Here's the second part of what was started yesterday (and maybe one day I'll have the opportunity to write another):
Sermon for June 13, 2006
The gospel readings for that night:
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
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.
Notes to the reader: What follows is what we called a “sermonette”- I think meaning that I was not authorized to go off on too many tangents and talk for 20 minutes. There’s not too much heavy theology in here- most of this is personal experience, what they had just taught to us in Bishop’s School, and what little theology that I knew beforehand. Didn’t want to get in over my head with things I thought might be right. I left the heavy stuff for those who have gone through seminary and more of life than I have. I tried to include all that I said, the few tangents I went on, and any notes that may be useful to you who weren’t at Bishop’s School will be included in brackets. I hope that by hindsight in having given the sermon already, my notes and whatever else, this is coherent. (I typed this up after I wrote it and delivered it, since it was originally handwritten.)
Good evening. I guess most of you haven’t seen much of me during any free time for the past few days. If you have seen me, you saw me with notebook, Bible, notes, and highlighter in hand, holed up and waiting for some sort of inspiration to help me get this thing moving along. Many of you have helped me figure out what I need to say and how I’m going to say it. But the spirit really gushed through me last night and I was up until 1 or 2 trying to get it all worked out. So here it is. I’m not feeling well tonight, so if I need to speak up, yell at me and let me know.
When I was younger, I used to wonder about the passage in Matthew. “You are the light of the world.” Well, at my church, we stand for the reading of the gospel, as I am sure you do at your own church. And as I am standing, I am awake. I am aroused from the stupor that I am normally in. [I paused here and looked around. I was getting some funny looks from the adults at least, who apparently did not think that anyone should be in a stupor in church. At least not before the sermon was read. So I continued on… I looked at them and said, with a straight face] Now don’t you lie to me, you know that your eight-year old self after two readings from the old testament, a psalm (a song that you find has very little emotion) and a prayer, you’re just a tad numbed into dulldrum. [the odd looks disappeared here- and everyone was laughing]. Anyway, I hear the “you are the light of the world” part. Since I was young, I had complete faith in God. There was no question. But I must say, I thought the guys who wrote everything down were a little sketchy. As an eight year-old, I’m not too keen on being compared to a light bulb in the first place, and I’m not entirely sure why I am being compared to an electrical fixture. (Yes, in my mind, electricity most certainly existed back in the day.) Either way, oil, or alternating current, I found it a little strange. It just didn’t make any sense to me.
But now I am starting to get it. I see the usefulness of my electrical fixture/ oil lamp/ flame thing. This faith beacon is our own little torch of Evangelism. We can go out carrying it high. It is not just a torch for us. It is a torch to light the way of others as well. Faith is like that. Faith starts as a selfish, personal thing. At least we start out seeing it that way. We often have yet to realize that faith is not our own. It is a far greater thing. Faith is with your community. I am not quite sure what to do with my faith all of the time, or should I say I don’t know the greater plan, but it’s also not mine to know. I am, however, working on how to do it. We don’t know the way by being lights, if so, we would have been compared to maps, but we can see, at least into the distance a little, about where to go. But, as Matthew says, there is nothing private about this light. It is a light that is supposed to as many people as possible. So this light is evangelistic in a sense. It is our calling out to people. Now this faith electrical illuminating fixture is not to be shoved into the darkness of a “heathen” or “ungodly,” “self-serving sinner.” It should be given to them, but remember as well, those who are sitting next to you. Chances are you have already chosen to shine your beacon this week. Look at them. Go on; see who is sitting next to you. These people have been “witnesses” to my own faith, in helping it grow and shift for the better. And hopefully you feel the same way. [the reason that witness is in quotes: at St. John’s Baptist, in the sermon the Rev. Graham would holler- “CAN I GET A WITNESS BROTHERS AND SISTERS??” After saying a truth, and the church would yell- “AMEN!!” It became much fun for those of us at Bishop’s School to ask if we could get a witness, and it became customary to say “amen” in the sermon, since it means very truly, let it be, so be it, and other such affirmation statements. It really gathered a new meaning for us, and we say it with great gusto now. Since it might be a little distracting to other members listening to the sermon, I might mutter “amen” under my breath, say it in my head, or nod my head (just watch me)- which is no longer just a tool to keep the blood flowing. ☺ Ahh… off on a tangent again. Anyway-] I have heard so many stories this week about how people have gone on mission trips with their youth groups, or gone and helped with the hurricane relief effort in the Gulf, or just held open the door with a smile and a friendly greeting. I have seen these people who surround you listen to other people’s ideas, questions, problems, conundrums, queries and quandaries with an open, willing-to-listen ear. And not just open, but accepting and loving and kind, for people who know so little, and yet so much about each other. Our professors and teachers and leaders have gotten us interested and thinking about things that never occurred to us before. And, yes, I promise we have been interested. I have talked to a lot of people, quite openly, about things I’ve never talked about with anyone before. There seems to be so much that is put forth here, offered up in such a way where we so freely give and take.
But what is it?
What is this evangelism faith that we share?
What are we supposed to be showing?
As I was writing this last night, a song came on my iPod – I was trying to drown out the shrieks and laughter that drifted down the hall and pierced my ears at 12 midnight. [hey, about the timing, when the Spirit moves you, He does it on His own time.] The song, as some of you older… than me... folks may know- “An Old Fashioned Love Song” by Three Dog Night [insert a few whoops by seminarians and professors and pastors]. Well, since I am not even going to attempt to sing it for you, I’ll read the first part of it for those of you whose memories may need refreshing or don’t know it.
"Just an old fashioned love song
Playing on the radio.
And wrapped around the music is
Someone promising they’ll never go.
You swear you’ve heard it before
As it slowly rambles on
No need in bringing ‘em back,
Cause they’re never really gone
Just an old fashioned love song
One I’m sure they wrote for you and me."
Now whether you know the song or not, it doesn’t really matter. Now I know it’s not quite as elegant as John, I personally think that John would be a master songwriter, and not the same thing, it gets the point across. While I don’t think that Three Dog night was really recording this song as a gospel or were making references and allusions to God, I will use my ‘power’ as writer of the sermon to make it so.
It is an “old fashioned love song” in the sense that God has always given us love and will continue to give us this awesome and powerful love. Hence the whole “eternal love.” Heck, Solomon wrote about it in his psalms (that give the stupor to small children) and he wrote those a long time ago. And it will play over and over again on the radio… and in the pulpit and under awnings out side in the rain [that night we did vespers outside in the rain under the awning that is in the quad next to the refectory] and any where else as long as pastors have wind in them and other people continue to spread the faith, because it’s so important. We often forget the magnitude of this love. We often forget that that “someone promising they’ll never go” is God. Never letting go of us, never giving up and keeping that love in a firm grip. And that old fashioned love song was written just for you and me. [Seminarian Matt O’Rear came up to me after the sermon and asked me, in all seriousness, if he could use that reference in a sermon he was doing. I told him sure- I guess it wouldn’t have been that Christian-like if I chose to withhold that information.]
As Pastor Kannaday said yesterday in class, and I couldn’t put it any better: “God came as only we could understand it. He came as us… He speaks the language of humanity.” And unto others we must show that God still speaks this language of humanity. As a more intentionally Christian-oriented song put it:
Lord you give the great commission
Heal the sick and preach the word
Lest the church neglect its mission
And the gospel go unheard
Help us witness to your purpose
With renewed integrity
With the Spirit’s gifts empower us
For the work of ministry.
* “The Great Commission” by Jeffery Rowthorn
Can I get an amen?