Calvary Presbyterian Church, Hawthorne, CA
January 3, 2016
A loud noise somewhere … “What was that?”
A tremor of the earth … the house creaks … “Was that an earthquake?”
We turn on the news midway through some report … everyone looks serious … we wonder to ourselves, “What just happened?”
Newly weds after their first fight, “What just happened?”
Newborn parents come home from the hospital with their little bundle of joy; they look at each other and query, “What just happened?”
Those newborn parents will wonder “What just happened” ten thousand times throughout the course of the years to come … as we all do, much of the time, at work and play, in hard times, and sweet times, “What just happened?”
Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echo back their joyous strains.
What just happened?
Something, good, that’s for sure … truly, really, wonderfully, good … something that continues to inspire us with hope … we sing the carols with gusto, tears rise in our eyes … candles burn brightly in the night … a night that cannot overcome the light.
We might well ask, what with all the divine light, why so much darkness? …
Wars and rumors of war, refugees on the road, just like Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt … refugees, then, refugees, still, in a world where there’s so much hatred, so much anger, so much bigotry, so much fear …
The darkness is real …
But it cannot, will not, ever, overcome the light …
The Bethlehem Baby … Shepherds from the fields … Wisemen from afar … the star still shines …
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in the dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light …
Glorious light … abundant light … light to warm the heart, and light to lead the way.
Jesus said: You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
What just happened?
And something in which we can rightly believe …
We live by our beliefs, do we not?
If we believe the world to be a bad place, it’ll be bad place for us … if we believe the world to be full of goodness, we’ll find goodness around every turn of the road, no matter what, no matter where.
Jesus said, The eye is the lamp of the body … if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.
We choose … we choose what to believe about the world … and we choose how we see it …
Joshua said to the people in the wilderness, Choose this day whom you’ll serve … the gods of the past, the gods of the day … or …
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The God of Miriam, Deborah and Ruth.
The God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ.
What just happened?
Something good …
Something to believe …
And something to live.
From the Prophet Hosea:
I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice … the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings …
To put it in contemporary words: Let me see your faith at work … not here on Sunday mornings, but out there, on Monday mornings … let me have more from you than just your prayers; let me see your deeds of mercy, acts of kindness and the works of justice.
Yes, going to church is good.
Reading our Bible.
Saying our prayers.
But lots of people go to church.
Lots of folks read the Bible.
Lots of people pray.
And then they buy guns and get angry …
Guns, guns, and more guns … and so much violence …
Christian Churches in America are full of violent people … people who long for the violent end of the world … the violent end of the United States … violent people - the KKK, the John Birch Society, White Supremacist Groups and all the rest … hateful, bigoted, fearful, ignorant, angry … all in “Jesus’ name!”
I’m heartbroken - the failure of the church to lift up the light … so many Christians have turned to the Dark Side … and opened their hearts to fear and hatred.
To quote Yoda:
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
And how some folks hate our President.
They hate all kinds of people - Muslims, immigrants, refugees, people of color, gays and lesbians, poor people, you name it …
But I say unto you, dear people of God:
Is this the way of Jesus!
Jesus was born to show the world another way …
And if we wonder what it means,
Micah the Prophet answers our question:
The LORD has told you what is good …
To do justice,
To love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God!
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress …
Paul the Apostle writes to the Galatians:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
And to the Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude … love never ends.
Because God is love … and love is God!
People of God, we have a world on our hands … and never again can we go back to a world of distance … where it took weeks and months to cross a nation, or cross a sea … months to send and receive letters … t’s a world now of porous borders and instant communication; we live next door to one another … Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs … every stripe of race and creed and color … people who believe, and people who don’t … with lots of different holy books and lots of different traditions …
Shortly before his death, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote:
We have inherited a large house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together— black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu— a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.
And how shall we live together?
What does it mean to follow the Child of Bethlehem?
In world of crude politics and violent voices … can we not lift up the alternative vision?
Do we dare to live the ways of peace?
Or shall we join the ignorant mob arming itself with fear and hatred?
Of will we take up the cross of compassion and love?
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men
For the Christmas Season now past … for the year behind us … for the year ahead of us … for the sake of our world, and our children and grandchildren …
What just happened?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word with with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Hallelujah and Amen!