Tag Archives: Light

The Paradox of Advent (Dec 2, 2018)

Luke 21:25-36

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

A friend of mine once told a story of attending a contemplative retreat. One activity involved several minutes of complete darkness. Windows covered with heavy plastic, lights off, etc. Complete and utter darkness without distractions.

As darkness settled, it became unsettling. After several minutes, however, tiny pinpoints of light became visible through the plastic covering the windows—light that would never have been seen if not for the attempt at absolute darkness.

Light is seen while you are in complete darkness. That’s a paradox: two things that seem to be opposite that are present at the same time. Instead of “either/or,” a paradox is “both/and.”

Our faith is actually grounded in paradox. Hope is experienced in the midst of despair. Light experienced in the midst of darkness. Life experienced in the midst of death. That’s the nature of a paradox. There’s a both/and thing.

As we begin Advent, this text from Luke does that same thing. It sounds all miserable and hopeless. Jesus is talking about the end of the world, the end of time.

And in the very midst of all this destruction, Jesus tells us to “stand up, raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.”

Redemption in the midst of destruction. We begin the season of Advent with this paradox. In the very midst of those things that cause us anguish and anxiety, hope is present.

The whole point of Advent is that “it’s all about hope.” Christ brings hope among us in wonderful and surprising ways. Always. Sometimes you can only see it in the darkness.

We’re spending these four weeks of Advent revealing the hope that Christ brings. Four different people will share their experiences of visible light of hope in the darkness. This week is “Hope in Our Lives,” and Susan J will share her experience of hope in a dark time.

Next week Daniel P will share his experience of “Hope in Our Church.”

Following that, Venessa V will talk about her experience of “Hope in Our Neighborhood.”

The last week of Advent, our RMS Bishop, Jim Gonia will be here and share his experiences of “Hope in Our World.”

It’s all about hope. Hope has come. Hope is present. Hope can be seen. When all the destruction and despair and the anxiety and the fear “begin to take place, stand up and raise your head, because redemption is drawing near.”

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Posted by on December 2, 2018 in Sermon


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“I Could Be Wrong, But . . . ” (4 Lent-A, March 26, 2017)

John 9:1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,’ your sin remains.

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How many of you use social media, whether Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and so many others?

These can be very useful, very helpful tools. For instance, this congregation’s most used communication is our Facebook page. If you don’t follow @LCMLakewood, you are in the minority. That page is fast, up-to-date, has pictures, is interactive, and easily shared with others. It’s great. Social media is really helpful.

But social media has its limitations. Have you ever tried to convince someone of anything on Facebook? You know it doesn’t work. Ever. Part of the reason is that it’s just not a good medium for that. Any non-personal, non-face-to-face means of communicating just doesn’t have the connecting ability to change someone’s mind. It won’t work.

But another reason social media doesn’t work to change someone’s mind is that we generally don’t want our minds changed. We kind of like the views we have, or we wouldn’t have them. Our views are a combination of our experiences, our education, our thoughts, our feelings, our relationships, and more. But we come to our own views based on a wide range of rather personal perceptions, reflections, and interpretations. We have a lot invested in our points of view. It takes a lot to change them.

When our views are challenged, our usual response is that we dig in and defend them. Sometimes with a lot of force and intimidation. How dare you call my views into question! We can sometimes take that challenge as a personal affront. My views are mine, after all!

This becomes really interesting when there’s a new experience that falls outside the parameters of our current views. If someone shares an experience they’ve had that we can’t explain, we usually do one of two things:

–We either try to pigeon-hole their experience into our already existing views, even if it simply won’t fit. It’s easy to see this in our political environment. “You Democrats/Republicans haven’t done anything to address health care costs.” Obviously not true, but no one’s going to admit the other perspective has any validity. Either that, or,

–we discount their experience as invalid or misinterpreted or even non-existent. People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Depression know this. “Oh, I know what you mean, but you’re just tired.” “You know what worked for me is that I got up in the morning and put on a happy face!” Since we haven’t had their experience, we try to interpret it through our own. We all do it. We all resist having our minds or our hearts changed.

This is what’s going on in this story in John about the man born blind. Everyone tries to interpret the man’s healing through their own experiences and perspectives. Not only are their minds not changed about Jesus, but it reveals their own blindness. Consider how each group sees this man born blind through their own perspectives:

The Disciples assume either the man or his parents sinned.

The man’s neighbors claim he must be a different person.

The Pharisees discount the whole thing by denouncing Jesus as “not from God.”

Even the man’s own parents just try to gloss it over and minimize it.

None of them are willing to have their minds or hearts changed, even though God has done something new and amazing right in front of them. They will cling to what they already know.

In gospel-writer John’s terminology, they are in the dark. They cannot see. They are blind. The only one who can see in this story is the man who was born blind.

Admitting our blindness does take a certain amount of humility, don’t you think? Acknowledging that we can’t see everything means we are open to seeing something new, right? Confessing that we don’t know everything means we can learn more, doesn’t it?

In this season of Lent, we put a lot of emphasis on our spiritual growth, on being in God’s light. Is it possible for us in this season to consider that we might not see everything correctly, know everything fully, believe everything rightly?

When we can do that, admit to the possibility that we might be blind, Jesus says “we would not have sin.” Watch what happens when we begin from a point of humility, recognizing the other might see something we don’t.

Next time you’re tempted to argue with someone, instead of trying to convince them how right you are, try starting out by saying, “Now, I could be wrong about this, but . . .” Watch the entire tone of the conversation soften. It’s amazing what we can learned from people we disagree with! Sometimes they aren’t the complete write-offs we’ve made them out to be.

Seeing something from a new perspective doesn’t mean we’re weak or wishy-washy. It means we are honest, able to admit we don’t know everything.

When we can let go of seeing things through our own well-established lenses, we do run the risk of having our minds—and even our hearts—changed. But then again, sometimes we get to see something amazing God is doing right in front of us. Something we were too blind to see before.

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Posted by on March 26, 2017 in Sermon


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Political Divisiveness, Light, and the Table (February 5, 2017)

Image result for images bread and candle

Matthew 5:13-20

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Are you ready for part 2 of the Sermon on the Mount? Last week Jesus taught his disciples that God blesses the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, those who’ve been wronged–those who no one else thinks are blessed. Today, Jesus tells his disciples who they are.

He begins this part by telling them that they are salt and light. These aren’t just random items, but are two things the culture was dependent upon for survival. Salt was a preservative for food, which made it invaluable, and light for safety and to be able to see what was coming in the dark. Remember there was no electricity, so no flipping a switch at night.

Jesus says, then, that because they are filled with the God he reveals, because they are created in the image of the God he reveals, his disciples then, also, reveal that same God. And so God’s love is already present in the world. Isn’t that what the world needs in order to be saved? More of God’s love and grace and peace? Doesn’t a world in conflict need more grace? Doesn’t a world full of selfishness need more love? Doesn’t a world that seems to run on power and intimidation need more peace?

His disciples are the salt and the light that the world needs. Their presence means there is love and grace and peace and compassion in the world. Which is what the world needs.

Now, it’s important to notice he doesn’t tell his followers to become salt and light, or that they need to be salt and light, or that they ought to be salt and light. No, they are salt and light. Already. Right now. They are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. You are what the world needs. You.

I’m guessing you aren’t buying that. Or, if you are, that you are attaching some conditions to it, like, I know some people are salt because they do things like help people stuck on the side of the road. Or there might be times when I’m a little flicker of a light, like when I visited my friend in the hospital.

That’s not what Jesus is saying at all. It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are. You, right now, are the light of the world. Sometimes we cover it up, and Jesus agrees that we do that, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are who you are.

Think about this. Right now, the most divisive arena our country is political, right? Marches, protests, executive orders, and bans are all gearing up toward a long and difficult fight. As a congregation, we are pretty diverse politically. We are made up of some pretty hard-core Conservatives and some wildly progressive Liberals and everything in between. Yet every week we come together and pray for each other and love each other and forgive each other and listen to each other. Every week we join with the people around us at the table with Jesus, no matter how they voted, and share the unity of a Eucharistic meal. Every week we take someone’s hand, whether they are conservative or progressive, and support them in their prayers. You tell me, isn’t that what shining a light looks like? Aren’t we telling the world that there is a place, and that we are a community, that will love right through the barriers? That is the salt of the earth. That is a light that will brighten the world.

I think it might be a little easier to shine in here with each other. It’s when we leave here that we cover our light with a bushel. Suddenly, outside of this community, we find ourselves being judged for things that aren’t really about God. Things like production and competence and numbers and strength. It can be uncomfortable being salty when saltiness isn’t valued. It’s easier to cover up the light of who we are and accept other accolades based not on who we are, but solely on what we do. It’s in what we do that we get raises and promotions. What we accomplish gets us recognition and a good resume. Those things end up becoming our priority, rather than shining the light of love in which we are created.

Then we justify this by telling ourselves that faith is a private matter, between us and God. I’ll live my faith, I’ll just do it privately. I’ll follow Jesus, just not so anyone will notice. If I’m going to stand out, I want to stand out for things that get me somewhere, not for showing mercy to people who are really getting what they deserve. At least not all the time.

Except that Jesus says that our light is to be put on a lampstand for all to see. That’s pretty public. We say that at every baptism as we hand the newly baptized a lit candle, a reminder that they are the light of the world and ought to shine.

The world in which we live provides a pretty large bushel basket, and can cover up a lot of light. But it doesn’t take a lot of light to brighten the darkness. It doesn’t take a lot of love to overcome hate. It doesn’t take a lot of grace to overcome selfishness.

What it takes is you being you. Recognizing that the very core of your identity is actually God’s love and grace. That’s the image in which you were created in the first place. Be what you are. And be that in the world.

Think for a minute about a time you revealed compassion. A time you made a difference for someone who needed it. That’s your light! That’s you!

Now consider what would happen if you revealed that part of you at work, in your neighborhood, to the local or federal government.

Would you be rewarded? Get a promotion? Be able to retire sooner? Have an easier life? Probably not, truth be told. But the world would shine a little brighter. Because of you. You are the light of the world. Put your light on a lampstand and give glory to God! It’s who you are. It’s what the world needs.

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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Sermon


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What’s Different When God’s Light Shines in the World? (1 Advent)

Isaiah 2:1-5

The following was a “conversation” sermon at our 10:30 worship. Questions are included; answers are . . . well, you had to be here to experience this meaningful conversation! This will be our preaching mode at our later, 10:30 worship during Advent. 

Isaiah’s World:

In his time–in fact immediately before this text–he spells out his own reality. Wars, abuse of power, poverty, starvation, corruption, violence. It is everywhere in his world. And yet he holds out this vision of hope, this word from God that is so vivid, so real, he can see it.

What similarities do you see between Isaiah’s world and ours?

And in the midst of all this, Isaiah dares to hold this vision up in front of us. Can you see it? Can you see what Isaiah is seeing?

When Isaiah’s vision from God comes among us, what will that look like in our time and culture?

What is our role as people who’ve been entrusted with this vision?

Martin Luther King Jr. In his Christmas Sermon for Peace, preached on Dec 24, 1967, he said:

Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you…. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.

How can we begin to “beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks”?

Use the reflection stations (prayers, kyries, painting, and font).

Use the painting station to depict in any way that works for you the difference God’s light shining in our world will make. Art, symbols, stick figures, whatever. Through the rest of the worship time. Share what you’re painting with those at the table with you.

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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Sermon


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