Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sermon for Year A Christmas I

God saw that the light was good

Friday was the feast day for St. John, Apostle and Evangelist,
the patron saint of our parish.
And today, this first Sunday after Christmas Day,
we have our gospel reading from John’s gospel.

In the beginning...
Those words from John’s gospel echo the words of Genesis.
In the beginning...

In the beginning when God created heaven and earth
the earth was a formless void
and darkness covered the face of the deep
when a wind from God
swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light.
And God saw that the light was good...

Over the holidays Tom and I watched a clip of a broadcast
from December 24, 1968, 
in which the crew of Apollo 8 read  from the book of Genesis
as they orbited the moon. 
Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman 
read the first 10 verses of Genesis, Chapter 1,
as they looked upon this fragile earth, our island home,
from space.

Even with the incredible and now familiar photographs
of the earth seen from space,
I don’t think any of us can really comprehend 
the power and the beauty and the holiness
of that view of God’s creation
Genesis, a word which means origin,
is the story of how out of chaos God created the world.

And then John’s gospel--

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the word was God.
All things came into being through him
and without him not one thing came into being.
In him was life and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

Pure poetry.
Into the darkness, God once again, brings light.

John’s gospel is so different from Matthew and Mark and Luke.
Those three gospels are known as the synoptic gospels
which essentially means they have a lot of similarities with one another.
They are also all three narrative gospels
which mean they tell us a story.

But John’s gospel is different.
John’s gospel was written long after the other three.
Around the year 100 we think.
And you can imagine that people,
over the course of that century since Jesus’ birth,
 had a lot of time to try to think, to ponder, to try to understand.
Who was this Jesus?
I mean, really, who was he?
Fully human, fully divine?
What does that mean?

John’s gospel is a theological gospel--
a writing trying to make sense of who Jesus was and who God is
and how they relate to one another.
And then there is the Holy Spirit, too.
Don’t forget the Holy Spirit.
John’s gospel is an attempt to answer some of the questions.

Over the holidays I heard a story on NPR
about a musician named Josh Garrels.
He is a thirty year old former "skate punk"
(those are NPR’s words, not mine)
who now lives in Portland, Oregon
with his wife and three children.

He is a musician.
A very different kind of musician.
Some say he is a Christian musician
but he has resisted that classification.

Not because he denies being a Christian
but because he fears that would somehow indicate to an audience
that he has all the answers.

The truth is, 
he says, he has a lot more questions than answers.
But he doesn’t feel that makes him any less a Christian.
In fact, in many ways,
it may make him more of a Christian.

One reviewer in Christianity Today wrote 
that Josh Garrels offers us
“faith and doubt and that mystery in between.”
Josh Garrels is comfortable living in the mystery in between.

I think this is true of John’s gospel as well.
Faith and doubt and that mystery in between.

One thing I love about the Episcopal Church is 
that we believe it is okay to have questions,
to have doubts.

We also think it is okay to have faith
and to live in the beautiful mystery of God.

Josh Garrels writes songs about how he is in awe of God
and how he tries to see where God is 
in the midst of his everyday life,
his everyday world.
He sings:

So give it just a little time
share some bread and wine
weave your heart into mine

All the gospels call us to weave our hearts into the heart of God.

Just as God saw the light and proclaimed that the light was good
musicians and artists and poets and gospel writers,
encourage us to look for the good light in our everyday lives,
to give faith a little time,
to not be so anxious to slam the door because we don’t have the answers
and to understand that others don’t have the answers either.

Share some bread and wine.
Show up for worship.
Be kind. Be generous.
Love one another.
Simple acts that let the light come in,
if only through the tiny cracks.

Do not be afraid, say all the angels.
Do not be afraid of not having all the answers.
Do not be afraid if you have doubts.

Trust that good is stronger than evil,
love is stronger than hate,
light will overcome the darkness.
This light that was in the beginning
is still now.
This light is so strong, so beautiful, so powerful,
that it can never be overcome by darkness.

Not the darkness of the world,
not the darkness of our own doubts,
not the darkness that covered the deep.

Share some bread,
and wine,
weave your hearts
into mine.

The light still shines.
Brightly, brightly, brightly.
For ever
and ever
and ever.

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