January 16, 2022 Sermon, “In Your Light, We See Light” by Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd

Psalm 36:5-10

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, our God.

We made it through the lengthy cold. The growing light beckons us to leave the dark behind. Yes, more cold is on its way. But we look not to tomorrow nor yearn for yesteryear. We are learning to walk in the now. Now is the time to walk the river, ski the trails, read a book, make some phone calls and put off no more. Our waiting is over; the light draws us onward.

A couple of Sundays ago, I talked about leaving the Advent season of waiting and walking into the light of Epiphany. Last Sunday, Ray Cuthbert talked about living in the power of now: But now—even in the midst of difficulties, God will surprise us with extravagant grace! Today, the lectionary gives us a poetic vision of God’s love lavished upon us—if we have the eyes to see and the hearts to receive in this very moment of now.

The first verses of the reading from Psalm 36 take us into the heart of God’s Creation. “Your steadfast love, O God, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” We are called to lift up our eyes to the heavenly dome of sun and cloud. As far as we can see, God’s love is what quantum physicists call the strange attractor—an unknown force that counteracts entropy and holds all things together. The psalmist reminds us that this expansive, powerful love of God is not just for us humans. It is for humans and animals alike—even more, it is for our entire universe and beyond.

The psalmist invites us to feast on the abundance of God’s house—the earth and the heavens that clothe us, warm us, feed us, shelter us. In the shadow of God’s wings, we will find refuge from the storms of disappointment, grief, illness and even death. Even in the darkness, we will find light and life, for God’s light shines in the dark and in this light of God, we will find light.

Jeff Straker, a friend from Saskatchewan, is a singer-songwriter. As with most musicians these days, it has been challenging for him to find the light. In a recent video he released, he dedicated his song, “Light a Fire” to these pandemic times. Here are some of the words:

…I ain’t gonna be a headline in yesterday’s news

The heart it can whisper

The head has to choose…

…This boat may sink but I don’t mind

Fear is the shadow but hope is the light.

As long as I’ve got air inside of my lungs

I’ll keep on swimming & I’ll know I’ve won…

…And I’ll keep holding on

While I’m letting go

It’s all that I need to know…

…I’m gonna make a change

Gonna light a fire

Gonna sing it on out

Like a preacher to the choir

Gonna start with a spark

Let the flame burn higher

I’m gonna light a fire.

Jeff’s mother died prematurely only a few years ago. His house was broken into and his equipment, including electronic files of his songs, was stolen. And now, two, going on three, years of cancellations of tours and shows. But somehow, in the middle of all of this, he has an incredible optimism and drive not just to survive, but to thrive. His optimism is contagious and his fire-lighting abilities are catching.

 I asked a friend how she was doing the other day and she replied, “Fine.” Then she paused, knowing that I was asking for more, and said, “ok.” But then she said, as she has often replied in the past, “We have good food, we have a warm house, we have our health.” Yes, she is struggling, but she, too, is determined to see the light of hope.

God continues to give us light and life at every moment. Sometimes, we just can’t see this light and we need others to share their light with us. God’s flaming light grows brighter with each reflective spark that we can offer to one another.

I was talking to Eleanor G the other day, and she mentioned a poem entitled “Salutation to the Dawn”, which was recited every morning at CGIT camps before they had their devotion. As I read it out, I invite you to recite it with me. Many of you watching will be able to recite it by heart.

Salutation to the Dawn

Sanskrit poem by Kalidasa, 5th century CE

Look to this day!

For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendour of beauty;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived,

makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day!
Such is the Salutation to the Dawn.

A CGIT devotional suggests that, after reading the Salutation to the Dawn, you envision 3 strands of yarn. The first strand represents all of the pieces that make up you: your passions, your gifts, your determination. What would you name as your strengths as you pick up the first strand of your life and light? The second piece of yarn represents your supports: your family, your friends, your church, your community groups, your pets. Who would you name as your supports as you pick up the second strand of life and light? Your third strand represents your faith: God’s unfailing love, your prayers and meditation, your beliefs. This may be the most difficult strand to define, but what are some of the pieces that make up your faith and create your third strand of life and light?

When you braid these three strands together, you will find God’s light and life enfusing them into a strength that multiplies your own. It will help you focus on the now. What is possible as you look to this day, one day at a time, with your strengths, your support and your faith?

I close with a Celtic blessing from John O’Donohue:

A Morning Offering

I bless the night that nourished my heart

To set the ghosts of longing free

Into the flow and figure of dream

That went to harvest from the dark

Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me

Welcomes the wonder of this day,

The field of brightness it creates

Offering time for each thing

To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:

The quiet loyalty of breath,

The tent of thought where I shelter,

Waves of desire I am shore to

And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today

To the invisible geography

That invites me to new frontiers,

To break the dead shell of yesterdays,

To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today

To live the life that I would love,

To postpone my dream no longer

But do at last what I came here for

And waste my heart on fear no more.[1]

[1] John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (New York: Doubleday Broadway Pub. Co., 2008), p. 9.