.

But this is not an understanding limited to the imagination of a child on an island, but grounded in the relationship each of us has with the created world.  The sound of a rock thrown into Lake Superior, the way the sunlight reflects off of the smaller interior lakes, the sound of loons and those moments where in the bracken an animal’s scurry gives hint to the passage of a moose.  

The sight of the moon on a crisp night, bright against the sky and silhouetted, this very church, where gardens and soil and trees and grass meet stone hewn from the earth itself.  

And, so God, creator. God, inspirer.  God, the Father of light.

And all that was and all that is and all that will be--given birth by a creator from whom all light has emanated. 

Without shadow, without obscurity.  God, the Father of light, as the author of the letter of James describes the divine creator.

Light which brings warmth, light which allows for growth, light which restores, light which gives birth to a new hope in a new day.

One of the collects for the morning, offered in the Book of Common Prayer begins, “O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning...” 

God, the Father of light, whose love and liberation destroys death and brings us life.

What an amazement...and what a gift. Light, in all of its manifestations. Creation, in all of its glory. Each and everyone of us, in all of our belovedness.

In the light of creation, we are beloved. The author of James wanted to express this belovedness to a community that wrestled with what it meant to be in community, and to be a follower of the way of Christ. 

And so grounded in that belovedness, they are tasked with being doers.  Doers of the word, bringers of light. It is out of our belovedness as children of the creator that we are charged with bringing hope, light, liberation and love into the world.  

And, those acts of doing which manifest God’s vision of light for the world transcend boundaries of race, class, cultures and creed. And this vision of light was as radical then as it is now. Radical light bringing, radical in that the light which transcends must be made available to all of creation if that creation is to survive and thrive. 

Light for all without limit or barrier! The Gospel today addresses the concerns of a community struggling with what it means to be in community, what it means to follow a Christ whose scandal is the act of embracing the love beyond the law. The declaration of all foods as “clean” was a declaration that the benchmark of our faith was not one grounded in adherence to purity legislation, but in adherence to love, in adherence to the way of Christ in the world. 

Or, as I so often put it, pastoral care trumps everything else...acts of love take priority over any rule of law or liturgy or canon or constitution.

When I served as a hospital chaplain, I served alongside an Ultra-Orthodox medical resident.  I asked him how he and the other observant Jews in the residency managed the required call schedule and observation of the Sabbath.  He was clear in his response--during the sabbath, any work that is done has to be work that sustains and saves life.  Necessary work that offers comfort, care and healing to another person is work that can be done on the Sabbath.  Love wins.

And since we are created in love, we are tasked with being co-creators of love.  

And so, I leave you with an invitation and a reminder from poet, Wendell Berry,

“Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up
From the pages of books and from your own heart.
Be still and listen to the voices that belong
To the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.
There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,
By which it speaks for itself and no other.

Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
Underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls
Freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
And the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
Which is the light of imagination. By it you see
The likeness of people in other places to yourself
In your place. It lights invariably the need for care
Toward other people, other creatures, in other places
As you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

No place at last is better than the world. The world
Is no better than its places. Its places at last
Are no better than their people while their people
Continue in them. When the people make
Dark the light within them, the world darkens.”

Each of us a beloved light, called to shed light unto the world.


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