Epiphany 3, January 23, 2011, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Rev. Paul Moore
I love the dawn. Oh, I love to watch it when I happen to be up, which is rarely by choice any more. When I was a teen, however, I was a crazy teen. And to prove that not all teens are the same, I used to get up before the dawn every morning because I liked watching the sunrise. I would think and pray and welcome the day—and commit to going to bed by 9! Crazy teen indeed, but I thrilled to the slow transformation of the sky, the air, and the city around me, as shadows turned into dogs in peoples yards and cars parked on the streets, hulking black squares became buildings, and the first calls of the panadero, the bread salesman, filtered through the crystal air.
Light is a primordial thing when it comes to human life. In 1879 Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb. Since that time humanity has increasingly, as Murray Melbin said, "colonized the night." In the intervening years the incidence of 24-hour service has steadily increased. Even in our own town, large chain stores are open all day and all night. The Army certainly seems to have no regard for what the civilian world might call "normal waking hours."
This means, of course, that the cover of darkness is now no longer imposed, it is chosen.
If one does not want it one only flips a switch and...let there be light. "Let there be light," was the first thing God said in the creation of the world, according to Genesis 1, and night was distinguished from day, and God demarcates all that is darkness from all that is light. The Gospel of John unpacks the theme. The beginning of the Gospel of John begins before the beginning of Genesis, though both start with the words, "In the beginning…." So the meaning of Genesis is shown us by John. The light of God's creation has come into the world once again, and we know that light in the person of Jesus, the Christ.
But it is not merely the presence of light that is the subject of today's Gospel lesson, that transition called the coming of the dawn. We live in spiritual darkness, says John. Now some critters are denizens of the darkness. They have large eyes and ears, their internal clocks are set to wake up when the rest of the world is going to sleep. They capitalize on the cover of darkness to go about the stuff of living. But we live in spiritual darkness about like we live in physical darkness--with a lot of skinned shins and bumped elbows. We make poor decisions, we reap painful consequences, and many times we can't really even understand why. We tend to live in what many call our lesser selves: Reacting, not responding, perpetuating destructive patterns, isolating ourselves from others, and letting our world shrink around us. But we were not meant to live in darkness. We were meant to live in the day, in the light and in wise decisions that seeing grants us: Responding rather than reacting, growing into constructive patterns of living, joining in community, and having our world expand to larger and larger horizons.
And so the dawn is a call to become who we really are. Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people. Tradition has it that Peter died in Rome crucified like his Lord, upside down because he felt himself unworthy to die as Christ died. Andrew is recorded as preaching throughout Asia Minor and became the patron saint of the Byzantine Empire. Jesus does not merely call them to serve and follow Him, He calls them into the reality of who they really were.
Greeting the dawn is facing into the transforming work of God in your life and in your world.
It is a process. Just as the dawning of the day takes a while, so the dawning of your God-given person takes a lifetime. We're always in transition, in motion, moving out of darkness into light. If you're not growing you're either in total darkness or dead already.
It is transformative. It changes you from something you were to something you are. When I first heard the call to full-time Christian service I told God that I'd be happy to serve as long as I didn't have to preach every Sunday. But then I discovered the power of the well-crafted story, the inspiration of the fitting word. The transforming power of God brings out in you who you really are, what has been hidden by the darkness of sin.
It is personal. Not all Christians are preachers—thanks be to God! Some of us are, others are other things that are necessary to the Body of Christ and the mission of God in the world. God has so constructed us that each of our day-time persons fits with each other to create a healthy and balanced community. It's win-win: Your individual best in Christ is the community's best in Christ.
St. Irenaeus said in the 2nd century, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive." A fully alive person lives gloriously in their best God-given selves. So greet the dawn. Eat less, move more. Call your mother. Volunteer at the church in an area about which you feel strongly or have special gifts. Sing in the choir, be an usher or a server. Up your pledge. Get up earlier and pray. Have those conversations you have been putting off. Go to Cursillo after all! Step into life, the life God has specially crafted for you, and live it in your church and your world.
Go, greet the dawn!