Sunday, January 23, 2011

We Are the Light of the World

Sheepscott Community Church January 23, 2011

Isaiah 9: 1-4

1 Cor, 1: 10-18

Matthew 4: 12-23

We Are the Light of the World

In this morning’s first reading from Isaiah, there is an unmistakable yearning for the arrival of a time of deliverance from the oppressor, for the arrival of a Messiah-King. Scholars disagree about whether the reading is a reference to a contemporary king of the time or whether it was indeed, as the writer of the gospel of Matthew purports, a prophecy of the Messiah King, realized in the person of Jesus.

Perhaps it doesn’t have to be an either or situation, but that both could be true. There could have been a contemporary king––Hezekiah is the one usually cited––and the passage could have foretold the effect of the coming of the Messianic King. There is something heroic in the historical unwillingness of the Jewish people to surrender that hope for the ideal king who would finally come at the behest of God to rule his people.

Every time a new king was crowned in those days, hope stirred again in loyal hearts and people would ask,”Is he the God-anointed one? Is this the Messiah? And though no prince of the House of David ever fulfilled that hope, and king after king brutally disillusioned the believing people, still they continued to hope, pray and trust that he would come, if not that day, then some other day. You have to marvel at that kind of faith, that kind of hope, that continues even now among observant Jews, and that, in these days, these years that follow the unthinkable Holocaust. Still they hope and wait on God.

What I want to focus on today, however, is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. For the purposes of this message, I call our attention to the response of the Christian community from time immemorial to that reading from Isaiah, which you may recognize as one of the readings for Advent, in anticipation of Christmas. We hear it every year, and we, along with the larger Christian community, rejoice in the gift of God’s love in Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, the light that shone. It is his song––”The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land in the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” That is his song and we sing it in our own hearts in thanksgiving for the fulfillment of that hope, which burned in the human heart through centuries of darkness and pain.

The hope had always been that God would yet visit and redeem his people. For us that hope has been fulfilled, has been reallized in Jesus. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. We have lived Christmas. We are living Christmas. Originally spoken to a handful of despairing Jews more than 2500 years ago, it gives voice to the thanksgiving of all people for a great deliverance and a divine Savior. The song is timeless and universal and perfectly mirrors the hopes of human beings.

Every detail of the song fits our case and meets our needs. What is our case? And what are our needs? Our case today is simply the occasion of the Annual Meeting. We have this opportunity to discuss the business and future of the Sheepscott Community Church. Our need is to have a spirit of love manifested in cooperation so that the business of God can go forward in this place at this time.

Paul’s words to the Corinthians in this morning’s epistle could not be more timely or appropriate. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” He further asks: “Is Christ divided?” The state of no divisions and perfect unity does not happen spontaneously, and you have to wonder if such a thing can happen with a group of people of such divergent interests and opinions as out membership. If we think of unity as consensus, however, people can continue to retain differing opinions, but have consensus on the common ground of recognizing the value of having this community church and the need to work out compromises that will make the continuation of this church possible

From another angle, you may question the likelihood of a seamless garment of cooperation, knowing your own limitations and more likely knowing with greater certainty the limitations of others, but I would encourage all of us to think of ourselves in terms of the men Jesus called in this morning’s gospel to follow him, to be his disciples. These were the most ordinary of people, average guys, these fishermen. The Joe Six-Packs of their time, if you will; four of them: Peter, Andrew, James and John. They were not men of scholarship, influence, wealth or social background. They weren’t poor; they were simply working stiffs with no great background, and certainly, anyone would have said, with no great future.

What Jesus needed was ordinary folk who would give of themselves. He can do anything with people like that, and that was the kind of people the apostles were. And that is the kind of people we are: ordinary people who are willing to give of ourselves. Jan, Clara, Tony, giving of themselves, with a little help from their friends, month after month at the community supper. They, and Joan and Curt, and Fran, providing us with music week after week, making it easier to lift out hearts and spirits to God. Cindy and Chrissy teaching Sunday School with patience and good humor, and lessons that everyone can be part of. Cindy acting as chair of the Board from time immemorial, and all those who serve on the Board: Chrissy and C.J., Cyndi Brinkler, Bill Thompson, Donna Krah, Karen Mook, Bill Robb, who has also been our Treasurer for the past three years. Jon Robbins, undertaking the weekly coffee hour for almost a year now, with recent, welcome relief from Chrissy. Sonnie and Karen Mook overseeing the lawn sale. Virginia Carol Shorey being our weekly greeter. I could go on.

The point is these are ordinary people, who will give of themselves, and it is just that attitude that enables God to carry out his work in the world, specifically in this church. I am appealing to those of you who think it takes special talent or way more time than you have to consider committing yourself to the work of the church. Believe me, there’s no one among those I mentioned who has more time than anyone else. Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. The question is what do you do with it? With twelve well-disposed people, Jesus changed the world. We have more than that here every Sunday. What might God do with us when we are willing to make ourselves available?

We are all part of the body of God, of Christ, and it behooves us to be conscious of that as we strive to work together, respecting the Christ in each other for the sake of the gospel. We don’t have to wait any longer for the Messiah to appear. For us in these latter days, Isaiah’s song is one of thanksgiving rather than longing after. The light that shone in the darkness is already here––Christ. And in him we have everything we need to serve and every reason to serve. Just ask Peter, Andrew, James and John, or Clara, Fran, Tony, Jan, Joan, Curt, Carol, Jon, Cindy, Chrissy, Brie, etcetera.

Let us speak our concerns and listen to those of others with an eye towards community at our meeting this morning. Let us be open to the light of love that is Jesus Christ, so recently born again in our midst. Amen.

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