Light in the Darkness

Kenora                  Lent 4

Year B

14 March 2021

Numbers 21:4-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Ephesians 2:1-10

John 3:14-21

God of grace, you know our struggle to serve you: when sin spoils our lives and overshadows our hearts, come to our aid and turn us back to you again; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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“And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light.” (Jn 3:19)

Jesus says this to Nicodemus. He says this to a leader of the Sanhedrin, a leader of how faith is lived out in Israel during Jesus’ day.

We find a lot of words from Jesus, from Nicodemus struggling to understand. A lot of words that are meant to urge us to see our own situations not according to our own terms but in terms of how God sees how we live our own lives.

And a lot of the images of light and darkness that we find in today’s gospel, is Jesus describing the situations of our own hearts to Nicodemus who, in his own life, is seeking the light.

But these day’s we’ve been dealing with the fear of Covid, with the sadness caused by losses of friends and family as well as contact with friends and family as well. We are grieving the loss of routines and the easy way we lived our life before covid came along and changed absolutely every facet of our lives more than we would have imagined a year ago.

In the past year, even for those of us who yearn for the light, it feels like we’re living in the darkness. A darkness of our own grief, of our own longings, of our own sense of loss from absolutely every aspect of our lives.

And because of that we see even more darkness around the edges. A darkness that enters and enlivens our fears and grief and sense of loss and it makes us think things that, truly aren’t worthy of each one of us – children of God – seekers of the light – followers of Christ.

We know the light exists but it’s been our habit to worship together, to be in each other’s company, each other’s lives as well as each other’s hearts. And this is where the covid restrictions and guidelines has really ‘done a number’ on us and on our lives.

But this is where we look at our hearts and we see Jesus at the centre of our lives and hearts urging each one of us to remember that the light is still all around us, even if we have trouble seeing it because of covid grief and loss, and the changes that have set in, in the past year.

Looking back, a year ago, up until this time, we had the doors open. We had a full choir; we shared the duties of worship with more people than we’ve been able to keep on a regular rotation since Covid changed our lives.

But there’s more than that.

In the past year we’ve lost a sense of ourselves as we hunker down and focus on what’s not here, on who’s not here any longer.

I have to admit that at this time last year, I was still ‘getting my feet wet,’ in the life of the parish, and I found this to be quite an intimidating place.

I felt overwhelmed by the size, and by the ornamentation of the space. I felt my stature was too small to sand where I stand, to sit where I sit, to be worthy of being the next priest at St. Alban’s.

But the congregation was warm and welcoming and encouraging in this new circumstance, in my life, and in my sense of call.

And then Covid hit, and I found myself the only one here, because of the Covid restrictions, still struggling to understand what ‘normal’ means here at St. Alban’s. Struggling to understand who we are, how we lived into the promises of God, and how to live those promises to the world around each one of us.

And, because of Covid, the world turned, and we all, me included, suddenly felt at a loss. We felt cut off from absolutely everyone and everything, but at the same time we felt it would be alright, it’ll only be a few months, right?

So, we hunkered down, and thought it all temporary and soon we’d be back to open doors and full choirs and coffee hours, and all of the rest of the activities and meetings, and work that continues to be St. Alban’s.

But that didn’t happen, either, and we felt the darkness get a little closer to our hearts.

Instead Covid continues to be an invasive pattern to the normal life. It continues to affect our lives like a blanket of darkness, as we all wear our emotions a little closer to the surface, these days.

And yet Jesus reminds each one of us that “17 God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:17)

And then my heart wonders how life would have evolved, last spring, if Covid hadn’t forced us apart, forced us to break the patterns of our lives, forced us to feel we’re in the darkness?

But here we are, a year later, a year into the Covid lockdowns attempting to find the light but being tripped up by the darkness.

So, we turn to Jesus words. We return to the conversation on the roof top with Nicodemus, and we like Nicodemus strive to come into the light, to follow the voice of our shepherd, to be together, once more.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:16-17)

Maybe, we need to look beyond our own definitions of what it means to be who we are and where we are because with Covid none of us, who long to live in the light, feel like we’re succeeding.

The way Covid 19 has pulled us out of our normal patterns has been endemic of absolutely every aspect of our society. It’s made us feel doubt and suspicion toward those who don’t necessarily look or act like we do.

So, Jesus is right when he says we more willingly gravitate to the darkness than the light, but we feel that we strive for the light and get sidetracked, tripped up, or tricked into the darkness.

And this isn’t something I’m comfortable pondering because when we live in the shadows, when we gravitate to the darkness then we’re able to see those we classify as ‘other’ around every corner.

But this isn’t what we desire. If this were the case, we wouldn’t find Jesus in conversation with Nicodemus. We wouldn’t be pondering the darkness of the world.

Life doesn’t always go the way we want. If it did, covid would be over. If it did, then only the good that we desire would be what we do.

If it did then everyone would be living in a state of innocence as Adam and Eve did before the incident with the fruit in the Garden of Eden.

But instead, the fruit was eaten. Humanity developed and moved into the idea of Free Will, and we struggle with the ideas of light and darkness, not as they apply to day and night but as they apply to our intent and our actions in and toward each other.

But it’s not a dead end. If it were then God wouldn’t have sent Jesus. If it were then the world would be permitted to descend into it’s own quagmire, but instead, that hasn’t been God’s agenda.

Yesterday’s devotion from Forward Day by Day reminds us: 

“God provides. In this season of Lent, in this time of fasting, God provides.

When we pray, God provides. When we least expect it, God provides. When we don’t deserve it, God provides. When we find ourselves between jobs, God provides. When we do not know the right decision to make for our lives, whether to abandon one project in favour of another, God provides.

When there are structures built all around us, pulpits for some and dungeons for many others, God provides. When we do not do things the way others want us to, God provides. When we sing after much time apart, God provides.

When we see God, God provides. When we feel that we have had enough, God provides. When we do not know where we are, God provides. When we are home, God provides.

When we are at peace, God provides.”

And at the same time Jesus reminds us: “16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Jesus shows us that, although it might be hard to perceive through our grief, through our angst at the covid restrictions, that the light is still all around us, and that we continue to be worthy of such attention.

We, and Nicodemus, seek the light, and we recall that God provides the way. All we have to do is hold tight to the light that lives within each of our hearts, and shines brightly from each of our actions.

Although it might feel like it, we know that Covid wont last forever.

Although we feel like life will never be what we might describe as ‘normal,’ we know that won’t be true, in the long run, either.

And we know that “16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:16-17)

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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