Sermon for Year a 5th Sunday after the Epiphany
Well I have to say when Isaiah came up as one of our readings this week, I was happy. I have a personal love of the prophet and amazed by the fact that most of his works correlate with the New Testament, Jewish tradition and Muslim documentation. That this man could prophesise so greatly so humbly, so bravely, through the Holy Spirit, the works and words of God is astonishing. He gave us new and ground breaking information. He predicted Jesus Christ, His birth, His life, His death and resurrection. He predicted Mohammed. Isaiah’s death was gruesome, sawn in half by the Israelites. In the beginning he and his prophetess wife, had been loved by Jerusalem, but by Isaiah’s words and actions, that all should get along, he was killed. He was an impartial man toward the end. He evolved in his humanitarianism. Here, in today’s passage, he contradicts the Pharisees, the Rabbi’s (the teachers) of the time, by breaking away with tradition. With telling us and them, and this was around the 8th Century BC, that love is Action, not ritual. This guy was a little ahead of his time.
Reading the news this morning, it broke my heart to see Israeli soldiers break into the Temple Mount. In recent years, the Muslim community had taken control of the area, who also notes this place as most Holy. The name of Israel and Jerusalem for all of the Middle Eastern religions is the Holy Land. The indiscrepencies lay in who believes their interpretation is correct and sadly with bloody consequences. So they all fight over a small plot of land in the middle of this Holy place.
Fighting over a sacred piece of land. Hmmm. I think even 3000 years ago, listening to Isaiah’s words, would have been difficult. As even today, the President of Israel is being attacked for his son having relations with a Norwegian woman, an inter-spiritual union (I understand the situation as my Dad was Catholic my Mum Jewish, a very difficult scenario), it brings to the forefront, these words of Isaiah’s, give up on the lack of sharing, of caring. Stop these ridiculous physical rituals. Instead, be the ethereal light of the world. Isaiah writes this while feeling and living the shame of his people bickering and arguing, while praying and holding feasts, and fasting. What’s the point of fasting, if there is no light spread throughout the world.
Isaiah had lived in Samaria, when he was in hiding, and I’m sure he made good and steadfast friends while there. At that time the Samarians were allies with Israel. But due to a change of ruler, things changed. Here Isaiah is saying, what’s the point if one minute we’re friends with Assyria, these great people sheltering us, regardless of faith, and the next we’re killing each other. Why kill people who cared for me? He sounds extremely angry. And during this time God speaks very clearly through the prophet.
I am not pointing the finger at my ancestors, because as I have mentioned previously, there are plenty of arguing nations across the world. From all religions, all spiritual backgrounds, hey there are agnostics arguing with atheists. And I guess this is where we see that no one is perfect. But what Isaiah so beautifully puts is this…that when you loosen the chains of injustice, in whatever form that may be, to set the oppressed free, and there are many forms of oppression, from physical to mental, say for example Shapelle Corby’s case, that when we share food together, provide shelter, clothe the naked and care for our own family, friends, neighbours, this is where the light shines through, this is where the breakthrough and healing arises. When we break those barriers that the darkness so makes us think are impenetrable, via ego and fear, the light shines through. That the veil that may shroud the light, as the veil in the Temple, or as the Muslims call it, al-Aqsa Mosque, that true veil of hatred and ego, can so easily be lifted and the light still shines.
That Christ’s body, the veil broken on the cross, reveals true light. When the physical is replaced with the spirit, as it was when I sat together with all faiths at the Holy Temple a year ago, on the same plot of land, and shared that space, with cats jumping about between our legs, over locked gates. The light shines. That light is Love. Love of God and Love of each other. Peaceful Love.
I visited Yoko Ono’s exhibition on Thursday. I wanted to get out of the house and had made a joyful promise to myself I’d go. After a long emotional day, one erred and fraught with all kinds of happenings, I finally jumped on a ferry from Balmain wharf and boated across the harbour to Circular Quay. It was a beautiful afternoon. I walked peacefully to the MCA and up the stairs. There is something about true love that lures us toward such places. For me as you know, I have a passion for Art, it is a part of my light. As a person of Spirit I also love Love. And Yoko and John shared a particularly beautiful as well as challenging love. A love for each other, a love for people, a love for Art, for Music, a love for challenging old belief systems and a love for the Planet.
The first thing I did was lay on the couch in one of the exhibition rooms and rest. I watched the films she had make about their love, while lying down, and absorbed the power that their love had to make a difference in the world and with each other.
They were transformed by their first meeting, and the transformation, impacted us as a society. It still does. For those of you who know their first meeting ‘Yes’ can do many things.
So many synchronicities happened to me while I was there. It confirmed that there is a higher power at work than we can comprehend. From the thought I had about her photography of John Lennon’s glasses ( I thought wow what a gifted woman) to turning my head and seeing the identical image on the screen, to walking through her amazing Perspex maze and finding a phone in the centre. I picked it up and said ‘hello’ (that’s my own personal sense of humour even when no one’s watching, my light shines even to make myself laugh) to looking onto the box it was placed on which had etched into it, ‘When the phone rings, know that it’s me’. At that moment, my daughter rang, and during that call, my son rang, and then after that call my best friend, who had passed away a month ago, her phone rang mine. Her name came up on my iPhone screen. It was her Mum using her phone, however I missed that call, as someone walked into the maze so, I called back and I heard my best friends’ voice on the other end. It was her phone message. With her bright bubbly beautiful voice. That’s light at work. Love and light work beyond the grave.
I love that Yoko Ono has the physical resources through her partners work to afford to make such incredible gifts that she shares with us, her beautiful caring, sharing, justice seeking, love providing work.
Walking around the various rooms it struck me that she was also so hugely talented. I could see why John Lennon fell in love with her. And you know, somewhat at the time they met, her light was dimmed by the astonishing light her Husband carried. A lot of darkness followed as there was a creative shift and changes ensued due to their connection. That Thursday afternoon, I got to see Yoko Ono’s light more clearly. It didn’t lessen John Lennon’s light any more, how could it, but it brightened both of theirs lights, to an extraordinary level.
I get they both had their own take on spirituality. They both gave us their personal interpretations. What they leave us is what Isaiah and Matthew both so eloquently say, in as much as, with the light you are given, use it. It is your birth given gift. Don’t hide it; because we so sorely need it, the world needs it. Jesus urges us to use it, God commands that we do.
I guess from hear the two readings both from Isaiah and Matthew, we can ascertain pretty quickly that our Lord is telling us something that is probably easier to hear than we actually do. The Bible is a great reference on the how to, and the need too. Yes there are areas that are contemporised for us to understand, but over all the stories in the Bible, lead us on how best to use our light.
Here in Isaiah 58 the people are complaining to God for even through they’re faithfully fasting they believe that God has not heard them. He quite clearly says, well, sure you’ve fasted, but your actions, ummm, look at your actions! Through your actions, your prayers and fasting would have been answered. The lack of responsibility of God’s believers, saying to God , well we’ll do what we like, as long as we keep to the basics, but still behave atrociously and without care for others. Well, you’ll make us winners right? Being blind to their own unacceptable behaviour, even to be so full of ego as to bow their heads and SAY they are humble; through holding old basic rituals, this will somehow cleanse any wrong doing and bring peace on earth. Well, God has something to say about that. He says behave justly, with love, with compassion, with true humility. Do not fight, but care for one another, then there I am. Well of course He is, because He is there in these very every day actions of Light.
Matthew states Jesus as saying that we’ll be unable to enter the gates of Heaven, until we fulfil these commandments, until we shine our lights. That we very clearly need to behave in the manner the prophets have described, that we need to shine our lights out to the world, that then only then, will we enter heaven. The Light of the world is saying, ‘use your light’.
So I ask you to think, to pray, to reflect, and to ask the Lord, what is your light in the world? How will you share it so that we can all emit the light that each shares on earth. How will you share your light that contributes to Heaven?
Matthew was a corrupt tax collector. Hated by most, and definitely despised. He worked with the Romans, took far too much money from the poor and due to his choices and actions lived an essential lonely existence.
The light that Matthew honed, through his darkness was this. He learnt to write, well, he became one of the best scribes of this Book (the Bible) and he turned his darkness into light to emit the gospels as we read it today. He turned his loneliness into sharing his light with humanity. From being a greedy miserly person he tells us we must share our light. His flip side of his darkness, was an incredible light.
That is the beauty of Jesus. That he can turn darkness into light. His presence, His words, His supernatural sharing of the Holy Spirit. He turns our darkness into light. His forgiveness and sacrifice guarantees our isolation is broken and in its place, the highest connection, with Him and with us, the light. By our sharing, our banding together for the greater good and respecting one another here on earth, we guarantee the light will shine more brightly, on earth as it is in heaven.
That is where healing begins and ends, that is where the light shines eternally.
Luke clearly frames when he writes in Chapter 6 verse 38 ‘Give and you’ll receive’
And John 14 also says that Jesus tells us if we have faith in Him, we will do as He has been doing.
And as Matthew 11 29-30 profoundly reiterates Jesus is saying
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Ponder that for a minute. Christs yoke is easy and His burden is light.
There’s an irony in there somewhere…