Given on July 17, 2-16 at UPC of Amsterdam, NY
Text: Colossians 1:15-29
Those moments do still come, those moments in which we can see the Christ appearing all around us. Those moments in which we can, as Paul does in his letter to the church in Colossae, see and perceive, perceive and believe that all things came into being through Christ and in him, all things are able to maintain their being. Those moments do come, like the sunrise after a long evening of storms when babies awaken time and again and the only light that sears through the windows is that which is created by the threatening flashes of lightning in which every item in your bedroom takes on a sinister and momentary glow. In those moments in the morning in which the drenched night is overcome once again by the mini-resurrection of daybreak. The kind of mini-resurrections that would cause a songwriter to declare that “Morning has broken, like the first morning.” Those moments do still come when the light of the day and the spirit of Christ are brought together as a singular experience. If you’ve ever spent anytime in Africa, you know that the darkness of night is threatening, menacing, truly dark. Robbed of your sight, your other senses are heightened to the point of near hysteria. Your ears betraying you the most, with the sounds of mosquitos buzzing just outside your mosquito net, the sounds of unknown creatures walking around on your roof, the sounds of things moving about on the floor, on the bed, on the netting. The morning light that terminates the incapacitating darkness feels as though it is a gift from God above and, maybe for the first time, you can see and experience what it must have looked like when the spirit passed over the waters of chaos at the beginning of time and declared, “Let there be light.” In those moments, it is not hard to believe that the source of that light, more than any one celestial body, more than the twinkling of stars from some distance galaxy, more than our own creation of light, more than all that, it is not hard to believe that the source off all light, from the beginning of time til now, and from now until eternity is Christ. We have an unenviable task as followers of the Christ, like ship captains trying to navigate the rocky and dangerous waters of life using only the light of Christ as our beacon. We first must learn how to cling to the light, cling to the Christ that dwelt at the beginning of time. To place the whole of our trust in the power of Christ, to bind the broken back together when human action or inaction has once again fallen woefully short. To celebrate together that we have been given a glimpse into the mystery of God through our awareness of the power of Christ in ours souls and in our world. And as if to cling to that awareness, that hope, that light were not difficult enough, not trying enough. As it it weren’t enough to dwell in this place and contemplate the meaning of that mystery of which we have been given a glimpse, we are then commanded to take that awareness, to take that mystery, to take that light and share it with the whole of the world. To go to all the nations and preach Christ and all that he has commanded his first disciples and in turn show others how to see and cling to the hope found only in Christ.
I don’t need to tell you of the latest round of devastating news to emerge from the world over the past week. It has bee splayed across our televisions and computer screens and the accounts of the events in Nice, France are as harrowing as they are emblazoned in our minds. I don’t need to tell you that sin is real, that brokenness is real, that hatred bordering on delusion and insanity is real because we have seen the effects of all of that on the world in which we all inhabit over the past few weeks. It has not been a good month for the whole of the human race. There is a relatively new phenomenon that has emerged from tragedies that take place around the world. A new phenomenon, birthed by the emergence of the 24-hour news channels that so many use to cope with the uncertainty of the world. A morbid practice in which folks gather around televisions and watch for hours on end in a seemingly endless search for some missing piece of information that might bring understanding in the midst of devastation. Something must be able to explain this feeling of sheer and utter helplessness that I am feeling. And for many this ritual of the past 15 years only serves to send them deeper into the vortex of confusion and sadness until they are left with fewer answers than before the devastation occurred. And yet into this vortex, into this confusion, we are called to hold on all the tighter, to place the whole of our trust on the spirit of Christ, from whom all things came into being, to whom all things will return, in whom all of creation has its being. To trust in the power of Christ to redeem even the most horrific and unspeakable events of our lives, with the power of the resurrection, with the power of grace, with a light that shines in the darkness that is never able to be overcome. That is the faith that must take us through the devastations of the present age.
One is left to wonder if when Paul was writing to the church in Colossae, if he did not have the scroll of Genesis unrolled to the beginning of the story. The beginning of the story in which we are told that God was hovering over the chaos of creation, surveying the great mass of energy and matter pulsating, perhaps breathing with the breath of the Spirit of God, in a static state waiting for direction and shape. Was the spirit of Christ, from whom, Paul tells us, all things came into being, dwelling next to God, was Christ inside God? In any case, God and Christ dwelt in darkness stirring, watching, waiting. Maybe it was like those times that I talked about right before the sunrise, before there are even slits of light beginning to be seen in the east, a time so pregnant with chaotic expectation, a bundle of energy just waiting be released. And we see a meticulous God passing over the darkness, over the void, and saying, let there be light, and miraculously, there was light. It is of note that in the creation story, in which all things come into being that light is declared into existence on the first day of creation while the sun and the moon are created on the fourth day, in fact, the source of the light is unknown. Augustine who suggested that this light emerged from the “Glory of God” from what he called the “City of God” whose brightness could overwhelm a thousand suns. Such that the first light that passed over the face of the void, that pass over creation was not from natural sources, but rather from God. When Christ declares himself to be the light, is he not saying that the original light called into being emerged from his spirit, a light so powerful that it shined in the darkness and the darkness was not able to overcome it. And after Christ calls the whole of creation into being, he comes together to create the crowning jewel of creation, a creature so special, so beloved, so blessed as to be the inhabitance of the spirit of Christ from the beginning of time. And, perhaps because we are the home of the spirit of Christ, God went a step further and declared our species to be “very good.” And yet, we do see that humanity finds itself battling against itself and with one another. And its a struggle. Its a struggle because too often our better angels are shouted down by the demons of our brokenness, by the lure of the Siren of the old order of the world that dwells in sin, that has not been redeemed, that still cannot see the light of Christ. We were all created good. And we remain good, just as we have fallen away and left behind some of the goodness. We do, all of us, make idols of all sorts of things in the hope that we can have a lasting faith in something that is tangible, something that can relieve the fear and uncertainty brought about by tragedy, something that is visible. And yet we do hope for things which we do not see, and for justice not yet achieved and for love, not yet received. We all dream about a time in which we will not do violence to one another, nor covet one another’s goods. We look for a future in which no man, no woman, no child will starve in a world with so many resources and so the light continues to shine, dim though it may appear. And we work towards all these things, ever inspired by the vision of a better tomorrow, seeking to take into our protection all those who are unable to protect themselves and as was once declared, “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” In the words of the Bible, We believe that they light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.
In the one we call the Christ is found the light from which the whole of creation was brought into being, and we like those first believers are called to live into that light in a new and different way. In Christ we see a life lived into the light and a life that testifies to the presence of the light in all people in all times. In the life of Jesus we are brought face to face with the light shining within him and indeed with our own light. No longer are we given over to the chaos of our fallenness to the darkness of our hole, now we walk on a new path, now we seek a new goal, now the people who dwelt in darkness have seen a great light and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it! But the question remains, how do we do it? How do we begin to break away from the allure of the old order of the world in which temporary security for those with means is always found on the backs of those who simply want to live. How do we begin to break away from the allure of the old order of the world in which temporary national security is almost always found through violent means that destroy the foundations of weaker societies, that kill those who have nothing to do with conflict and simply want to live. How do we break away when to try and break away means that we must have eyes to see and ears to hear those suffering around us and then we must have the courage to do something about it.
In these moments of global uncertainty, in which the brokenness and sin of the world seem to be striking at the very foundations of our world, if we truly take it into account, we, too, will see our own brokenness, our own sinfulness, our own responsibility and blame that arises in the story of humankind. But our faith demands that we not remain in blame, remain in brokenness, remain in sin, because we have been blessed with a glimpse of the mystery of God, we are the in dwelling of the spirit of Christ, we are the ones who are conduits for light and love and we cannot be defined by that which has come in the passed because what matters isn’t the last moment, it this one, and this one, and this one. What matter isn’t the devastations of the past but rather those moments in the future, it matters little what brought you to this place, what matters is that you are here and can hear and experience the word of God, it matters not what secrets sit in your past that continue to haunt you, freeze you in time, silence your voice. What matters is that you speak when your voice can heal a sin sick world. None of the terrors of the night matter in the light of the new day, in the hope of the next moment, in the limitless opportunities that sit in your future, a future of your own making.
Part of the story of humankind is our fall from perfect union with God, our loss of awareness of the spirit of Christ dwelling in each of us. Humanity fell, yes, and we continue to fall, but we too are redeemed and continue to be redeemed every moment of every day as life continues, and love continues, and the dance continues. Friends, we may never achieve perfect love on this side of the Jordan, but when you can, choose love over hate, peace over violence, concern over apathy, and dance. With God, and one another, just dance. Glory be to God in the highest and on earth peace amongst all God’s peoples. Alleluia, Amen.