Our Isaiah scripture is well-known and inter-connected with its paired scriptures, while embodying this ‘Time after Epiphany’ as the manifestation of God and the imagery of light.
Isaiah writes of those in darkness, which is directly echoed in our Matthew scripture. This darkness, however, is not historically ‘sin’. This darkness is the reality of their community as oppressed persons, who existed in injustice, hopelessness, conflict, despair and anguish, and hatred and fear. This was their darkness.
Yet, Isaiah reminds these people that the empire, and thus the oppressing forces, are temporary for they will see a great light.
This contrast of the dark and the light connects to a basic shared human experience that is not confided by the imaginary divisions of culture and language, race and ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic status, religious or non-religious adherence, generation and age, sexuality or gender identity, political affiliations, or etc. It is the anxious and fearful energy of being in the dark, for it is disorderly chaos of the unknown due to our lack of sight. However, when a source of light is introduced and we regain our sight, the anxious fear is relieved, the disorderly chaos becomes orderly stability, and the unknown becomes known.
This light is the light of our Advent candles: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
This is the light that guided the shepherds to the Christ-baby laying in a manger.
This is the light that led the Wiseman to the Christ-toddler for the epiphany.
This light is the manifestation of the Triune God.
This light is Jesus the Christ, who embodied it for humanity to experience face-to-face.
This is the light that John the Baptist prepared the way for through his testifying to it.
This is the light that the disciples, those four fishermen, would be drawn to and would leave their entire lives behind to follow.
This is the light that the disciples would be commissioned to reflect to the world.
This is the light that WE are also commissioned, through our baptisms, to reflect to the world in word and deed.
Isaiah foretells of the light as removing the yoke and burden of oppression and liberating those in bondage to poverty or ‘social stigmas’ that marginalize. Thus, this light is justice and offers a radically different world view.
The mission to reflect such light is difficult, but it is further complicated in partnership with our fellow humans.
Paul wrote the Corinthians encouraging the community to be undivided and of one mind…
But is it possible in our divisive reality, which seeks to divide humanity across non-existent, human constructed and imaginary lines of culture and language, race and ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic status, religious and non-religious adherence, generation and age, sexuality and gender identity, political affliction, and etc.?
These difference do not necessarily have to equal division, but beyond these cultural and systematic challenges, the struggle exists in the one-on-one relationship. I have never met another person who I have always been “of one mind”.
Thankfully, Paul does not intend to imply a ‘complete agreement’, but that all have been commissioned into a shared mission through Jesus the Christ. This mission is to reflect HIS light to all people, all creation through our own unique vocations and talents.
Thus, we are called to reach across and beyond those potentially divisive identifying boxes for the sake of that mission.
Despite the generational wars, particularly between the ‘Baby Boomers’ and the ‘Millennials’, we are commissioned together to reflect the light of Christ into the darkness.
The darkness of oppression and injustice, hopelessness, conflict, despair and anguish, hatred and fear have changed its manifestations in each generation, each time and place. Accordingly, the light of liberation and justice, hope, peace, joy and love must be manifested differently in each generation, each time and place in order to dispel the changed causes of the darkness.
I cannot reflect on the changing darkness and light this week without acknowledging Martin Luther King Jr. who was honored on Monday. His professional life was to shine a light into the darkness of racial injustice during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Unfortunately, his dream of a nation with racial justice and tolerance is not yet fulfilled.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice”.
The long arc of history extends beyond our recorded human history and back into our sacred history and scriptures. The bend is indeed towards justice, which similar to the Kingdom of God, it is here, near, and not yet fulfilled.
Therefore, we continue to be called to reflect the light of Christ.
It is God’s creative work in, among, through, and despite us that incites our imagination to envision liberation and justice, hope, peace, joy, and love despite the seemingly never-ending oppression and injustice, hopelessness, conflict, despair and anguish, hatred and fear.
May we be granted the imagination to envision the kingdom of God fulfilled.
May we reflect the light of liberation and justice, hope, peace, joy, and
love that is Jesus the Christ.
May we not become discouraged and overwhelmed by the
continued existence of oppression and injustice, hopelessness, conflict,
despair and anguish, hatred and fear.
Scriptures were Isaiah 9: 1-4; Psalm 27: 1, 4-9; 1 Cor. 1: 10-18; & Matt. 4: 12-23.
Originally preached on 26 Jan. 2020 a Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).