4 Lent A – March 30, 2014 – Light and Insight
After many years of helping Christian and Jewish congregations renovate or build their places of worship I have learned this: Where we pray shapes our prayer and how we pray shapes the way we live.
In planning for the enhancement of our church our hope is that as the building is being transformed so will we. Light is one of many important features in a house of prayer and so we are paying close attention to its power. It affects how we pray. Many religions use light in symbolic and metaphorical ways to convey the mystical actions of God. 1 Our windows and electrical lights here serve that purpose.
Lighting helps us to see one another. It focusses our attention on the font, the ambo and altar. It can highlight the art, architecture and people in our midst that we may otherwise overlook. The lighting in our church has something in common with the Word of God for today.
In John’s gospel we heard a familiar story about the man born blind. However, it is not about physical blindness or even darkness [The use of the word “darkness” as a metaphor for evil in the bible is unfortunate and should not be interpreted as having something to do with the color of one’s skin.]. Rather the gospel it is about feeling the radiant presence of God in our relationships with other people, animals and the environment.
Along with the first reading from Samuel this gospel invites us to look, listen to, touch, smell and taste the beauty and grace of God’s creation. God’s creative process is still operative. The light of the world heightens our awareness, our consciousness and attention to what is going on all around us. It may even challenge our assumptions and help us see things in new ways, ways we never thought of before.
For example, in the first reading Jesse presented the sons he thought would be best for the job of king. Samuel urged him not to be swayed by outward appearances but to look more deeply into the character of his children. In the end the young, ruddy, shepherd David gets chosen and is anointed. To be anointed is to feel the oil of gladness poured over your body and to know that you are appointed to use your gifts and resources to do good work.
At Easter our catechumens Abby, Olyvia, and Tracy and Peter, who is already baptized, will be anointed as members of our our priesthood, chosen to build up the kindom of God.
The familiar gospel story is also about finding new ways of perceiving the never ending presence of God. The text is calling us to be a community that grows in a new awareness so we do not overlook anything especially those injustices that plague us. It is a gospel that challenges us to free people from want of food and water or income equality and respect.
Parishioner Marge Addeo writes in today’s Parish Bulletin about how the dispirited woman in her story arrived at a new way of seeing because of others who cared for her. “And so, her ‘eyes opened’ a little more with each work of mercy; she began to see herself as worth loving, as deserving an end to turmoil. And, Marge also writes about her experience. “My ‘eyes opened’ to the truth that I don’t work alone; that the love of others is as essential as my efforts, that I may not get to see the happy ending, but the light I need for the next step will always be there’.” 2
The person born blind in the story was washed in the life giving waters of Siloam. That pool is a prototypical reference to baptism. The word baptism means to be immersed, to be bathed in the light of Christ. In the early church those who prepared for baptism were called enlightened ones.
Again, at our Easter Vigil, Abby, Olyvia and Tracy will be washed with water as a sign of their transformations. During that time and all through the Easter season you and I will be invited to turn up the light of Christ in our lives. When church buildings are dedicated they are called beacons on a hill — a metaphorical expression that refers to the people in the church.
Question. How do we learn to perceive, to focus on the radiant presence of Christ in our lives when many of us are so busy? This may sound mundane in light of the substance of these texts, but what about our tendency to multi-task? Research in neuroscience alleges that it is impossible for us to give complete attention to more than one thing at a time. So, here’s a challenge for the next week in Lent. Can you and I give up multi-tasking even just once a day. Maybe that moment will provide just the kind of insights reflected in Marge Addeo’s story and the scriptural texts for today.
It is so good for us to be here. If you are visiting or come to church only once in awhile know that there will always a place for you at our table.