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A sermon delivered at the Liberal Catholic Church of Saint Francis, ...

A sermon delivered at the Liberal Catholic Church of Saint Francis,
Gordon, New South Wales, Australia, on 17 June 2007, being the Second Sunday after Trinity - Published in Communion [The Magazine of The Liberal Catholic Church in Australasia], Vol 26, No 1, Feast of the Annunciation, 2008 - Copyright Ian Ellis-Jones 2008 - All Rights Reserved.



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GOD AS LIGHT GOD AS LIGHT Document Transcript

  • GOD AS LIGHT A sermon delivered at the Liberal Catholic Church of Saint Francis, Gordon, New South Wales, Australia, on 17 June 2007, being the Second Sunday after Trinity by The Rev. Dr Ian Ellis-Jones “…God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 Jn 1:5 RSV)Today is the Second Sunday after Trinity, with the intent “God as Light”.In The Celestial Hierarchy Pseudo-Dionysius refers to God as the "light which isthe source of all light" and writes: Of course God himself is really the source of illumination for those who are illuminated for he is truly and really Light itself. He is the Cause of being and seeing.In The Divine Names the same writer has this to say about God (whom he refersto as “the Good”) as Light: … [T]he sun by its existence gives light to whatever is able to partake of its light, in its own way. So it is with the Good. It sends the rays of its undivided goodness to everything with the capacity to receive it. These rays are responsible for all intelligible and intelligent beings, for every power and every activity …The psalmist wrote, "with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light"(Ps 36: 9). So, light - and we are not talking here about a visible light - is the veryfoundation of our being, the Ground of being Itself, unlike the Zoroastrian conceptof God wherein God is seen to be in contradistinction to the reality of life itself .The Judeo-Christian scriptures tell us that we live and move and have our beingin that mystical light, and it is by means of that light that we exist and can cometo know the true purpose and meaning of life, which is to radiate light to allaround us.
  • 2In our Act of Faith we affirm that “God is Love and Power and Truth and Light…”, but what do we actually mean by “light”. Well, we need to keep in mind thatlight is an absolute, not an attribute. We are talking about something that issubstantive in its own right. John tells us that God is light and all through theBible the word light is used to signify things such as truth, purity, wisdom,knowledge, joy and prosperity, just as darkness, being the absence of light, isused to signify their opposites. We are told that God is light, not “the” light or “a”light but light itself. This light is the source of all light. Thus, St James writes: Every good and perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of Lights, in Whom there is no variableness, or shadow of turning (Ja I: 17).Note how James refers to God as the “Father of Lights”, that is, the source of alllight. He also makes something of a comparison between God, which nevermoves, and the Sun which, from our earthly viewpoint, appears to do so. St Paul,too, sees God as the Father of Lights, for he instructs us to "walk as children oflight" (Eph 5:8). Yes, God is light, and to the extent to which we individuallyaccept the reality of that truth, the greater will be the intensity and brightness ofthat light in us.It is the light of God that enables us to see the darkness of our “manifoldimperfections” and “shortcomings”. In a sense, since God is light, and God isomnipresent, there is no darkness at all. However, as we say in our Confiteor,“yet often we forget the glory of our heritage and wander from the path whichleads to righteousness”. That is why we pray that we may be “filled with thebrightness of the everlasting light”. It is God’s light in revelation that convinces usthat we are not living and acting as we were meant to be and as, in truth, we are,namely, “children of light”. The prophet Isaiah says as much: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined (Is 9:2).
  • 3We dwell in “the land of the shadow of death” when we fail to recognize that Godis our very Being, the very Livingness of Life itself, the one Presence and Powerin whom we live and move and have our being. We imagine ourselves to beseparate from God, and so we find that there is darkness all around us. Once wecome to understand that darkness is not a reality in itself, but only the apparentabsence of light, the darkness is dispelled. Darkness only has the power that wegive it by and in our thoughts. We must see, and speak, the light of truthwhenever we find ourselves in an experience that appears untoward orunacceptable.Now, here is a paradox. We are to seek the light but, as we are told in The Cloudof Unknowing, we must “learn to be at home” in darkness. Why darkness?Because the things of the world are no longer visible, so we can’t see them. If weare to feel and see God it must be within this darkness.Jesus was, of course, very familiar with the writings of the prophets. He wasundoubtedly aware that the prophet Isaiah had described God as light. Jesus isreported to have said: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (Jn 8:12).Of course, Jesus was not claiming to be God in any exclusive sense or uniqueway. Something that evangelical Christians altogether ignore is that whateverJesus claimed for himself, he also claimed for those who were his followers.Thus, not only did he say that he was the light of the world, he also said, “ye arethe light of the world” (Mt 5:14, emphasis added). We are instructed as follows: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Mt 5:16).Jesus, as light and way, is our elder brother. He is the Way-Shower and, in avery special sense, the Way-Maker when we take up our cross daily, and followhim (cf Lk 9:23). He does not do “it” for us. We must take up our cross … daily.
  • 4His cross was a personal one for him. He says to us, if you follow me, you willnever walk in darkness. Why is that? Because we are thinking of others. Whenwe are self-absorbed and self-centred, we are in a state of darkness. As soon aswe start to move from a sense of self to a sense of non-self, the darkness beginsto disappear, for light diffuses. It spreads abroad everywhere. It is continuallygiving out, yet it is never exhausted. This is the nature of God, who “giveth to allmen liberally, and upbraideth not" (Ja 1:5). In our Collect for today we pray thatour hearts may be “so irradiated” (that is, treated, and thereby cured, byexposure to the light of God) that we may “ever shine as beacons amid thestormy sea of life”. Yes, we are to shine as “beacons” of God’s light and love. Abeacon, according to the Macquarie Concise Dictionary, is “a guiding or warningsignal … a lighthouse” as well as “any person … that warns or guides”. We, too,are to be way-showers and way-makers. We are to let our light so shine beforethose around us that they may see our good works and thus come to know, loveand glorify God the Father “which is in heaven”, the latter being not only a stateof consciousness but also the very ground of being itself.Our Epistle for today comes from the first chapter of the First Epistle of St John.We are told that if we “walk in the light” we will have fellowship one with another.It is the nature of light to give of itself to those around it. Not only that we are toldthat if we say we are in the light but hate others, we are still in a state ofdarkness. Thus, light and love are one and the same thing. That should not comeas any surprise, for we are told that “God is love; and he that dwelleth in lovedwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16b).Our Gospel reading for today is taken from the 12 th chapter of John’s gospel. Weare told that if Christ be lifted up from the earth, that is, truly magnified by us inthought, word and deed, he will draw all men unto him (Jn 12:32). We know thatto be true, but all too often we fail to radiate out the love of Christ. Disturbingly,we are reminded that the light will not always be with us:
  • 5 … Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. (Jn 12:35, 36)So, while there is life in us, and we have the opportunity, we are to let our light soshine that others may see our good works. Not that we should boast, for love“seeketh not her own” (cf 1 Cor 13:5), and is solely concerned with the welfare ofothers. That is the nature of light, and love. It perpetually offers itself, and evergives of itself to itself in manifestation, so that life, in all of its multiplicity of form,is perpetuated. We are also told that Jesus said, “He that believeth on me,believeth not on me, but on him that sent me” (Jn 12:44). Note, again, that Jesusis not claiming to be God in any exclusive sense. He is saying that he is the way,or at least one way, back to God. Jesus told us that in his Fathers house were“many mansions (dwelling places)” and that he would prepare “a place”, that is, amansion for us (see Jn 14:2). He never said that he would prepare "all" themansions in his Fathers house. This is one of the great teachings of the LiberalCatholic Church, perhaps its greatest. Yes, Jesus is the way to a mansion, butthere are other ways as well. Our Gospel reading says that Jesus is “a light intothe world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (Jn12:46, emphasis added). Note again, “a” light.I once heard a Baptist minister say, not too far from this church, “If Christianity isright, all other religions are wrong.” As any logician will tell you, thats not anargument, its a conditional statement. It doesnt state the premises necessary tosupport its conclusion. It’s a fallacy. Anyway, the well-meaning pastor based hisassertion on a faulty understanding of Jesus’ supposed utterance, “I am the way,the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me” (Jn 14:6). Myview is the same as that of the great Methodist preacher from London, Dr LeslieWeatherhead, which is also the conclusion of the Jesus Seminar, namely, I don’tbelieve Jesus ever said that. If he did, he was referring to his way of life, histeaching, nothing more than that. So, remember:
  • 6 Not every one that says to me [Jesus], “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father, who is in heaven. (Mt 7:21)Getting back to our theme, and intent, of God as Light, our life can be “brighterthan the noonday sun" (cf Job 11:17), and we can shine even in darkness.Unlike, say, Buddhism, Christianity is not a religion of happiness. Jesus neverpromised perfect health or freedom from pain, sickness and suffering. What weare promised is the “overcoming” of pain, sickness and suffering. Yes, “this is thevictory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 Jn 5:4, original emphasis).Our Collect for today reminds us of the “stormy sea of life” and that we aresurrounded by “weary and tempest-driven souls”. Now, returning to the theme ofThe Cloud of Unknowing, we are most likely to come to know God as light in thatdarkness, that cloud, that remains between us and God.That is the world in which we find ourselves placed, but there is, we are told, ahaven where we can find rest in the “eternal sunlight” of God’s holy Presence.We are here to build a spiritual temple, a temple not made with hands, butnevertheless eternal in the heavens. It is a temple of light, the Christ light, and,as our Liturgy ever reminds us, there is a “great white throne, whence flow alllove and light and blessing through all the worlds which [God] hast made”. Maywe never forget that each one of us is an altar on which sacrifice can and mustbe offered. Let us offer up ourselves to others, and to life itself. Yes, let uscrucify our selfishness and egotism on the altar of light and love so that ourhearts may be irradiated by the glory of the Divine Love that we may ever shineas beacons amid the stormy sea of life. Amen. -oo0oo-