In her sermon this week, the Rev. Megan Grant speaks of the contradictions we face in the Gospel of John, in our religion, and in our lives. She talks about the possibilities we face each and every day, and the choices we make. God calls us to be more. So how do we chose to live and to act? Do we make our lives a heaven, or a hell?
Scriptures for the First Sunday after Christmas
The Ancients always seem to have the upperhand when it comes to the spiritual practices. Take, for instance, the East where they have the mystical blending of the traditional yin and yang: The principle of Yin and Yang is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites.
Today’s text inspires another imagining of the coexisting and inseparable nature of light and dark. Or, as I like to call it, “The Unknown Shadow of the Messiah.”For John told us, “The world came through him, yet the world did not know him…”
Now, for those who zoned out after, “he was the word and the word was God and the word was with God in the beginning,” you are not alone. The author of John loves to play with words and thus it is fitting that he introduces his book with a fantastic, though trying, wordsmith dance. One theologian sees this intro as the very first steps of the Trinity’s waltz through the beginning and end of creation. She was so struck by the wordplay she named her book, “Dancing with God: The Trinity from a Womanist Perspective.”
Regardless of his grandeur, if not for John we would be lost without the poetic imagery of inheritance. Thanks to the author, we know that Jesus gave power to humanity. This is a power born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God…
God embedded power into the soul of humanity. Inherited not by our doing, by what we own, what we devour, or what we take, but simply bestowed by the God who was emulated by a Messiah who was an oxymoron and a paradox.
For as John taught, the Messiah created, but was created. The Son of Man was also the Son of God. Christ was in the beginning and yet also with us now. Jesus dined with those in the dark as well as those in the light.
From the wisdom of Rabbi Freeman we learn: Where darkness meets light and the two embrace, there you will find G-d: He continues: In a time yet to come, the light and dark shall meet and know one another in perfect union. At that nexus we will see the One who created all things.
In the meantime, we have a glimpse of that wonder. For this is the human being: A breath of the divine within a material body; light and darkness face-to-face within a single being.
J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter, puts it this way: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
The students hear me say this all the time. And this is the fullest measure of my theology and the only hill I believe worth fighting on: Whether or not your theology includes a heaven or hell post life on this earth, the only true symbol of a Christian is this: does your daily life, with all of the decisions made throughout the hours, reflect an empowerment that says you choose to create heaven on this earth or does your daily life, with all of the decisions made throughout the hours, reflect an empowerment that says you choose to create hell on this earth?
From fullness of time we have all received what John calls “a true light which enlightens all.” This Light symbolizes the power to create and beautify the world all around us. It is a power that never runs out and there is plenty of it to go around.
Yet, we live in a time that believes in, what Walter Brueggemann and Father Richard Rohr call, a “myth of scarcity.” This scarcity shrinks us to believe that there is a right and a wrong, a black and a white, a light versus darkness mindset that counteracts the swirling of the Divine that Rabbi Freeman taught us when he said that God is found when light and dark embrace.
Father Rohr puts it this way:
We have to be willing to let go of that’s just the way it is. There is the way we choose to act and what we choose to make of circumstances.” And, “The belief that we need to possess [more] is the driving force for much of the violence and war, corruption and exploitation on earth. . . . In the campaign to gain, we often pursue our goals at all costs, even at the risk of destroying whole cultures and peoples.” And: “For generations [the myth of scarcity] protected and emboldened institutionalized racism, sex discrimination and social and economic discrimination against other ethnic and religious minorities.”
We demonize the side that does not look or act like us regardless of what side of the aisle we are on. And the crazy thing is, we make God to look like us regardless of what side of the aisle we are on.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known…the yin and yang of our faith is that, on the one hand, we do not know God, but on the other, we know the hope of God for creation because of the one made into our image, who took on our flesh, all the while acting like Divine Lover of our souls.
This Messiah, our Christ, empowers us with the full extent of God’s creating abilities. We create heaven or hell every day by the actions we choose to act out on or the actions we choose to withhold.
The image, service, love, and sacrifice of Jesus are the revelations of God given to us. We are now tasked with the duty to take that image and mold our lives around it.
This day I hope we can take the image of opposition from our minds and instead do the hard and taxing work of finding the both/and God. This God is vastly more than our current understandings of binary truths. This God reaches across the aisle and demonstrates love to all. This God calls us to be more. We are creators, we are visionaries, we are poets, we are artists, we are the ones who have inherited the task of beautifying our world.
It’s really not a gift, but it is a duty that can be a hell of a lot of fun. Embrace your call to create. Embrace your call to destroy what harms. Embrace yourself and each other.
As 2018 leaves us and 2019 brings forth all of its possibilities, my prayer for us is that we take up our duties as Co-Creators of life and beauty and I pray that we will remember the abundance of the true light that enlightens all.
So…what will you create in 2019? I pray it is heaven.