Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Breaking Dawn
2 Cor. 4:3-6; Mk. 9:2-9[1]
We’ve been approaching the “Gospel of Epiphany” from a pretty positive perspective. We’ve celebrated the good news that wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, God is right there with us, drawing us into God’s life and love. We determined a couple of weeks ago that even though there is great suffering in the world, it is still important to hold firmly to our trust that in God’s own timing, God will make everything right. And last week we came to the conclusion that, even though our friends and neighbors may be going through their own suffering, it’s appropriate for us to celebrate the good news of Epiphany, if for no other reason than to encourage them in the midst of their difficulty. But what do you do when you’re the one who is in the depth of suffering? How do you celebrate the good news that God is always right here with us when it feels like God has forsaken you, or at the very least has forgotten you?
I think our lesson from St. Paul might give us a clue. He clearly asserts the Good News of Epiphany, that in Jesus the Christ God has definitively entered our world, bringing life and light to us all. And this is a light that, as our Confession of 1967 says, reveals “the power of God’s love in Christ to transform the world”![2] In fact, he believes that the life and light that entered the world through Jesus the Christ is so powerful that it will transform us all “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). But St. Paul is also aware that we have the light of God’s life and love while we still live in a world that is full of darkness.
That’s probably not something that comes as anything of a surprise to you. Most of us have had our own experiences of walking through times of darkness. When the darkness descends on you, it can be frightening, because it can seem like the dawn will never come. When the darkness falls in your life, you can feel god-forsaken, instead of constantly drawn into God’s life and love. You feel pain and sadness and even depression instead of joyful celebration. It can be especially difficult to celebrate the Gospel of Epiphany when it seems like the darkness has engulfed you.
How do we bring the light of our celebration of Epiphany into our own personal experience of darkness? To some extent, we can look to Jesus. Jesus’ life and ministry was a kind of preview—where we get a taste of what is coming. That’s what the transfiguration of Jesus was—a preview of what is to come. It was a pre-view of Jesus’ resurrection. And, in turn, was a pre-view of the resurrection of all life and indeed all creation.[3] So when Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, it was an event that revealed the light of God’s new life already breaking into this world.[4] Even when we feel like we are engulfed and perhaps even drowning in darkness in our own personal lives, we can look to Jesus as the one who shows us the light that is making all things new.[5]
But St. Paul gives us another approach. When we feel like the darkness around us threatens to overwhelm us, we can literally look out the window at the sun shining in the sky. In a very real sense, the light that literally shines in the sky is a pointer to God’s loving purpose for us all. St. Paul the Apostle says it this way, “God commanded light to shine in the dark—Now God is shining in our hearts!” (2 Corinthians 4:6 CEV). Our confession of 1967 affirms that the light of God’s redemption in Jesus “discloses that the Redeemer is the Lord and Creator who made all things to serve the purpose of God’s love.”[6] At the same time, I would say that the light of creation—reflected in the very rays of the sun that warm and light our lives—points us to the flip side: the Lord and Creator who made all things to serve the purpose of God’s love is also the Redeemer who in Jesus has unleashed the power of divine love to transform the whole world! So when our lives are filled with pain and suffering, when it seems like darkness has prevailed, we can look to the very light that is literally shining all around us as a reminder that even then, God is still there with us.
Although St. Paul knew as much as anyone that the light of God has been poured into a world that is still filled with darkness he also shared the conviction that what God has done in this world through Jesus Christ has changed everything. And so when the darkness in our world threatens to engulf us and choke out the good news that God is constantly surrounding us with life and love, we can look to Jesus as a reminder that even the darkness cannot hold back the light he brought to us all. At the same time, the God who has caused this light to shine in our hearts is the same God who made the light to shine in our world. And so when we feel the darkness of pain and suffering and despair in our lives, all we have to do is look at the light that is literally shining all around us. God gives us a constant reminder of the love that surrounds us with the breaking of every new dawn.

[1] © 2012 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 2/19/12 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] The Confession of 1967, 9.15.
[3] Cf., for example, 1 Corinthians 15:20 where Paul says that Jesus was raised from the dead as the “first-fruits,” or anticipation, of the resurrection of all humankind.
[4] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, 251: he speaks of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in terms of a “transfiguration” that “is the beginning of the transfiguration of all mortal life.”
[5] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.3.319 says it this way: we look forward to the day when “the light of life which has appeared in Him will penetrate and fill even the remotest corner of the cosmos
[6] Confession of 1967, 9.15.

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