On this Epiphany Sunday, the Scripture reading begins at the 16 minute mark with the sermon “Attitude Change” by Rev. Lentz beginning immediately after.
Happy New Year! I hope you are getting back into the routine of the day to day. Listen to these words of William Stafford.
It could happen anytime; tornado, earthquake, Armageddon: It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could you know.
That’s why we wake and look out – no guarantees in this life.
But some bonuses; like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening.
(‘YES’ in Learning to Live in this world.”
I love that little poem – no guarantees but some bonuses.
Not optimism but mindful realism – the future is not set in stone. Paying attention to the here and now, holding all things loosely as we enter the unknown.
But for Christians it is an unknown shaped by a trust in a God that is good and a trust that love wins. We can’t prove that but it is a wonderful way to go through life and a lot better then other choices people take: narcissistic hedonism, cynicism, violence. The options are out there.
So, Yes, for those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus – all things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to God’s purpose… even death can’t separate us from the Lord of God!
But that good is not guaranteed if we don’t open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit and become co-creators with God of faith, hope and love; justice and joy!
We have to play our part and do something – taking that step in our own life, pushing the mountain just a little bit, tossing back the one starfish among the thousands that lie on the beach. You do what you can do. You let your light shine.
God needs you – and whatever gift you bring.
“Optimism” is a good thing but like its opposite “pessimism” –it is an opioid: skewing reality either by thinking that everything is on a path of good – or bad; no matter what we do.
You and I know the truth. We live it. Some horrible things happen and some magnificent things happen. When we live passively things happen to us that didn’t need to. When we live actively and are engaged, all sorts of doors open to us that wouldn’t otherwise.
For Christians our attitude is not optimism or pessimism but hope. A trust in a power of good that calls us towards creating that future we are moving towards. It is an attitude, a world view that we bring to life.
As the author of Hebrews writes: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
We seek to align ourselves with the power of God that is yearning to bring all creation together – yearning, groaning – it is as if God needs us to help bring this along so that someday – we will become what we yearn to be.
As Gabriel Marcel wrote many years ago: “Hope is the act which the temptation to despair is actively overcome!”
Or as Jim Wallis of the Sojourner community once said: “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change.”
Hope can be dashed if we are isolated and not together. Langston Hughes wrote about the danger of hopes that never seem to materialize in his poem “Harlem:”
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Rebecca Solnit in her book Hope in the Darkness writes, “It is important to say what hope is not. It is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is the room to act.” That is faithful and powerful language.
So into 2018 we enter. And what better, more hopeful words can there be to propel us into the days ahead then this opening sentence of Isaiah chapter 60.
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Your light has come! The glory of the Lord has risen upon you! Do you believe that? Isaiah’s words that were first uttered more than 3,000 years ago may be words meant particularly for you today and for us today as we gather together for this first Sunday of the New Year.
These words first spoken to the Jews in Babylon –that the exile is over – that it’s time to come home – they stir something in me. Where am I in exile? Where is home? What light do I have to shine?
How do you listen to these words today? I can’t interpret them for you – you have to do that. But I get this feeling that these words will shape our collective life together this coming year.
Your light has come! Arise and shine. You are called to witness to a light that dispels shadows, illumines ignorance and builds community.
I think of the training after church today – Erica Merritt is going to help us light our candles, or maybe put new batteries into our lamps, so that we can shine, so that we can lead a whole community, perhaps even a nation, from the shadows of racism to the bright light of diversity and inclusion. I am hopeful – neither optimistic nor pessimistic. I just want to be present. But I am hopeful that together we can do this.
It is your time, it is our time to shine – 2018, starting now. Whatever you can do to be hopeful, to be present, to let your shine. And one of the most important things you can do is pray: tap into the immense power of God in prayer. Pray the Lord’s prayer every day: trusting that the will of God will be unleashed and that daily bread will be given. Pray that you and I will be saved from falling into the temptation of being too high, or too low. Pray that we will be part of the Kingdom.
Let your light shine! I need to hear this today, for I believe I have, and many of us have, become dulled not only by the weather and the Browns but by our culture and our politics (both left and right) and by the mood of our nation.
I need a new attitude: one of curiosity and hopefulness. I want to be part of the solution instead of bewailing the problem.
What attitude will we bring to 2018?
My mother used to tell me, when I was feeling down, “John, go do something! Go to the gym, go shovel the snow, rake the leaves. I don’t want you moping around my house: Get out!!”
Very faithful attitude – how does one dispel the gloom – Do something, anything!
Be hopeful – because we do not know what tomorrow brings but we have the agency to affect it – attitude, action, countenance – bring it all –
Amd let your light shine!