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Light The Way

Sermon - 12/11/11
Rev. April Oristano
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

John 1:1-18

I come to preach on the birth of Jesus from the Gospel of John, but it is not the birth narrative we are used to.  There are no distractions or questions about the season, time, place.  There is no angel visitation and we do not have to question Mary’s sexual and social status.  John’s birth story is spiritual.  What is important is to recognize that the birth of Jesus is the total embodiment of the Divine in humanity.  And to be in awe of the outcome of our desire to be connected to God and God’s eternal and unconditional love, joy and connection to creation. Not just in the life of Jesus but in all the living things.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

 

This prologue is more poetry than prose and takes us, in 13 verses,  on a journey with God through time, through history, through the universe really – starting at:  the beginning.

My first reading of the text this week was with my critical eye, socially aware, suspicious 21st century ME:  I was so distracted by the use of the pronoun HE.  I was so focused on HE…I set up an me/them duality by making John’s community an “other” – someone who doesn’t understand me – who knows less than me.  It was more curiosity, not angry, but seriously Beyond that “he”, I was not open to much more of a message. But I wanted to understand so I sought out to answer, what does HE mean? Why HE? Is He Jesus?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Word here does not mean spoken words, language, but the word in Greek is Logos and Logos is universal divine reason – an eternal and unchanging truth that is available to all who seek it.  In all things yet transcending all things.  So, n the beginning was a divine connection  There is no “He” – “It” is then a more fitting pronoun in these first five verses.  All things come from and are divine.  It is our source of life – and is our light. 

John is here to testify to this Light of God. 

It isn’t until verse 9 the it becomes more of a he.

The true light was coming into the world.  He was in the world but the world did not recognize him. 

Yes this is a foreshadowing of the still more specific light yet revealed, named Jesus.  - But still there is a universal connection point here -  because the life –light/LOGOS was already in the world, we just didn’t know it.   We do not recognize it, are not aware of it, and more to the point today, we have been trained somehow NOT to trust it, to ignore it.  But it’s there.  Available to all who look for it.  The final verses take the prologue to its specific conclusion - the word/Logos/Divine Connection becomes flesh - his name is Jesus.  By following his example, we can find life-light within ourselves, and the life-light in others. 

John testified to the light in his day to help his community stay strong, encouraged them in a time of great stress and doubt, encouraged have faith in themselves, in one another, and in God.  It’s saying Your faith, your following Jesus, putting your trust in the life-light, makes you strong and fills you with the life-light.

Our work is John’s work:  to testify – or for the less evangelically inclined – to share that light with others that they might access it in themselves.   Our faith is what makes us strong.

Well slap my hand and shut my mouth. 

Presidential Nominee Rick Perry had the same message for America this week!

I take a break from my sermon writing to read the headlines, check the Facebook.  Oh, what’s this?, click.

“I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a Christian,” he begins.  Ok but what does that mean?   In just 60 seconds I believe he offended just about everyone.  Except his obvious supporters of course.   Shock is the best word for my reaction.   “There is something wrong in our country – Christianity is under attack – from a number of sources – we must fight back.  There it was, right at the end, “Our Faith is what makes America strong…” 

I think, “Blinded by the Light”…may have been heard at that moment .  It could have been the music lessons upstairs.  Can’t be certain. 

I watched it another 5-6 times right away because I was scared frankly – we have the same message?  What I felt next is sadness - He not only alienated the gay community, the military community but the Christians too. 

The good news that came out of that 60 second stomachache was the outpouring of response – people I didn’t even know were Christians came out of the closet, so to speak, to defend their friends, family members, equal rights, their faith.  But not just Christians defending Christians but people of all faiths came in support of their Christian friends.  Each in their own words shared what they understand in Jesus’ message: that we are not to blind someone with our light, point our light threateningly at others, make others feel less valuable than ourselves with our light.  But to radiate the light that we believe exists in all things, that we might inspire hope in others.   

Jesus gives me hope too.  This is a belief that I share with Governor Perry.  Jesus points me to the light.  But from there we part ways.  Because to him there is no other light in this world but the light of Jesus.  And I can’t say that John’s community didn’t see it that way – I can’t testify to that – but what I can testify to is how the lights of the menorah, the lights of Diwali - these are sources of the life-light too. And Not one visualization works for all people! I believe The Logos is in All.

I believe God wants me to expand my worldview,  to see the person before me, the person who doesn’t understand me, the person who is everything I am not, has everything we do not, as ally, as brother, as a sister.  I have some serious work ahead of me in order to do that.  It was at least 5 viewings before I found gratitude and peace with the experience.  I simply thanked God for the ad running on Thursday so I had time to finish my sermon!  See!  More Good news!

I did!  I thanked god and then I acknowledged my unpreparedness to work with and not against and ask for help from God.   Because I want that LOGOS rooted deeply in me.  I want To live and love extravagantly, recognizing there is no other, and that all have the life-light.  It’s difficult to do, but no one said it would be easy.

You know what else has shocked me?  With each passing day, the Occupy movement becomes more inspiring to me.  I am less skeptical.

It started with the students and the viral 24 hour news feed of students getting pepper sprayed – I thought then, what is going on?  You know working at UCSC, the students are always prepared for protest.  For the unions, inequalities on campus, protesting the war, ready to go.  I figured it would pass. 

Then it was the Port of Oakland shut down and the clergy of Oakland rising to the occasion – to be present for people, to keep peace.  And I watched a young veteran was hit with a can of gas and being critically injured.  And then the Leave the Bank day. And people asked, what is their purpose? Do they just want to take down the banks?  Who are they to…

But now, its December.  People are still sleeping outside.  In solidarity with those who do not have a choice in the matter, with hope that their witness will cause the rest of us to wake up,  I am amazed – to me they are a shining bright beacon of Christ’s light.   It’s expansive – it’s for everyone – and though it may have started out as 99% and 1%, there is something deeper, spiritual, and grounded now coming from the occupy voices of Vancouver, New York, Oakland, Eugene.  Still we ask what is your purpose?  Who are you to tell us what we need to be…

Well Who am I to stand up here and talk about the Light?  Who is Rick Perry  We need to ask these questions of ourselves and acknowledge that these are the same questions that occupy asks us:  Who are you?  What will you stand for?

There are so many occupy videos – but I want to point you to one – we won’t watch it today – watch it when you go home – It’s called The Revolution is Love, please go Google it. Or the search engine of choice, no judgments. 

The people interviewed in occupy videos are just people.  Some are clergy, some comedians, musicians, politicians, whoever – people.  An economist speaks in The Revolution is Love, and Charles Eisenstein says "This movement isn't about the 99% defeating or toppling the 1%. You know the next chapter of that story, which is that the 99% create a new 1%. That's not what it's about. What we want to create is the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible. A sacred world. A world that works for everybody. A world that is healing. A world of peace.  Allow me to continue. “An economist says 'more for you is less for me.' But the lover knows that more of you is more for me too. If you love somebody their happiness is your happiness. Their pain is your pain. Your sense of self expands to include other beings. This shift of consciousness is universal in everybody, 99% and 1%."

This is a message dated November 18, 2011 but it is a message I know we have heard before.  I believe that message  is rooted deeply in the life light of God. 

There is no other, friends.  We all share the life light. That is what I understand when I read John 1.  And in the voice of the youth of America, 2 young women, sisters, had this message for America this weekend:

We're gay, we're straight,  we're black, we're white, 
we're rich, we're poor,  we're conservative, we're liberal, 
we're Christian, we're not...and Jesus loves the little children. 
All the children of the world. 

We too strive to love you all extravagantly...
the way that Jesus loved. 

 

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of a new way to be in the world.  Divinely connected and full of Love. 

Friends, let us work together to Light the way.   

 


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