18 February 2018
Revd Jonathan Cain
Gen. 9: 8-17; Mark 1: 9-15
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.”
You may now be thinking one of two things. Either Jonathan has lost the plot and forgotten to do the sermon or perhaps, I must have nodded off and missed it. Well I guess there’s always a risk that one or both of these is true. I can only reassure you that you haven’t missed the sermon.
That line from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven”, which you will recognise as the offertory sentence, also gives its name to this booklet #LIVELENT LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE. Copies of the booklet have been at the back of the Priory for a couple of weeks and I wanted to draw attention to them in case you haven’t yet been tempted to have a look. The booklet contains a daily reading scheme based on John’s gospel account, and the first few days have focussed on ‘Gift’. In the introduction it says this …
“All that we are, and all that we see and know of the world around us, is gift from God. The breath that brings our bodies to life – and the beauty that causes us to catch that same breath.
Yet life is fragile, often painful and sometimes dark. God speaks again into the darkness. God gives again. God makes himself known, fully, in Jesus Christ, the light that shines in the darkness.
The light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome is not earned or bought. It is not the private possession of a few. It is a gift for all. It is Jesus – God’s gift to any who welcome and receive him.
Thank God for the gift of life, and for the gift that is Jesus. And try to be a gift to others by letting some of God’s light shine through you.”
#LIVELENT LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE.
A lot happens in the few short verses that we heard from Mark’s gospel account this morning. Jesus is baptised by John in the River Jordan, he sees the heavens torn apart in the sky above him, the Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove, and he hears God speaking “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The same Spirit then drives him into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan.
On his return from the wilderness Jesus begins to proclaim …
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
The other gospel accounts tell us about the nature of that wilderness temptation. Satan invites Jesus to turn stones into bread, assume authority over all the kingdoms of the world, and throw himself off a high rock to test whether God will send angels to save him. Satan invites Jesus to replace the light of thankfulness for God’s gift of life freely given with the darkness of entitlement. Jesus refuses. The light shines in the darkness.
These few verses might suggest a pattern for Christian discipleship. Like Jesus we are baptised. Like Jesus we face frequent temptation to replace thankfulness with entitlement and in so doing stop receiving life as a gift from God. Like Jesus we are called to proclaim, to share the good news that the kingdom of God has come near. As the booklet says #LIVELENT LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE. Simple, right?
When you were baptised, as your head was anointed with the sign of the cross, the minister would have said the following, or words very similar …
Do not be ashamed of Christ
You are his forever.
Stand bravely with him
Oppose the power of evil,
And remain his faithful disciple
To the end of your life.
In other words, let your light shine.
Like many of you, I guess, I was baptised as an infant. As an adult, I appreciate the challenge in this call. For a start I know that I am not always brave; I’m not always a faithful disciple; my life, human life, is full of inconsistencies or shadows. Letting the light shine through the shadows is not always simple.
Lent is a good time to be honest with ourselves, to be honest about our successes and our failures in responding to our Baptism call. Lent is a good time to face our shadows. Discipleship courses like this one can help … but we must always be aware, fully aware of our starting point. A starting point that knows now, in this moment, just as we are, that we are fully known and fully loved by God. This is love that is not earned or bought. Diligently embarking on this or any other discipleship course, or not, will not change that simple gift of grace. By that same grace, diligently embarking on this or another discipleship course may shine some light in shadowy places, help us to keep entitlement at bay, and experience God’s gift of life more fully.
All and any of our attempts at obedience to God’s are made in the light that shines in the darkness; the light that is Jesus Christ. It is in this light that I now want to pray this Lenten prayer written by Walter Brueggemann, A hard, deep call to obedience.
Let us pray.
You are the God who makes extravagant promises
We relish your great promises
And we exude in them.
Only to find out, always too late,
That your promise comes
In the midst of a hard, deep call to obedience.
You are the God who calls people like us,
And the long list of mothers and fathers before us,
Who trusted the promise enough to keep the call.
So we give you thanks that you are a calling God,
Who calls always to dangerous new places.
We pray enough of your grace and mercy among us
That we may be among those
Who believe your promises enough
To respond to your call.
We pray in the one who embodied your promise
And enacted your call, even Jesus.