Shining the Light of Christ in the World Today

January 8, 2017

Sing! This little light of mine…

Today in our liturgy, time passes quickly!  We celebrated the feast of Epiphany on Friday, which means we remember the magi, the wise rulers who searched for Jesus by the guiding light of the bright star, and brought the baby Jesus their gifts. In the 10.30 service our pageant magi will bring their gifts forward along with our gifts of money and food, bread and wine. We also eat the traditional Kings Cake at the beginning of coffee hour. Then today in the sermon, we skip about 33 years as we move from Jesus as a baby, Emmanuel, God with us, to Jesus’ baptism as a young adult. The thread that holds it together is that of LIGHT.  Jesus the light of the world, born as a baby; Epiphany celebrates Jesus, the light of creation and the whole world not just the Jews, revealed to the magis from the east, and revealed also in Jesus’ baptism.

Jesus, baptized by John, publicly affirmed by God in his identity as God’s own beloved, taking on the mission to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. Us, when baptized, becoming the love and light of Jesus, and being the love and light of Jesus in the world. 

Yesterday there was a lot of love and light in Salinas, as hundreds of us from diocese of ECR gathered for a wonderful day of music, community, listening to PB MC and Steph Spellers, author of the book Radical Welcome, and our own beloved bishop Mary. There were About 50 of us from St Jude’s. Focus on the Jesus movement that PB talks about in such an inspiring way. You could say that the day was about Jesus and justice and joy - it was energizing, inspiring and joyful! I hope we can pass on some of the energy and inspiration on today!

 

What is this Jesus movement he speaks of so often?  Origins of the phrase,

are found in the book Jesus before Christianity by South African RC Dominican priest, Albert Nolan – who discovered in searching for ways to understand Christianity and apartheid, which was supposedly Christian and bible based, that Jesus did not start a religion, Jesus did not start a church, he started a movement, the Kin(g)dom of God.  After that, ++Michael stumbled onto the phrase The Jesus Movement.  Early Christians were called People of the Way; people living the way of Jesus’ love and forgiveness; The Jesus Movement.  MC: “World transformative things began to happen through those people in those early years of following Jesus”, like making poverty history.

Today, the baptism of Jesus. J the B was the head of a movement, people became part of John’s movement by being baptized.  Baptism was how you get into the movement. Jesus coming to John, realized this was no ordinary moment,  John got confused about Jesus coming to him for baptism, but Jesus did not need to repent, to turn around and walk a new way, but he was already walking the right wayReason is that Jesus was being placed at the head of the movement.  Jesus identified with all the people flocking to John to repent and be baptized, Jesus made himself just like one of them, needing to repent and join the movement, which was God’s movement! Jesus acted in solidarity with the masses of needy, human beings yearning for forgiveness, and God’s parent-heart was so delighted with this act of solidarity that God’s heart of love overflowed, and Jesus was supremely affirmed as God’s own, publicly affirmed as the head of the movement and this kick started Jesus mission to proclaim the KoG and bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.

Jesus picked up the movement begun by God in the beginning of the world and continued through Sarah and Abraham/Moses & Miriam/ Deborah the prophet/ King David/Isaiah/John. Jesus was baptized to lead the movement.  Then Jesus told his followers to baptize other folks.  It’s not about getting baptized to become members of a church, but into the movement of God in this world, into the Jesus movement. The Episcopal church is the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.

When we get baptized, we make promises, we call it the baptism covenant. BCP p 304/5.  We will look at it in our forum discussion after the service.

It’s not only about belief, it’s about how we live and follow Jesus. If we follow it, it can change the world. It’s very challenging! Which is why our answer to the promises is, I will, with God’s help. Baptism covenant  is movement language – difficult to say if we mean it! We baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in the name of = in the full character of, the fully realized way of God, who is loving, liberating and life giving. We are baptized into the way that is loving, liberating, and life giving. Think of the Beatitudes, those who are blessed for trying to love. Think of the Good Samaritan, that all the Law and the Prophets hang on this – love God and love your neighbor as yourself, which is the basis of our Mission Covenant and why we do what we do at St Jude’s.

Jesus says Help to end the nightmare that the world has become, and help to realize my dream, of a loving, liberating and life giving world.  This is the Jesus movement, it  can change the world!

How, we ask!  Michael Curry: The disciples were not the A team of apostolic discipleship!  They don’t get the story most of the time, get distracted by their ego needs and desires for power, and abandon Jesus in his hour of need.

Dispirited, incompetent, incapable apostles, sounding much like the church today, yet after the resurrection, the apostles were following the way not of the emperor, not of culture, nor of popular Christianity but daring to follow the way of Jesus and they turned their world upside down.

Be the love of Jesus! Be the light of Jesus! How, you ask?

If you are familiar with Howard Thurman’s The Work of Christmas, then you will recognize this newer version by Michael Dougherty:

“When the carols have been stilled, When the star lopped tree is taken down

When family and friends are gone home, When we are back to our schedules, The work of Christmas begins –

To welcome the refugee,  Heal a broken planet, To feed the hungry, To build bridges of trust, Not walls of fear, To share our gifts, To seek justice and peace for all people, To bring Christ’s light to the world.”

The work of Christmas plays out in the cross, and in reconciliation. But what does that look like in a post election USA and in the world?  We have become intensely divided in our understanding of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to shine the light of Christ, what it means to work for justice and work for peace. Michael Curry: As religious people we need to re-look at the actual values of Jesus, dig deep, and see if those values reflected in our actions.

Reconciliation is linked with justice. Justice is a necessary step towards reconciliation – there can be no justice, no peace, no reconciliation without justice. It’s not possible to reconcile with someone when they are under your boot. Be the Light! Pray! Listen! ACT!  Which may mean doing something that others criticize you for, for being political.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said this last Friday in Cape Town, after the South African president had strangely suggested that the church should stick to prayer and stay out of politics: “Water is where fish swim; the polis, the organisation of the city, the country, the region, is where people swim – because they are people in relationship, and relationships of citizens need structures, and those structures need good values… and that means politics. <<<Party politics is what we avoid, but.>>> politics is where we live – and it is a central theme of the gospel. Politics is ultimately about the Kingdom of Heaven…

In the beginning of a year that may well be threatening in so many places, who we really are matters. To be sure of our identity – that we belong to God, that we are his heirs – will direct our response to threats, compel our obedience to Christ, liberate our service to the poor and generate our energy in witness and evangelism.”

-       Be the love and light of Jesus!  How? What does it mean to shine as Christ’s light in the world?  In these times of intense division, there are differences of understanding of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to shine Christ’s light in the world.  The most important things to do are to:

PRAY, LISTEN, ACT

PRAY about who to listen to – so many polarities and divides – pray, see who you meet, pick one, whether it’s politics, religion, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, income or education level, and get to know someone,

LISTEN to them, to their stories, listen to the pain behind their opinions, to their experiences, try to understand them.  That is the costly way of reconciliation

ACT: LIVING OUT OUR BAPTISMS IN THESE TIMES: the way to reconciliation is through justice. Justice is a necessary step towards reconciliation – no justice, no peace, no reconciliation – it’s not possible without justice. Can’t reconcile with someone when they are under your boot.

Opportunities for listening, reflection and action, including support for churches offering sanctuary/refuge to potential deportees, support for marginalized communities or communities experiencing actions of hate or bigotry (Muslim, LGBTQ, Jewish),  PACT community organizing and sheltering homeless people at St Jude’s through our PACT community organizing LOC

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention.

So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. (L.R.Knost)

Pray, Listen, Act. Be the love and light of Christ. Shine the love and light of Christ around the world. Amen.

Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey of faith, you are welcome here.