Light and Call
At St. Catherine's, Florence
The Third Sunday after The Epiphany
January 26, 2014
II Corinthians 1:10-18
In our collect today, we prayed for the grace “to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ” (BCP, p215). Then, in our readings, we continued to focus on the Epiphany theme of light in a world of darkness. Therefore, in today’s sermon, I want us to consider those two themes together - God’s call and God’s light in the world.
The reading from Amos actually deals with light in a way that is not very direct. He writes of the people of Israel, who are enlightened by the favor of God. And, Amos makes a fairly simple argument in the series of situations he presents. According to the prophet, the people should be able to see and to understand much about life experiences, since they have the advantage of God’s enlightenment. As Amos puts it, “Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (3:7). Thus, the light of God is revealed to the prophets and, through them, God’s light enlightens the people.
An alternative First Reading for today actually addresses the subject of light in a more direct way. The prophet Isaiah introduces the theme and significance of light in a very familiar passage. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”, he proclaims, “Those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined” (9:2). The light, which has come from God, shines in the darkness, and the people, who formerly walked in that darkness, now have the light of God to show them their way.
Then, the reading from First Corinthians reminds us of a related theme that we in South Carolina need to hear again and again. Involved is a beam of the light of God, which may seem somewhat dim to us, as it apparently did to the Corinthians as well. St. Paul appeals to the Christians in Corinth by means of his call to “be in agreement”, to avoid divisions, and to strive for unity (I Cor 1:10). Next, St. Paul goes on to write of various responsibilities and obligations within the Body of Christ, the Church. He claims his own responsibility but says clearly that others have different responsibilities. Not everyone is called on to do the same thing. Therefore, the call to different ministries and various tasks within the Church should not lead to division. Rather - as we know from other Pauline passages - the overall unity of the Body is served by the distribution of gifts and by differences in responsibilities. Further, fundamental unity results from the source of all gifts and all enlightenment - and that is God Himself.
The final reading, in today’s Gospel passage, presents both themes for the day - light and call. These themes are joined, as the ministry of Jesus begins. There we hear reference to words of the prophet Isaiah. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned” (Matt 4:16).
Then, after the reference to light coming into the world, St. Matthew immediately begins to recount the ministry of Jesus. Early on in that ministry, Jesus calls his apostles to follow him and accompany him, in bringing light to a world of darkness. First in our reading, Jesus calls Peter and Andrew; and then, James and John.
Therefore, in some direct ways - and in others, indirectly - we have before us today the joining of the themes of light and of call. And I want to suggest to you that the complemental nature of light and call is found in our own experience - not just in the Bible. Indeed, without the other, either one of those is incomplete - light and call.
How many times in life have we walked along, not observing - perhaps ignoring - something terribly wrong? Memories this week of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., remind me of my own blindness to racial injustice as I grew up in the South. What was all around me was not right. In a strange way, I did not see it, though, for my world accepted injustice as normative. Then, something like a light came on - and what previously went unnoticed suddenly became obvious. For me, for instance, that enlightenment may have come about through the two young men who integrated my high school class. And with the light also came a call - to become different, to strive, to try to make a difference, and not to settle for the things that were.
Enlightenment is one thing. Call is something else. However, the two are related. Indeed, the two depend on each other. One without the other is incomplete.
Jesus was - and is - the light of the world who came into the world as a human being. That light called - and calls - to each one of us. And by responding to that call, we walk in the light.
Thanks be to God today for God’s light in the world; for God’s calls to us which encourage us to become more than we are; and for opportunities to respond to God’s calls by walking in God’s light. Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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