Saturday, January 26, 2008

The People Who Walked In Darkness

Homily for Proper 3, Year A, 2008
Sunday, January 27th, 2008
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Thornhill, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Texts: Isaiah 9:2, Matt. 4:18-22

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined. --Isaiah 9:2

During the days of the prophet Isaiah, darkness covered the face of the earth -- the darkness of human despair as an invading army walked over kingdom of God’s chosen people. Imagine if you will, families separated, people uprooted from their homes, young men killed attempting to defend their homeland, and all of it seeming so senseless. And while it might be explained that the collapse of their world was the result of their impiety, the cause no longer mattered. Now they were overwhelmed by a deep darkness – a darkness that brought despair and crushed all hope.

I wonder if we, too, sometimes feel as if a deep darkness has covered the face of this world. Tyrants walk the earth, masquerading as angels of light, all the while exploiting the weakest and frailest amongst us. And perhaps more problematic than the wrath of tyrants is the powerlessness and indeed apathy to which we succumb in the face of systems of domination. Do we not feel powerless to challenge the powers of this world and do we not feel powerless to make changes? Even if we have worked for good in our lives, how discouraging it is to see evil apparently get the upper hand. And surely, as the psalmist fears, we too must fear that we shall fail to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

The people of ancient Israel felt this way, but Isaiah brought them a message – a message about a new day dawning, a new light shining. He told those who lived under the cloud of deep darkness -- in a land in which the light of goodness had long been absent -- that they shall see a great light. Indeed, they were liberated, released from their slavery and captivity. A disciple of Isaiah lived to sing the song, “Arise, shine for thy light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” A light shone forth and the truth was made manifest, that God does act in history and does act for his people.

It was true then and it is true now. The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. As Christian people, we know that the light of the world is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. As Christian people we know that the light has shone in the darkness and the darkness has never been able to overcome it. We know that the light of Christ is the light that shone in creation and is the light of all human beings. And we know and believe that even if we walk in darkness, a light shines upon us.

Did those first disciples of Jesus recognize the light? Did Simon, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee catch that glimpse of glory in the man who called them from their nets and boats? As simple peasants who lived their lives in a world of Roman occupation and domination, they knew something of darkness. They knew the feeling of powerlessness and they understood the apathy of living under oppression. They knew what it was to walk in a land of great darkness, and they may certainly have understood the words of Isaiah as applying to their lives, to their world. So, what was it about this man Jesus and his words, “follow me”, that inspired them? What made them put down their nets? What made them see in him, the words of the prophet fulfilled? What made them glimpse the light?

“I will make you fishers of men.” With these words he inspired them. Inspiration in its truest sense and meaning is no mere pep talk, but the gushing in of the Spirit. With these words he breathed into them hope. With these words he breathed into them longing. And with these words he breathed into them potential – their human potential fully realized in Christ. If they would follow him, journey with him, dwell with him, then they would become who they were created to be. They had been on the right track, they knew they were fishermen, God had given them the gifts they needed; they had just not realized what their catch would be. As Jesus came to them by the seashore, their futures opened before them and they truly became themselves. And in this moment, they were no longer powerless, scared, hopeless or apathetic; they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be partners with the living Christ in the breaking through of the light. The people who walked in darkness saw a great light.

Jesus stands at our seashore, be it Bay and Bloor, Yonge and John, or Jane and Finch -- Jesus stands and calls us from our darkness. It may be hard to believe while tyrants walk the Earth, but God brings new life into the world. As all seems lost, a baby is born. When the sky seems darkest, a new light appears, shining in the East. Those who watch and pray will recognize the light as the light that can never be overcome. When all seems lost, hope is born in the midst of us, and in the midst of our toil, as we cast the nets of our work, we behold the glory of God.

Can we be inspired? Shall we answer the call: “Follow me?” Shall we lay down our nets to take up the work of the gospel? Shall we be fishers of the people who have walked in darkness? Shall we share the light given to us in our baptism? Shall we, with Christ, overcome the darkness even as it appears to have won the day? We will, with God’s help, for the Christ walks with us in this task, never leaving us alone but lighting a path along the way with a light that has not, nor ever shall be never be overcome.

Copyright 2008, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This sermon may not be distributed, either in whole or part, by any means, without the express, written permission of the author.