An Abundance of Light: A Sermon

The Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham

Epiphany 2, Year C

John 2:1-11

January 20, 2019

 

An Abundance of Light

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They feast upon the abundance of your house;

you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the well of life,

and in your light we see light.

On Monday I received a text from my friend Stephanie, who asked if I could do a house blessing for a special friend of hers, a lady named Kaal who has given so much to help others in difficult circumstances.  Now, she found herself in need of support as she moved into the new apartments there on E E Butler.

I told her I would be honored to help, so we made arrangements to meet at 10:30 Tuesday morning.  When I arrived at the apartment, I went to the front office to ask directions to her building.  I was armed with my prayer book and a candle.  The two ladies at the front desk, Sarah and Randi, were very gracious.  Randi knew exactly what I was doing there, and she stood up to walk me to the door.

Then, she stopped, looked at me, and said, “Are you Stuart?”

“Yes,” I told her a bit sheepishly.

“Stuart!  It’s me,” she said.  And then I recognized her.  I had worked with her and her husband at my last parish.  We both yelled and gave each other a hug.  Sarah looked at us and said, “So, you two know each other?”

“Yes!” we said.  We used to work together years ago.  I was on the church side and they were on the school side.  After a few more exchanges, a selfie with Randi and me, and a text to her husband, Randi turns and says, “You’re at Grace here?”

“Yes,” I told her.  “I am in my sixth year now.”

“Wonderful.  Pat and I are looking for a church.  We’ll see you soon.  Sarah should come too.  She was raised Episcopal but has had to go to a Methodist Church for a while now.”

I looked at Sarah who slowly nodded.

“You know that’s fine, Sarah, right?” I told her “But you’re welcome to come as well.”

Randi walked me out and I went to the apartment where I met some of Stephanie’s colleagues, and Joel, Kaal’s son.  Kaal apparently didn’t know I was coming to do the blessing, so when she arrived, I was standing there with a candle and a bowl of water.

As we began, I asked if anyone had a lighter for the candle.  No one did, and there was a brief awkward moment—until the AT&T man (who had been working silently in the closet) stood up and said he did, bringing it over to help light Kaal’s candle.

And in your light we see light.

We went from room to room, Kaal holding the candle, Joel holding the water.  We said prayers, and I would sprinkle water around the room, asking God to help Kaal always be aware of God’s presence in her life.  Kaal held her candle and would close her eyes when we prayed.

I told her that I wanted her to keep the candle now that she was settling into her new home.  And, at times when she felt scared or lonely, or just needed a reminder that she was loved, to light the candle.  And, when that candle was gone, I told her to call me and I would bring her another one.

“Well,” she said, “in that case I’ll just burn it up tonight and call you tomorrow.”

I gave her a hug, thanked her for letting me come and bless her home, and walked toward the door.  Then she asked me, “Are you the priest at Grace Episcopal here?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Ah! I was raised Episcopal.  Church of the Good Shepherd in Augusta.  I was wondering about a church home!”

“Well, you are welcome at Grace,” I told her.  “We would love for you to come.”

As I walked down the hallway, I looked back toward Kaal and saw her still holding her candle in the doorway.

They feast upon the abundance of your house;

        You give them drink from the river of your delight.

In this Season of Illumination, when we reflect on the first miracle of Jesus’ ministry—turning water into wine at the wedding—we are reminded of the abundance of God’s grace.  We are reminded of how the Light of Christ soaks into us, filling our souls and spilling out all around.

We have been illumined by God’s grace, and we are called to let that light shine through us.  We are called to be light-bearers in this world, to support those who find themselves in shadow and pain.

Because we all have been given gifts, shimmers of light, as St. Paul reminds us: some wisdom and knowledge, some healing, others miracles, prophecy, discernment, and others tongues and interpretation of tongues.  All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses, St. Paul says.  God has poured out an abundance of blessings.

We can take this teaching and translate it into our own context: there are many gifts, activated by the same Spirit.  Some have the gift of management.  Others, finance and planning.  Still others have the gift of compassion.  Others see the best in people, and they invite them to see the best in themselves.  Still others think analytically while some think in color and music.  Some have the gift of holding details with the individual tasks at hand while others hold the big picture.  Some have the gift of being parents, and others of being incredible listeners.  All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

The truth is that we live in a reality of abundance.  Light pours out all around us, blessing surrounds us, and love permeates us.  God’s grace spills out in our lives.  Yet—or and—we still struggle to see it, to experience it.  We seem to slip into, or be drawn into, a perspective of scarcity, fearing that there is not enough, that we are going to run out of wine just as the party gets started.

This, to me, is where miracles come in.  And, this is a tricky word: miracle.  In my own life, there have been so many times when I have wanted God to fix something, to fly in and correct some error.  I am embarrassed to say that many times I find myself telling God just what I want, when I want it, and how I need it.  Now.  On my terms.

Shine your light here, I tell God.

But, more and more, I have come to understand miracles in a different way.  If you ask me if I believed in miracles, today I would tell you I absolutely do—and that the greatest miracle of all is to be able to see what is already here in front of us.

How many times have we found ourselves surprised by grace, our eyes suddenly able to see how God has been at work, moving and guiding and nurturing us.

A true miracle is to be aware of the abundance around us, and out of gratitude to share that abundance with those we meet every day.

That series of encounters at the apartment was truly a miracle.  To see a colleague after years apart, meet new and wonderful people, have the opportunity to do a house blessing, and find out that the AT&T man was the one with the light all along!  When I got back to my car, my heart felt physically full.  At moments like that, we realize how we truly are carried along on the Spirit’s flow, held in God’s embrace.

I think about yesterday’s funeral for Bob Fowler, and how I had worked on my sermon only to keep meeting family and friends who told even more incredible stories.  I kept going back to get a pen and add more stories in!

They feast upon the abundance of your house;

        you give them drink from the river of your delights.

        For with you is the well of life,

        and in your light we see light.

So perhaps we are left with this invitation: what are your gifts that God has given you to share?  How have you experienced the miracle of your life, in your awareness of God’s presence within you and around you?  How have you been invited to share God’s abundance with the world?

Because this is our shared vocation—to reject the illusion of scarcity and celebrate the reality of Grace.  To share God’s love when faced with fear.  To rest in the deep assurance that God’s light will always shine brighter than any darkness we may encounter.

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