The Reign of LIghtPosted: November 24, 2013
The Reign of Light
We have come to the last Sunday of the Church year. This week we will change the altar clothes from green to blue, for next Sunday is the beginning of Advent, the beginning of a new Church Year. As sort of a church New Year’s Party we will share communion together, decorate the Sock and Glove Tree and start getting ready for Christmas.
REIGN OF CHRIST SUNDAY
Today is the end of the season known as Kingdomtide, and today is designated as Reign of Christ Sunday – appropriate as we transition into the season of preparation for the incarnation the coming of the Christ into the world. Especially as we enter the darkest days of the year, we yearn for the return of the light, and we hope for that day when the light will shine forth in all human hearts –maybe especially our own.
THE PEOPLE WHO WALKED IN DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT
The gospel of John begins with a great hymn to the light: “. . . in Christ was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” And John’s words were a riff on the great Messianic theme of the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who live in a land of deep darkness – on them has light shined.”
“But,” we might ask in protest, “where is the promised light in our world today?” We grow weary of promises of some indefinite time in the future, and we long for some fulfillment of the promise here, in the present moment, in our lives right now. Where is the reign of light?
A LIGHT SO BRIGHT THE VESSELS BURST
Lawrence Kushner in the book we are studying Eyes Remade for Wonder, shares with us an ancient Hasidic story by Isaac Luria about the creation.
When first setting out to make the world, God planned to pour a Holy Light into everything in order to make it real. God prepared vessels to contain the Holy Light. But something went wrong. The light was so bright that the vessels burst, shattering into millions of pieces like dishes dropped on the floor. . . .
MENDING BROKEN FRAGMENTS
Our world is a mess because it is filled with broken fragments. When people fight and hurt one another, they allow the world to remain shattered. The same can be said of people who have pantries filled with food and let others starve. According to Luria, we live in a cosmic heap of broken pieces, and God cannot repair it alone.
That is why God created us and gave us freedom of choice. We are free to do whatever we please with our world. We can allow things to remain broken, or, as Luria urged, we can try to repair the mess.
SPARKS HIDING WITHIN FRAGMENTS
The Holy Light now is like sparks hiding within fragments of the creation: a beautiful sunrise, a song of hope and faith, a wildly generous act of charity, food given to those who are hungry, clean water given to thirsty survivors in the Philippines – all moments full of awe and wonder containing sparks of the Holy Light. Our task is to uncover and release the Holy Light that is all around us and within us.
FINDING LIGHT IN THE SHADOW
It is the discovery and the release of the Holy sparks within us that is perhaps most challenging, for we are called upon to go down into ourselves bearing the light of faith to search out the Holiness that is within us. Our spiritual challenge is that we find inside both light and dark, good and evil, and we cannot banish the dark without damaging the light. For instance, the fight flight response that governs our fear and anger that so often get us into trouble, is intended for our survival. The lust we struggle with is intended for our joy and the survival of our species. The love we have for our families and friends is all caught up in our own self-interest. Our fear of those who are different from us is part of a deeply ingrained survival mechanism. Our creativity some of God’s most important gifts to us, too often have been sent away into the shadows of the unconscious, because we were bullied or shamed. And so we must first embrace the shadow side of our personalities and come to understand how these long banished children were sent into exile and then welcome them home like prodigals. We can celebrate their return with a party, music and dancing, releasing their energy for goodness.
I AM AWAKE
So where do we begin on this journey of self-discovery this pilgrimage in search of the divine? When the Buddha first began preaching people responded by asking, “Who do you think you are anyway?” And the Buddha responded, “I am awake.”
The beginning of knowing about God is simply paying attention, being fully present where we are, now, or waking up. We realize that we have been asleep. We do not see what is happening all around us. For most of us, most of the time the lights are on but nobody’s home.
HOW LONG WOULD YOU HAVE TO WATCH?
We find what we seek. And we seek who we are. The story of Moses and the burning bush can give us some insight into waking up and paying attention. Consider the process of combustion. How long would you have to watch wood burn before you could know whether or not it was actually being consumed? This then would mean that Moses would have had to closely watch the “amazing sight” for several minutes before he could possibly know there ever was a miracle to watch! (The producers of television commercials, who have a lot invested in knowing the span of human visual attention, seem to agree that one minute is our outer limit.)
The “burning bush” was not a miracle. It was a test. God wanted to find out whether or not Moses could pay attention to something for more than a few minutes. When Moses did, God spoke. The trick is to pay attention to what is going on around us long enough to behold the miracle without falling asleep. There is another world right here within this one, whenever we pay attention.
So how do we wake up and pay attention? We begin with mindful meditation – try fifteen minutes a day at first. And we shouldn’t become discouraged if our minds wander. Be still and know that I am God. And if we can pay attention to the stillness, we will begin to have glimpses of the light. Our eyes will be remade to see the awe and wonder around us and within us.
Intentionality is another important power we can bring to our spiritual practices. Unless we have the appropriate intention when we approach worship, begin to pray, walk a labyrinth, make an appointment for counseling nothing will happen. We will simply experience another “empty ritual.” But when we come to worship, or sit down to pray, or walk a labyrinth or make a counseling appointment with intentionality, we suddenly become open to the life changing power of that event.
SURPRISED BY GRACE
Oh sometimes grace catches us unaware. The Holy Spirit shows up unexpectedly. The scales fall from our eyes and we miraculously perceive a new reality. Sometimes we are surprised by wonder. But even when God’s grace intervenes in our lives, unless we can pay attention, focus our minds, open our hearts, follow up with intentionality God’s intervention in our lives is likely to fade and evaporate without actually transforming us. We will have the memory of an exciting event, a flash of insight, but our lives will be unchanged.
DOING THE SPIRITUAL WORK
God’s grace can help to give us a glimpse of the light, but then we have to do the spiritual work that frees the light within us and shapes the light around us. But how can this be? How can prayer or spiritual practices bring the broken pieces of our world together?
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD
The author of the Gospel of John tries to give us a hint in his prologue: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning; all things were made through the Word.” What is a word other than thought, consciousness? The creation was made by and is made of consciousness, energy, pulsating, conscious energy, light. The reign of light begins for each one of us, when we turn and embrace the light.
CONSCIOUSNESS IS ENERGY
And some people will respond to the light by saying this is all poetry and nonsense. Just because we don’t believe it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Words are energy. Consciousness is energy. Spiritual practices can connect us with the divine consciousness. Unless we can transcend our attachment to the physical world, we will not be able to see the light.
So seek the Word. Embrace the light. For the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome the light.