Third Sunday of Epiphany: January 26, 2020
Psalm 27:1, 4-11
You may have seen what it looks like when it is so dark that when you hold your hand in front of you, it’s impossible to even see your hand. And then there’s a glimmer of light, far, far away, and it becomes obvious how much difference that this light can make. How does the light shine in when it’s hard to see ways in which light can come in? When one watches what is going on in the mainline churches over the past decades, you realize how hard it is to keep congregations lively. This is not a new thing.
How does the light shine? The Good News of Jesus Christ is supposed to be clear and plain to see. It has always been a message that brings new hope and inspiration, new light and so much joy. This type of joy is expressed in music as well as in giving opportunities, such as so many of our outreaches, one being our Foodbank, another one which so often makes us happy, the fall carnival, handing out freebies to those who drop by. I can’t but help to mention something we are reporting this year: A small child was looking longingly at the candy floss sticks while holding his Dad’s hand. The child was invited to take a candy floss stick but the Dad anxiously said, “How much is it?” When he was told it was free… everything here is free… the food, drinks, face painting, the play. The Dad’s smile was full of emotion as he said “Thanks!” The little boy took the candy floss, his eyes popping with delight, and he turned to his Dad and said with such delight – “This is the best day ever.” This is so much like God’s grace to us, isn’t it!
The inextinguishable hope is the reason why it’s a joy to lean into what God is up to in our congregation as well as in our neighbourhood. Looking at the reading from Matthew 4 together with the season of Epiphany, there is reason to see the light of God, shown in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ shining through us. It is meant to lighten the darkness.
In our text, there is more for us than what might first meet the eye. When John had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee to withdraw in Capernaum.
What the prophet Isaiah had said, was being fulfilled, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light…” This is when Jesus went on, “Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near!”
What is the Good News in this? Rolf Jacobsen 1) suggests that the word for repent in Greek can more accurately be understood as “Be of a new mind!” It could perhaps be “Turn to God, and let the kingdom of God change your way of thinking!” The most simple meaning may actually be “Wrap your mind around this!” Think of it! I wonder whether the Word of God isn’t drawing us here at Dayspring towards “Wrapping our mind around something very special”? “Something new and exciting…”
This new reality could be likened to the delight of cracking open a pomegranate or a nut, showing all the delightful new possibilities that we need to open our eyes to. Isn’t it about all sins being forgiven? Perhaps it’s even about the resurrection of the dead, yes indeed, possibly the resurrection of Christian churches that may slide into becoming irrelevant to a larger or smaller extent. I have a friend who is going through tough times. For him, the one thing that keeps him going is that he is convinced that out of death, new life, a resurrection will be born. The new reality is indeed about the new creation of everything that is dead and fallen?
The terms in which God thinks and operates are thoroughly different from our conventional ways. God’s kingdom operates in fresh new ways. Fishermen get turned into folks who fish for people. They want to bring the Good News of God’s New Reality to people whom we might even forget about including.
Disabled folks, sick folks, ill folks, no matter what kind of illness, all these people get invited into God’s alternative vision of the kingdom. This kingdom of God wants to send us out to be part of God’s mission to the world.
Brothers like Simon and Andrew, and like James and John, put their fishing nets aside to be concerned about God’s impact on those around them.
God is concerned about every single soul in our neighbourhoods. God wants to open our tax-filing abilities to others who have fewer means to make it. God is enabling us to forget about ourselves for a moment and looking towards folks of all sorts of ethnicities and religions.
Wrap your mind around this! God has future generations in mind. It’s not only about us. It’s about spreading the light, bringing light into the darkness of the world around us in 2020. It’s about being the Simons and Andrews and the Jameses and Johns of our time, putting our nets aside and reaching out, becoming fishers of people.
Let us proclaim the alternative reality. Isn’t it a reality where sins are forgiven, where graves are split open, lives are transformed, and where God’s preferred new reality becomes a practice in this very same building in which we worship every Sunday? I wish to recall one more incident that stunned so many of us. Recently a lady who once received food from the food bank here at Dayspring has returned to our food bank to show her appreciation for the food she received when she was in need. She went back to school and now has a permanent job and over the past few months has been making a cash donation to our foodbank volunteers to give to the main Food Bank depot. It has been suggested that she send it to The Food Bank herself so that she might receive a tax receipt. Upon hearing this, she said, “Jesus didn’t ask for a receipt when He was on the cross”!
I want to take you to a lovely story about a young boy who was sitting in a quiet church one Sunday. He was early and therefore sat alone in the pews as clergy, servers and others busied themselves in preparing for the Sunday Mass. After several moments one of the priests came over and sat next to the boy. After the usual pleasantries and introductions, the priest asked what the boy was looking at.
“I’m looking at the saints”, he responded.
After a few moments, the priest asked, “Who are saints?” The boy thought about this and replied, “Saints are people who let the light shine in.” The two of them continued to admire the stained glass windows for a while depicting images of saints and themes from Scripture before it was time to say Mass.
Truer words have never been spoken I dare say. Saints are indeed people who let the light shine in. Through the glass, it is not just any light that passes through. The light is changed and reflected. It takes on colour and shape as it passes through the window into the church where the faithful gather. They are radiant, splendid and as their colourful glare illumines the church they offer us a gateway to the Divine where our world is connected to the heavenly realm where people of all colours and shapes live in harmony.
May God use us fruitfully by opening our minds, our hands, directing our feet in new directions. God is all about life, New Life, where darkness has started creeping in.
1) From “A Beautiful Community”, by Rolf Jacobsen (http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5408)
Copyright 2020 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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