Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning, we heard three readings that focused on one word, “light.” Light is important for life. Notice I didn’t say essential, because there are organisms who can live in total darkness. But I want to focus on light. This week, we saw the effects of a wildfire hundreds of miles north of us. At first, the air was a little smoky, but then by Wednesday, there were no blue sky or clouds. Even the sun was muted by the smoke and ashes of the fire. The smell was so strong, everywhere, that some folks called the fire department because they thought there was a building on fire somewhere near their house. All we could see was an eerie yellow orange sky. We were warned not to go outside unless it was absolutely necessary, and to wear a mask if we did have to go out, because the smoke and ash in the air were hazardous.
Our reading from Isaiah speaks of the darkness of war and the promise of light. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.” The people of Israel had been suffering from occupation and war, for several years, when they heard Isaiah’s words of hope. Isaiah was looking to the future, when Israel would have peace and freedom.
Today’s psalm reading also speaks of “light” as well. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” Throughout the life of Israel, God has promised light at the end of even the darkest times. John’s Gospel today is all about “light” as well. Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Lots of very smart theologians (people who study the Bible) have written thousands of pages over hundreds of years, about what Jesus means when he says “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Now I may be oversimplifying the meaning of those words from Jesus, but I think it is not so complicated. God sent Jesus, because God loves us. And Jesus spent the majority of his time on Earth trying to teach people to love one another. The light of the world is love! Just as God loves Jesus and all creation without exception (“the good, the bad, and the ugly,” as they say) through Jesus, who lived a life of love on this world, we can see that everyone – all people – are worthy of love. Why is it so hard for us to love everybody, including ourselves? Why do we constantly make false separations among God’s beloved? Everyone, if we are honest to ourselves, has at least one person that is outside our love.
As communities and nations, we separate everyone into groups. “Who is in our group?” and “Who is out?” I think that is the darkness that God is calling us out of, through Jesus. When Jesus came, in-person, to show us what love is about, we – humanity – killed him. But even crucifixion and death cannot stop God’s love. We are called to share that love with everyone: gay and straight, and everything in between. African-American, Asian, Hispanic, white, native American, people with disabilities and mental illness. I’m sorry if I missed your group, or any other, but you get the picture. God is Love, and we are called to bring the light of love with us wherever we go. Not just to bring it, but to share it. Talk about your faith and talk about God’s love for all people. Amen.