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“The Life and Light of ALL People”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:1-18

 

Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

 

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 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.


 

This scripture from John is rich.  It is rich in theology.  In other words, we learn a lot about God and Jesus Christ through this passage.

I love the images we get for Christ – such as the Word, Light, Life, and God’s only Son.

In this passage we learn that Christ has been with God from the beginning.  We learn that God and Christ are together as one God.  We learn that Christ has made God’s heart known.  Christ is the greatest revelation of God – the greatest window into God’s character and heart.

But what strikes me the most today, is the word “all”.  In Christ ALL things came into being.  Not one thing came into being except through Christ, who is the life of ALL things.

 

We, in our wisdom and intelligence, might beg to differ with this statement.  After all, how many are born out of love and lust, abuse and power, inequality and coercion…  How many have come into being after a drunken night.  And there are nights of celebration and rejoicing…  You’ve heard about Super Bowl babies, right?  There are a slew of babies born precisely nine months after the Super Bowl each year…

In our wisdom and intelligence, we might argue that many things have come into being by human invention.  We have created things.  We have bio-engineered life.  We have cloned beings.

In our wisdom and intelligence, we might argue that some living beings cannot be created by God – because they are do detrimental or degenerate…

And yet this passage does not say, SOME things came into being through Christ, but that ALL things came into being through Christ.

 

This claim flies in the face of all we think we know.  Can it be, that behind all our loving and lusting, abuse and coercion, mistakes and happenstance, invention and ingenuity,…is Christ, lending life, giving life, granting life, making life out of everything?

Could it be that everything we think we’ve done and made, we are simply borrowing the light, borrowing life?

Could it be that all light and life spring from the One Light, the Source of all LIFE?

 

I think that is what this passage is claiming.  And I believe it to be true.

 

“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

Again we have this word “all”.

Not only is the claim that all life springs from Christ, but that Christ’s life is the light of all people.  Christ is the hope for all people.  Christ is the salvation of all people.

All.

 

So for the all differences we notice among ourselves.  For all the differentiations we make between ethnicities and backgrounds, intelligence and perseverance, do-gooders and do-badders…  For all our sorting of people and creatures, GOD speaks of us all.  GOD gives LIFE to all.  GOD created ALL.  GOD is the life and the LIGHT of ALL.

GOD came for all. 

And going yet one step further, it says that from Christ’s fullness, we have ALL received grace upon grace.

ALL

 

We are all here because of Christ.  The life that is within us has come from Christ.  And we have all received grace upon grace upon grace through Christ’s fullness.

Our light in the darkness is Christ, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The darkness did not overcome it…from the beginning until now.

 

I don’t know about you, but believing this changes how I see and treat others.  We are not more different than we are alike.  We all come from the same God.  We all live and move and have our being through Christ.  We have all received grace upon grace.  And our hope is bound up together, for Christ is the light of all people.

It also changes how I see myself.  I find it humbling to realize that behind all my life-giving work is Christ, the author and giver of all life.  It puts things in perspective to realize that insofar as I have created and restored life in the world, I have done so by Christ, the creator and life-giver of all things.

 

 

For all this talk of unity – common source and common hope – I realize that in this world, we will continue to have our differences of opinion and lifestyles.  We will continue to call God by different names and understand God in different ways.  Some of us will draw near to God and others of us will flee away.  Some of us will join our lives to God’s life and others will take their own paths.  We may even be both of these people, at different times and seasons in our lives.

But down deep, beneath all our differences, I pray that WE may actively and intentionally remember that truly there is more that unites us than that separates us.  Our beginning and our end is Christ.  Our life and our hope is Christ.

 

Christ has given life and light to ALL people.

May we

do the same.

“Make Us Wise”

Isaiah 60:1-6
Romans 1:20
Matthew 2:1-12

Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

Romans 1:20

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

 


 

In this story, we learn of a great power scare.  The ruler Herod feels threatened by this prophecy about a promised ruler coming to shepherd the people.  As many around him, he thinks this ruler will be a challenge to his Kingdom.  He does not know that Christ is the King of all the world and not another political challenger for the nation of Israel.

And so, feigning interest and reverence, he asks the council of the wise men from the East – to gather information about where he might find the child.  And covering all his bases, he asks that the wise men check back in with him, after they’ve found the child, “that I may also go and pay him homage,” he says.  But the wise men, who are apparently wise both in name and in character, are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they return to their homes by another road.

In a birth story with so many twists and turns, Christ comes to live among us, born as a little baby, just like us.  And God is moving heaven and earth that we might this heavenly love letter, this little child, our Savior.

 

I am struck by the wise men.  We are told they are from the East.  Beyond that, we can only speculate who they might have been.  But what we know for sure is that they are not Israelites.  They are not the chosen people of Israel, and yet they are in tune with the greatest revelation of God!  And how did they hear?  How did they know?  How did they see?

They saw in the stars.  They were students of the stars.  They watched creation.  They knew something spectacular was happening, and they were not going to miss it.  And so these star gazers from the East find themselves prostrate before a tiny baby, King of the World.

 

I love how God’s heart for humanity is not bound by race or family, religion or creed.  When God shows up, God makes it known in the stars, for any and all to see.  After all, the whole point of choosing a people at all was they would themselves become a beacon, a city on a hill, a light for the nations.  This gift is for the whole world!

God’s heart has always been for all people.  It has just taken us a long time to believe it.

In fact, it’s still something we struggle to believe today.

It’s far too easy to revert to thinking God loves some and not others.

It’s far too tempting to think our blessings are for ourselves alone.

But in fact, we are blessed – in order to be a blessing!

We are called for a purpose, and not simply for privilege.

 

I am glad these men from the East are known today as “wise men” for indeed they were wise men.  In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains that everyone is without excuse when they sin – because, he reasons, God has made Godself known through everything created.  ALL AROUND US, God is visible.  In every created thing, God’s fingerprints can be seen.  God can be known simply by paying attention to the created world.

And here we see the wise men, studying what God has made, following where it leads them, and coming face to face with God-made-flesh.

 

Friends, we are not called by God in order to feel safe and good and privileged.  We are called because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good!  We are called because so many need to know that God is good.  So many need to know that God is for them.  So many need to know that they are loved by the King of Heaven and Earth, just as they are.  So many need to know that their lives matter.

You and I are called to be light.

The Psalmist writes:

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Indeed thick darkness covers this world.  We create such darkness in our world.  But in God’s great mercy and steadfast love, God has come.  God comes into our cycles of death and darkness, breaking in with unquenchable light.

And this light has broken upon us, piercing our darkness, in the unthreatening brightness of a little baby, laid in a manger.

And in this light, we shine.

Not because we are the light ourselves, but because our Light has come!  Christ has come!

And we who are witnesses to God’s in-breaking Light,

We are called to arise.

We are called to shine.

In the presence of God-with-us, we radiate the love and light of our Lord,

When we are present to,

Alert to,

Waiting and watching,

Witnessing God’s present in-breaking into our day to day lives,

We reflect God’s life-giving light.   

And scripture tells us

“Kings and nations will come to the brightness of our dawn.”

 

So friends, keep alert.

Our God is visible in EVERYTHING God has made.

And our God is here.

 

May we too be wise children of God.

May we SEE and be radiant!

So that many more may know

the boundless,

Life-changing

Love of God.