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Sermons > Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

6 Feb 2011

“‘Your light must shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.’”   (Matt. 5:16)                                        In the name …

I know a lot of you are sick and tired of the snow so I won’t tell you how beautiful it looks at night when I’m walking my dog.  But even if you’re ready to spend all of your savings on a trip to get anywhere that is warm and sunny, anywhere to get out of the cold and the snow, just think for a moment about the mechanics of all that white stuff outside.  I know that many of you will enjoy this as a just payback for my prayers for snow, but on Wednesday, half way through my snow removal job around the church and rectory, the snowblower died.  All of the genius weather forecasters had been saying that we were far enough north to get snow instead of all that sleet we actually ended up getting.  That stuff was heavy; it was a heart attack in the making.  I was amazed how difficult it was to shovel that sleety-mess, and to throw it up over the snowbanks that we’ve been building for a month now.  Man was I sore the next day, and I know a lot of you are saying to yourselves:  “Good.” 

But if you had to do any shoveling around your houses, you know for yourselves how heavy that snow and sleet was.  Think about how much weight must be out in our yards, our roads, up on our roofs from all that snow.  Just moving the stuff on the stairs and sidewalks exhausted me.  Then think about the fact that all that snow, sleet and rain covered two-thirds of our nation, and that it dropped two feet of snow in places like Chicago and a whole bunch of places in between before it got to us and then continued on out to sea.  Think about how much weight those clouds were transporting over thousands of square miles.  It’s pretty impressive what this storm actually did even if we are more excited about the fact that the Ground Hog didn’t see his shadow so Spring should be just around the corner.

What is done can sometimes trump even our feelings about what is being done.  We may not like the shoveling or the constant scraping of windshields, the difficulty of traveling or getting to our jobs, the costs of heating our homes or the smaller number people who can make it to church.  But when you stop to think about how powerful this storm was when it caused so many of these problems over such a wide swath of our nation, I think we can still be impressed with what it did even if we didn’t like what it did.

With this in mind, what we do as people who believe in God can also speak above all the distinctions and distractions of like and dislike, all the different ways we think and talk about God.  The prophet Isaiah is the source of this morning’s first reading that we shared back and forth in the Entrance Hymn, and then which we heard a second time in today’s Old Testament selection.  God reveals to His prophet that He is not impressed with what we say in worship if it is not followed by what we do in life.  This is what it is referring to when you read the words of response in the Entrance Hymn:  “Your fast ends in quarreling and fighting.”  What kind of faith is that when words and actions don’t agree?  Instead, says God through the prophet, He would rather see people of faith offering their worship sincerely, with meaning and integrity, by proving it with what we do for God, by struggling to release those who are bound unjustly, says the prophet, by sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, and clothing the naked.  If faith inspires that these kinds of things be done, “Then,” says Isaiah, “your light shall break forth like the dawn.” (Isa. 58:8)  People can agree or disagree with what we have to say, like or dislike it, but our deeds should always be clear and persuasive. 

Jesus picks-up this imagery of light in His first public address in the Sermon on the Mount.  In some of the very first words He proclaims at the start of His ministry, Jesus challenges those earliest followers to be the “light of the world” and a “city set on a hill” whose light cannot be hidden.  In other words, our example, the way we live our lives, is our most important proclamation.  What we do speaks more convincingly than what we only say.  Or as Jesus tells to us today, “‘Your light must shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.’” 

Ten years ago Wikipedia was launched as an on-line encyclopedia.  Its innovation was that it would allow the on-line community to write the subject entries.  Anyone, anywhere in the world could submit their ideas.  The plan behind Wikipedia was first that if people cared enough about a topic, any topic, then they would know enough about it to write about it.  And second, that if they cared enough about a topic they would want it to be presented accurately, which means that they would not include false information, but that if there were mistakes on any given subject, then another person who cared about that topic would correct it.  For most all entries this works pretty well.  But it didn’t for Jesus.  There were some malicious entries, but these were corrected quickly by others who cared about the topic.  The real problem was that there were so many different and varied ideas about who Jesus was, what He did and what people believed about Him.  All of these different and contradictory ideas were shared as authentic beliefs about the same person, but there were so many different ideas about Jesus that Wikipedia’s model broke down in this particular case. (http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/01/30/when_rescuers_need_rescuing/)

This description of Jesus by committee didn’t work for Wikipedia.  There were too many likes and dislikes among the people who cared passionately enough about this topic to submit an entry.  But I’m not surprised or worried that people have so many visions of Jesus.  We’re talking about God here. Why shouldn’t it be many-faceted?  But above all of these likes and dislikes should be the commonality of what we do as Christians.  Whether others agree with our ideas about Jesus or not, they should be able to recognize the good in what we do in His name.  What we say must be evidenced in what we do as people of faith, but we should always remember that the most effective proclamation to others is how we act, then we will be the light of the world.  And for this we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  (+)

Fr. Randolph Calvo


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