Monday, July 18, 2016

Curse the Darkness or Light a Candle?

Shall We Light a Candle?

Thank God we have two Baptisms today, that’s all I can say. What with everything else that is going on in the world, it might be easier to curse the darkness. But not when it comes to Baptisms. And especially not when it comes to the Baptisms of these particular two babies.
     Clara Lorraine Greeley 
     Benjamin Thomas Neville

How can we but light a candle when it comes to Baptism? It is what we do as Christian folk. It is among the first things we do every Sunday as we prepare for worship; we light candles on the altar. At a Baptism we light the Paschal Candle in honor of the Risen Jesus. Then we light a candle as part of the ritual itself; one for each of the newly Baptized. They like we become part of the Body of Christ, the Church, as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle. 

On this day we remember our Baptismal Covenant. Among other things, we ask the question. “Will you respect the dignity of every human being?” 

The answer seems obvious. But not so fast. What of those who hate us? What of those who kill us? Or kill our friends and family? How do we stop making war on our enemies if we seek to answer such a question in the affirmative? How do we deal with our fears and terrors? Our anger and rage? Our hatred and need for reprisal. They kill our thousands. We kill their hundreds of thousands. Al Quida becomes ISIL. We curse the darkness. The downward spiral leads us all further and further into the abyss.

How do we become peacemakers in a world so engulfed in the ravages of war and terror? The manufacture of the weapons of war and the trade in these same weapons puts the means for violence in the hands of any who get hold of them. The purveyors of hate, warmongers, terrorists are only too willing to use the weaponry. 

Look into the face of this slain police officer and his child. They can no longer see one another on this side. Curse the darkness? Light a candle? This is the defining choice of our time. 

A peacemaker’s life is a dangerous one. Still, shall I capitulate to evil and curse the darkness? Or shall I light a candle, however dim that light may be, or however easily extinguished by the stormy winds of human hatred. Shall I curse the darkness or light a candle? A very dangerous choice to make to tell you the truth.

Look at Jesus.

Look at him in today’s Gospel reading. Mary hung on every word. His words, his ideas, his approach to the violent world he lived in was so different. She had to listen closely to try to understand. But Martha was distracted by many things. Things that had to get done. And Jesus didn’t seem to care about Martha’s situation. Jesus told Martha that Mary chose the better part.

What is the better part? We can be easily distracted especially in the midst of the events of our present and dangerous world. We may acknowledge that it is necessary, to kill those who kill. Is this our distraction? Are these things necessary?

How can we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus? The forgiveness he proclaims, his reconciling work, the love he personifies in his very body and being? Look what it cost him? What will it cost us to light a candle with our lives? How can we let our light so shine before others that they may see our good work and give Glory to God? What will it cost us to be the salt of the earth?

How we answer questions like these will depend on Who we think we are answerable to. The Gospel claim is that we are answerable to our love for God and our love for one another. We are answerable to Jesus, the Love of God made flesh and blood. This is what makes us unique in human history. For God is love.

If it is true, that God is love then that changes everything. Today in these baptisms and every day in their lives and in the lives of all humankind we make our choices. Shall we light a candle? Or shall we curse the darkness?

St Paul makes it so abundantly clear in today’s Epistle. “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
“In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”

It was the cross that made peace through the blood of Jesus according to our faith. Imagine a faith like this. This is the faith it takes. It was the life of Jesus that lit that first candle. Then the disciples. Then the generations that followed through the coming and going of thrones, dominions and rulers and powers. The millions upon millions those whose lives have lit their candles down through the ages.

And today we come to these two candles; plus your candle and mine.
Together no darkness can overcome the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We dwell in him and Jesus dwells within us and now we bring into the fellowship of the church these children.

May all the fullness of God be pleased to dwell within them and all of us, since on this day we choose to light a candle and not to curse the darkness.
   And now as we gather at the Baptismal font let us stand and sing Hymn #490 "I want to walk as a child of the light"

In the name of God, the Most Holy, Undivided, and Everlasting Trinity.

Fr Paul

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