Sermon 1-22-2017 ‘Light Has Dawned’

Matthew 4:12-17

Brian Drayton, On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry, Quaker Press of Friends General Conference, 2006.

Thomas R. Kelly, The Eternal Promise, Harper and Row, 1966.



When Jesus was inaugurated into ministry, there were no parades, no speeches, no dinners and dancing.  He left home, his parents, his friends, his synagogue, the carpenter shop, and walked about 40 miles to a fishing village – Capernaum on the north coast of the Sea of Galilee.  Nothing special happened, except – the Son/Sun came up.  Morning.  The sun rose – for a people whom Isaiah had spoken of who had no expectation that it ever would.  Hundreds of years before, with the Assyrian army invading, God’s people were fearful of annihilation, but lived with the promise of ultimate survival.  People who had once only known thick darkness, would see and experience Light. 


Did the sun come up for you this morning?  Of course it did – but you and I, just like many others may not have noticed.  We may have taken it for granted.  Well, we’ve been waking up lately.  I woke up Friday and went to worship with a Catholic Priest, a Muslim Imam, and a Jewish Rabbi.  And - a whole lot of other people.  We heard sacred scriptures read.  We sang.  And we prayed.  I came home, and watched what we had all prayed for – the seamless, peaceful transition of power. 


This last Friday, there were parades, speeches, dinners and dancing, just as there are every four years on Inauguration Day.  This last Friday, some people finally felt they’d been noticed – paid attention to.  Others felt they’d been abandoned.  As the Wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes said, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’. [Ecc. 1:9] Not too much later, the same writer says this:


For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.  [Ecc. 3]


As I re-read this passage, I saw all the opposites – weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing.  I removed the commas between and realized that just as in my own life, there are times when we all – our families, our Meeting, our communities, our nation -  mourn and dance, weep and laugh.  


Rabbi Krichiver brought this to our attention at the Multi-Faith Prayer Service on Friday… What do we do in these seasons of our lives?  What do we do with these times God has given us?  His challenge to us was to act.  Mourn fully.  Dance freely.  Embrace lovingly.  Refrain intentionally.  Weep in a cleansing way.  Laugh until it hurts… 


Friday evening, Jon and I went to hear the Prague Symphony Orchestra play at the Palladium.  A young violinist, Sarah Chang performed a Dvorak violin concerto.  She didn’t just play it… she PLAYED  it!  She knew what it was to play that fully. To embrace it completely. Normally a violinist, at least any other violinist I’ve seen play a concerto, will stand and when it’s time to play.  She’ll stand and play through that part of the concerto and then release the violin down. Not this girl. She would toss her head around, whip her foot out, lift the bow and play furiously, or sometimes very gently… but then,  fling the bow up high! She knew what it was to participate fully in that moment, in that season of her life.


This is what wisdom teaches us. There is a time and season for every purpose. Act. Do. Participate. Fill that time and season with purpose.


George Fox, in the early days of his ministry, “saw, also, that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.”  It was fascinating to me this morning when Beth gave this picture to the children of this beautiful place, “ The House of the Sun”, in Hawaii...  a high place where hundreds of people go every day to watch the sun rise. Some of the children held it like this with the light on top. And some held it like this, with darkness above. This is the way some people are feeling in our country today. Some people are feeling that the future looks like this, and some people are feeling that it looks like this. What makes the difference? It’s not Republican or Democrat, it’s not Independent or ‘Who Cares’? For those of us that understand light, and know light, it is light. We are called as ‘Children of Light’.  George Fox said that he saw not just the ocean of darkness and light, but the “infinite love of God” and he “had great openings.”  He understood the darkness the Hebrew children had suffered – much of it brought on by their own pride and disobedience.  But he also knew and experienced the power and promise of Christ’s light – already come.  The Society of Friends began in a time of deep darkness, both politically and spiritually, but they always knew their orientation.  It was to the Light.  They had to find their way through all kinds of challenges - and the way they did it was to use the Light.


Brian Drayton is a Friend from Weare, NH Monthly Meeting, and will soon be speaking at a Ministry Conference at ESR that I’ll be attending “On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry”.  He writes: “The preaching of early Friends had power not because of its sociology, not because of its politics, but because they knew themselves as part of the drama of salvation, their story was the latest chapter in the story that began with Adam and moved through Noah, Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles.  They were seeing in their own time the dawning of the gospel day, and the fresh action of God inviting them to freedom from the bondage of sin, and the overcoming of darkness with light.  Sometimes the story was told so as to embrace the great movements of history, sometimes it was made as simple and particular as admonitions to honesty in business, avoidance of war taxes, living gently on the earth.  In each of these themes, large or small, cosmic or intimate, the great story is seen unfolding…


           Quoting Will Taber, he writes: “Over and over again, through an infinite variety of messages each of which they believed was specifically given by the Spirit for that specific occasion, [the ministers] called people out of the darkness surrounding ordinary human nature, into the light which can transform that human nature through spiritual communion with the Living Christ…”


Look at the front of your bulletin… What does it say, under that picture? It says, “I have called you Friends.” “Each one here - Ministers.” Dan Rains is the Presiding Clerk, I’m the Pastor, but each of you, each one of us, is a minister. And God has called us as ministers, to bring people out of darkness, out of their ordinary human nature, into the light which can transform that human nature through spiritual communion with Christ--the Light.


And now, from The Eternal Promise, by Thomas Kelly: “The Quaker discovery and message has always been that God still lives and moves, works and guides, in vivid immediacy, within the hearts of men and women.  For revelation is not static and complete, like a book, but dynamic and enlarging, as springing form a Life and Soul of all things.  This Light and Life is in all people, ready to sweep us into its floods, illumine us with its blinding, or with its gentle guiding radiance, send us tendered but strong into the world of need and pain and blindness.  Surrender of self to that indwelling Life is entrance upon an astounding, an almost miraculous Life.  It is to have that mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”  In the silence of your hearts hear Him knock.  Outward teachers can only lead us to the threshold.  But “God himself has come to lead his people.”  Such men and women must be raised up, heaven-led souls who are not “seekers” alone, but “finders” who have been found by the Father of all the world’s prodigals…


It is given to us to be message bearers of the day that can dawn in apostolic powers if we be wholly committed to the Light.  Radiant in that radiance, we may confidently expect the kindling of the Light in all people until all of our footsteps are lighted by that Light, which is within them. 


Our fellowship groups are small, but they can be glorious colonies of heaven, cities set on a hill.  It is a great message which is given to us – good news indeed – that the Light overcomes the darkness.  But to give the message we must also be the message.”


God bless us, as we minister to others from our own experience of the dawning of the Light.