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March 22, 2020

Revealed by the Light

Preacher:
Passage: Ephesians 5:8-14

“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. Therefore, test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, and don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness. Instead, you should reveal the truth about them. It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret. But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light. Everything that is revealed by the light is light. Therefore, it says, Wake up, sleeper! Get up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”


Maybe you’ve had this experience… You’re standing in front of a mirror in a public bathroom. You’re washing your hands (for at least 20 seconds, of course) and, while washing, you take a long look at yourself in the mirror. Thanks to the harshness of the fluorescent bulbs above, you can see everything: the pores, the wrinkles, the nose hair… but also the dimples, the laugh lines, and that scar that enshrines a story that’s funny now but wasn’t then. 

“Everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light.”

Maybe some of you have done this with your little ones. There’s a favorite past-time here in the desert: scorpion hunting at night. Not me — I don’t go looking for those things — but a friend of mine told me about this. You do this at night because scorpions are nocturnal creatures. The crucial piece of equipment you need is the black light. Scorpions will glow in the dark with a black light because of the proteins on their exoskeletons. Scorpions’ outsides normally appear translucent during the day but take on that extraterrestrial green glow under the black light. 

“Everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light.”

Friends, this pandemic and all that comes with it is bringing into full view things we’d rather not see. The flaws in our healthcare system. The gaps in public health policy. The instability of housing for so many Americans. The utter lack of protection for low-wage workers and people who depend on the “gig economy.” The “me-first” instincts of those who hoard medical supplies. The not-so-latent racism of our leaders who leverage an outbreak to stoke fears of “the other.” The greed of politicians whose first reaction to an impending crisis is to unload stocks. As Ephesians puts it, “It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret!” This pandemic has turned on the lights, and they are glaring, exposing the ugliness of who and what is considered important and who and what is considered expendable in this society. They’re exposing how easily humans in every age can be ruled and paralyzed by fear. 

“Everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light.”

And yet this pandemic has turned on the lights and they are also revealing generosity, compassion, stamina, resourcefulness, and creativity. They are exposing our wonderful ability to care for one another and to do the right thing. There was that teacher who drove around to the homes of her elementary school students, waving at a safe distance from her car with a sign hanging out of the window, “I still love you.” There was the landlord who told his commercial tenants to pay their employees first, before paying rent. There are all those medical professionals on the front lines working way beyond overtime. There are those parents summoning every last drop of patience within themselves as they learn how to home-school on the fly. Neighbors are checking on neighbors. Communities are mobilizing in unofficial networks to look out for the vulnerable. As Ephesians says, “Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth.” Light exposes darkness, yes, but light also produces fruit. 

As the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, said recently about on Sojourners: “Plague in the Bible is not a storm weathered before a return to normalcy. It’s a call to come together in new ways in order to survive, to hold the powerful responsible for… the lies they’ve told to cover up injustice, and to rebuild on foundations of love and justice.”

We don’t yet know the extent of the challenges we’re facing. And we don’t know how long all of this will last. That’s the hardest part, perhaps, not knowing. But one thing is for certain: we’re going to learn a lot about ourselves in this season. We’re going to learn new things (like preaching on camera, for instance, which is nerve wracking!). We’re going to adopt new habits by necessity. Who knows? Maybe we’ll surprise ourselves by how nimble we can be.

“Everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light.”

This disaster, however long it lasts, will also be clarifying in our relationships with others. Maybe we’ll come out of this with a renewed appreciation for those closest to us, or a new awareness of who’s not good for us. Hopefully we will learn (or be reminded of) how brief and fickle life is, how precious of the gift time is and, therefore, how tiny our grudges and resentments are in the grand scheme of things. Maybe we’ll learn who’s truly important to us. 

“Everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light.”

I’ll close with one more thought about light. Have you ever wondered how night vision technology works when the person using it is immersed in complete darkness? I looked it up: “Night vision goggles...are sometimes called image intensifiers, because they take the tiny amount of light that's available in near darkness and boost it enough for our eyes to see.” You see, light is often hidden in dark places, more than meets the eye. The same is true spiritually: when there is a tiny amount of goodness, beauty, and joy hidden within, the Spirit of Christ helps us perceive it — in unlikely situations, in other people, and even in ourselves. 

Beloved, in this season of chaos and uncertainty, so much will be revealed. It’s going to be hard, without a doubt. But I also trust that we will come out on the other side of this having grown in our capacity for love. In the words of Ephesians “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light.”

In this "present darkness," may it be so! 

 

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