Sermon Draft for Epiphany 2019
This is Life in the Darkness
dark in remote northern SK especially in the winter, especially for
first nations youth. Their suicide rate is more than 4 times greater
than other youth.
Pinehouse, like many places around God’s creation, youth in
desperate straights, often survivors of multiple suicide attempts,
are finding that learning and practising photography brings light
into the darkness. Photography is all about light: seeing light,
catching light to tell a story. It also requires of the photographer
to see the world in a different light, in the light of God’s
beauty. Photography done well communicates real wonders. It often
remains unnoticed, until the technical capabilities of photographer
with camera and equipment in hand bring God’s beauty to the photo.
the youth actively bring God’s beauty to their photos, they bring
life and hope and light into the darkness of their own lives.
God’s ways unfathomable
recently added a safety margin to his existence; wood heat. It is not
without it’s risks. Fire is powerful. The wood stove, well furnace
really, refurbished, with the outside shield freshly painted after
years of abuse can provide heat, and how. With care Tim fired it up
more than once with a decidedly small test fire, to ensure the draft
worked, the smoke went up, and the dampers actually worked. There are
explosive possibilities Tim wanted to ensure would not happen. Smoke
is routed around inside to ensure it burns as much as possible. Less
pollution, and more heat. Fully fired the furnace still occasionally
cures the paint on the shield, and the room becomes insufferably hot.
With diligent care Tim now supplements an insufficient propane
furnace (which lasted only a year before needing to be replaced) with
an overly sufficient HOT wood stove. Left wide open and fully stoked
the wood furnace could probably melt itself to the ground, yet alone
it’s shelter and it’s occupant.
the relative comfort of my condo, visiting over New Year’s, Tim let
his guard down. A simple candle sat on the coffee table. He set a
simple portion of the newspaper absently to the side. Only a good
sense of smell alerted him that someone must have put out the candle.
no, looking up he saw the newspaper 1/4 engulfed in flame, which in a
minute would have burned the table to the ground and possibly the
condo with it.
newspaper aflame in hand he smothered the flames with what was left
of the newspaper, leaving ashes everywhere. But the condo still
stands, no fire damage. Just a scare.
fire from HOT HOT wood and smoke burning at 1000° degrees, all done
safely. A small candle in the comfortably heated condo, with all the
supports of a city all around. Why does God let a fire with the
newspaper scare us so?
the Gospel we hear of great things all at God’s hand: Wise men
follow a star and bring gifts of wealth. Dreams warn them to return
home safely and for Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt. But we know the
rest. All those children in and around Bethlehem slaughtered by
Herod. Why? Perhaps those Wise men were not so wise, going to Herod’s
home town for directions?
like to make our own ways, who we make friends with, who we care for,
who we spend time with.
Isaiah, the prophet preaches to a group of returned Exiles. They find
themselves in conflict with their relatives who never left. Those who
stayed behind remember that they, and they alone, are God’s chosen
people. The returnees want everyone included in God’s favour.
Matthew the wise men come to honour Jesus, the king foretold by the
star. They are not Jews. They are members of a completely different
Ephesians the central mystery of faith that the writer shares is that
Christ is for all the Gentiles.
Mystery of Faith
ask today, What about un-earnable unconditional Forgiveness. What
about God’s Grace being a gift so that we are saved not because of
what we do, say or think or even believe. It is just pure gift!
course we are included just as Jews may be. That’s old news. But in
Paul’s time no one besides Jews were considered, until Paul. God
chose him specifically to preach to the Gentiles. While the rest of
the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, with Jews joining them, Paul
travelled the Mediterranean, spreading the Gospel to everyone,
especially Gentiles. It was dangerous to be a new Christian. They
were targeted and killed. If Paul had not spread the Good News, the
early church, contained only in Jerusalem, practised only by
converted Jews, may easily have died off in the first few years.
generations of God’s people claiming only they were chosen, and
they held themselves apart as identifiably chosen, what is God up to
letting in the Gentiles, us Gentiles?
it comes to our God and our lives, we have a long wish list:
What we want
in today’s lessons we read how we want:
in the darkness, a resolution of the all ails of the human condition
in Light and Glory.
to God and Power: God’s servant with authority.
want OUR family together, sons home, daughters cared for (sexism) so
we really want our children in town or close by, our grandchildren
nearby, and relative prosperity to accompany us all, always, to make
our paths smooth.
God’s Light vs. Our Darkness
way, as history should fully teach us is Not at all about our power,
not our wishes, not making our paths smooth.
is us not acknowledging God as God, Love as our commission, Evil as
the necessary result, our participation in it as inevitable and
unavoidable sinners. Darkness is us damning others for the evil that
we and others suffer.
danger in life is not knowing the real power of God, present in
various ways. God’s power is so powerful it is like a fully stoked
furnace, in the guise of a candle flame, but capable of burning down
the whole universe.
we choose to remain in darkness. We choose to not know the
destruction of fright at injustice. Fright freezes us, or causes us
to flee, or to stand and fight; all are choices in the face of
obvious malfeasance that will sink us like an overheated candle melts
in the midst of a condo consumed by fire.
choose to be ignorant of today’s injustice, malfeasance, and
corruption. We’ve heard the stories of old, but they are very
present today, perhaps worse than ever since they are so secreted
under spin and even blatant lie.
the denial of the destructive power of CO emissions. Now we have
Global Warming run rampant. Environment Canada, reporting on the top
ten stories of the past year warns that now the extremes of the past
are the new norms. Without greater resilience than ever before
needed, we will not survive the new extremes. Perhaps the overly
sufficient wood stove may become barely sufficient.
our darkness with light pollution all around we may not be able to
see the wonders of the stars, the marvel of wilderness worth
preserving, nor the inherent beauty of even our city, our streets,
even our own backyards.
our darkness we may not acknowledge the futility of security sought
in prosperity. Even though we live in boom and bust Alberta, we too
often seek security in prosperity or wealth. We hoard wealth or we
live lavishly. But prosperity and wealth can evaporate like water on
an overheated wood furnace. It takes only a turn of a market, a
corruption of an investor, a foreign or domestic attack, a new Storm,
a bad health event for ourselves or a loved one. After all we are all
dying after the age of 26 or so, our bodies literally falling apart.
It’s normal for no one gets out of life alive.
The true Gospel, True Mystery, True Light, True
true Gospel, for the Gentiles, given as a free gift, not earned by
compliance to a set of rules or piety, is a true mystery. It brings
the true light with true blessings to all who hear it.
live not by prosperity but wholly by Grace. God commissions us to
carry this same undeserved Grace to all others. We are only lowly
servants. Our only power is Christ’s Power of self-sacrifice,
truth, and of bringing life to others.
we are rulers we can be just rulers. Even as middle or low class
citizens or guest, or even as homeless squatters, the Spirit uses us
to be for others Christ’s voice, Christ’s heart of grace and
unconditional love, and Christ’s hands.
share what we have freely received without cost: we share Hope based
on God’s promises. We share God’s forgiveness. We share God’s
any good photographer will tell you, light is everything, and it is
the contrast to the darkness and the play of specular light, light
that is diffused and then reflected, that creates beauty. We are
reflections of God’s diffused light. We are specular, spectacular
and beautiful. We have the whole power of Christ moving through us,
just as a small candle has the same power to consume a home, as a
fully stoked, left wide open, wood furnace.
is flame. The Holy Spirit is the source of our light, our breath, our
hope, and our warmth and passion for life as God created it for All
people to enjoy: life as Christ’s servants is beautifully full of
celebrating when pictures come back from the other side of Pluto.
landed on the dark side of the moon, seeing images not seen before.