Your Light Shall Break Forth Like the DawnPosted: February 9, 2014
Your Light Shall Break Forth Like the Dawn
HOPE FOR EARLY SPRING
Wow this past week we emerged from the darkest quarter of the year. For folks like me who suffer from seasonal affective disorder I can begin to feel the days getting longer. My spirits lift! I start to have more energy! Life begins to feel livable again! The Ground Hog may have seen his shadow in Pennsylvania, but here in Huntsville I am hoping for an early Spring. We need it! And that reminds me of a story.
ALABAMA, AUBURN, UAH FANS
An Alabama fan, an Auburn fan and a UAH Charger fan happened to be on the same plane that crashed killing everyone aboard. When they got to the pearly gates, St. Peter met them with a question they had to answer correctly in order to gain entrance to Paradise. “What is the meaning of Easter?” St. Peter asked them.
The Auburn fan raised his hand. “I know this one. I used to attend church with my folks back home before I came to The University.”
“Go ahead,” St. Peter said.
“Easter is when the pilgrims came to the New World. They learned how to raise crops and celebrated the harvest season with the Native Americans,” the Auburn kid said.
“I’ll get back to you,” St. Peter said to him. “Stand over there.”
“Roll Tide, choose me,” the Alabama fan said.
“You have the floor. Tell me the meaning of Easter.”
“Oh I know this,” the girl said. “I grew up in the First Baptist Church.”
“Then you should know the answer, for sure,” St. Peter replied.
“Easter is when the wise men came and brought presents for the baby Jesus. It is when Christians celebrate his birth by exchanging gifts with their families and friends.”
“I’ll get back to you,” St. Peter said. “Stand over there with the kid from Auburn.”
Finally, the UAH fan spoke up. “I know the answer,” he said, I attend the United Church of Huntsville.
“Okay,” said St. Peter looking skeptical.
“Easter is when Jesus rose from the dead. He was crucified on Good Friday, placed in a borrowed tomb and was resurrected on the third day, which was Easter morning,” the UAH fan said.
St. Peter looked at the UAH fan, amazed that he knew the answer. Just before he motioned him through the entrance to heaven, he heard the UAH fan add one more thing.
IF HE SEES HIS SHADOW
“And if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter….”
Isaiah was looking for the return of the light. The people of Israel had been uprooted and hauled off into slavery and exile. Many of the people were questioning whether or not God even heard their prayers much less answered prayers. Like so many other prophets, Isaiah points out to the people that following all of the forms of faith, fasting, prayer, praise and worship, without pursuing justice in the market place, without caring for the poor – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, is like mocking God. Religious observance without honest charity, justice and peace making is hypocrisy.
THE IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION
Shane Claiborne, the author of the Irresistible Revolution, tells the story of meeting with a very earnest businessman who confided, “I too have been thinking about following Christ and what that means, so I had this made.” He pulled up his sleeve to reveal a bracelet engraved with WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). The bracelet was custom-made of twenty-four karat gold.
BREAD FOR MY NEIGHBOR IS SPIRITUAL
Shane writes, “Maybe each of us can relate to this man – both his earnest desire to follow Jesus and, bound up in the materialism of our culture his distorted execution of the desire.” Authentic spirituality does not focus on the forms of faith, rather true love of God embraces the needs of our neighbors. Like the poster we used for the Welcome last week that said, “Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.”
YOU TITHE MINT AND DILL AND CUMMIN
I am reminded of Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees in Matthew Chapter 23:23-24 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?”
Living in our modern culture afflicted with affluenza is hard. Many of our best instincts can be subverted by marketing. We want to help others and so someone dreams up a new product or advertising campaign to take advantage of our desire to do good.
As an example I would like to lift up Pippa Abston’s post about one of the Super Bowl Ads.
“I’m seeing some posts that people are going to go buy a certain product because they liked the multi-cultural message of an ad AND to support the company against critics who were offended. In the process they are doing exactly what said company was hoping for, providing free advertisement. Meanwhile the company in question is contributing to poor health/ teeth/bones in young people and using business practices in 3rd world countries that might make many of us blanch.
BEHIND THE FACADE
Sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is not your friend…
This is an odd situation we find ourselves in, where we so lack representation in policy that we feel reduced to providing advertising for whoever can speak to us of the beautiful world we’d like to see, without requiring them to take substantive action towards it and even if they are in fact taking giant steps in the other direction below the façade.
It reminds me of political parties too. Is this our brave new world? Where our voices might gain us only the image we want, minus the reality? Shall we consider alternatives?”
TURNING OFF OUR ELECTRONIC MEDIA
We are indeed manipulated, exploited, and deceived. We live in a culture of lies. Is there any hope for us? I hope and I pray. We can seek substance, rather than form. We can ground ourselves in authentic caring for the needs of others. We can turn off some of the worst abuses of our electronic media simply by occasionally turning off the electronic screens that absorb so much of our attention every day. We can spend face to face time with real people. Imagine that!
Lillian Daniel author of: When Spiritual But Not Religious is Not Enough: Seeing God In Surprising Places, Even the Church reported in a Still Speaking devotional on an interesting experiment during worship at First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
BLESSING OF THE CELL PHONES
On the Sunday before Labor Day, we invite our congregation to bring symbols of their work to the altar to be blessed. People put up lap top computers, resumes, shovels, notebooks, mops and boots.
But not everybody plans ahead. So I invited people who hadn’t remembered to bring anything to come forward and leave the workplace symbols they carried with them anyway. Yes, I did it. I asked them to give me their cell phones.
You could feel a great awkwardness. Only a few people walked forward and placed their phones at the front of the church. “Don’t be scared, we’ll give them back to you at the end of the service!” I promised. A few more came forward. “Pastor Seth and I are pretty trustworthy. We won’t let anyone take them. Besides, you can keep an eye on them from the pews for the next hour.”
It generated a lot of discussion at coffee hour. People talked about being unwilling to part with their phones. Others talked about what it felt like to let the phone go, both the freedom and the anxiety of it. It was hard for people to hand over and ask God to bless the very tools that sometimes take more of our time than they save.
Whenever you find yourself unwilling to part with something, ask God to bless it and to bless you as well. Letting go is a great cure for clutching. But if you can’t let go, don’t worry. Just try loosening your grip a little. God can work with that too.
GIVE UP SCREEN TIME FOR LENT?
Now I have heard of a blessing of the animals in church, but a blessing of the cell phones? Maybe! Maybe with Lent on the way we might all give up some screen time for face time or prayer time. Who knows where that might lead? Maybe we might find more authentic faith, relationships and lives. What do you think? For Lent are we willing to trade thirty minutes of screen time for prayer time? Are we willing to text less and go visit a shut-in face to face? Could we turn off the television and volunteer an hour for Foodline? Switch off the computer and teach a Sunday School Lesson?
THE LIGHTS WILL TURN ON
Our addictions are subtle. Whenever we find ourselves unwilling to part with something, we can ask God to bless it and to bless us as well. And as Isaiah said this morning: “What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the poor into your homes and churches, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.” Amen.