Sermon, Epiphany 5A
Sunday February 6, 2011.
There is a moment in the movie, Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe, where Russel’s character, Maximus, one of the reluctant but great generals of the Roman Empire under Marcus Aurelius speaks of light. In a rare personal conversation with the ailing Caesar, Marcus Aurelius shares his own haunting questions about himself with his favourite, but battle-weary general. he asks Maximus (and himself) what he, the great Marcus Aurelius has really contributed to Rome, the world and history. “Will they call me Marcus Aurelius the Wise? Will they remember me as the great leader who gave Rome back her soul? Will they call me Marcus Aurelius The Tyrant? The general cannot stomach such searching questions. They call into question everything he has been fighting for these long years. He has paid the price for serving a grand vision of humanity – Rome. he and his many soldiers of Rome have lived to raise the sword and declare “Roma Victoria!”. “Rome is the Light” declares the general. I will not believe I have fought and men have died for nothing. Rome is the light. I have seen much of the world. It is dark. It is brutal. Rome is the light….”. The weary man hangs on the belief that there is light. For him Rome is the light – “civilization” in chaos, peace in war, home and safety in trouble and travel, hope in despair, beauty in ugliness, colour in darkness. We all need the light. We all need hope, especially in the long battle with evil and trouble and sin we face. Where is it? Where is the Light for people these days? Maybe it is East of here – ancient mystical practices of prayer and meditation and health and fitness? Maybe it is in Karma, reincarnation, yin and yang, what goes around come around, and “pay it forward” – do a good deed and it will one day be returned. Maybe it is a very large Taj Mahal like mansion on the northern shore of the Swan Rover in Perth – until it all goes bankrupt! Maybe it is in the innocence of a child’s beautiful face, the embrace of a lover, the power of calling the shots, the precious commodity of a 40 year mostly happy marriage, the satisfaction of influencing others for the good? Where is the Light? “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light- bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven”. So we are the Light, according to Jesus! Actually we and our behaviour are the Light of Jesus. “Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do…” Old fashioned isn’t it? “Good works”. Sounds very outdated and easy to dismiss as quaint. As if a good deed is really all that Light of God. Well, it depends on where you are standing. If you are in the darkness, then even a faint glimmer of light pierce the darkness and brings hope. We did not know what we had got ourselves into really. We were young parents of two little kids. it was summer as we moved into a shoebox of a house that had not been looked after or even cleaned. Actually it was an absolute mess when we arrived and started the long job of unloading our belonging into this house we were making our home for the next 5 years. The day did not go well. All the anxiety of the last 3 months in transition seemed to rush at us as we begrudgingly began to clean up the mess left behind by the previous tenants. Then a few other things went wrong during the day, including the front tap coming adrift which meant we had to turn of the mains water…..! Some old friends turned up late in the day to say hello. Without saying as much they must have senses that we were in the pit. It wasn’t just the things going wrong but the full weight of an emotional roller coaster that we have been on and apprehension about how we were going to survive in the weeks and months ahead. They sensed it and they responded. My mate drove me down to the paint shop, bought the paint to fix up the grotty lounge room and got to work on painting. It was a difficult paint job because the ceiling had exposed beams. So it took 5 X times as long to do what they did. They left at 2.30am. Not a word of complaint; just good spirits and good works. That was light in our darkness. It was not only what they did but how they did it – who they were in that moment of need. Jesus is Light. He knew what he was getting himself in for – when no one else really had a clue. Jesus said he would pay the ultimate sacrifice for not just one person or a couple but a world and all their darkness. With every blow of the leather and metal into the flesh, every blinding drive of the hammer into the palms and feet, every gasping breath as his body defied gravity, he soaked up the darkness of us all took it to the stony silence of that tomb. He has not painted a ceiling with paint but a human community with his blood and his blood has covered us with light. He is calling us to get up on that hill and shine, not as moral superiors or lazy and wayward boasters in our own dim light, but in his Light he; he is calling us to be Light and do light – the light of openness, compassion, faith, self-discipline, action, generosity, honesty and real love. Friends, God is not a secret to be kept. The grace of your baptism, the life blood of the holy meal, the peace of the absolution, the power and guidance of his Word is not to be hidden by those of already lit up by the Spirit. Our experience of God and our trust in him is not to be hidden as if it is something so very personal and to be seen as no one else’s business. Another mate of mine told a story a couple of decades ago about walking down the Hay Street Mall in Perth and being confronted by a Scientologist doing one of their crafty little surveys. My friend was most offended. He argued that people should not survey people about their faith in God because it is a very personal thing. He reckoned the offence would the same if some random person came up to you and started doing a questionnaire on your sex life! We have both moved on from this very “personalised” view of our faith and see now that this would be an opportunity to be light revealed, not light hidden. Jesus is alight in us and we are light – the “Light on the Hill” as Slim Dusty used to sing. Friends, this community needs light – it need your light; Jesus light. it need good deeds. Faithful people being themselves and doing what they can where they can and letting the Spirit put it all together in his time and way. There is darkness and there is trouble here – of course there is – it is human! But we are here and so, Jesus is here. The light is here. He is calling us to do light and be light. Paint a ceiling, fix a computer, throw a party, listen a lot, pray to your Father in Heaven for your friends and enemies. We can do these things. You don’t need to be some trained professional or some influential “leader” type or person. You can just be you and do the things you hear Jesus calling you to do and this is enough and this is obedience and faith. “Light a fire under it”, people. You are His light. Amen.