Truth and Light KOINONIA SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5, Rev. Emily Joye McGaughy

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1 Truth and Light KOINONIA SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2012 Rev. Emily Joye McGaughy First Congregational Church United Church of Christ 145 Capital Ave., NE Battle Creek, MI

2 Truth and Light By: Rev. Emily Joye McGaughy Koinonia, FCCBC February 5, 2012 Matt 5:14-16 prayer of obedience Our spiritual ancestors, our congregational forebearers, the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock, were a small reformed protestant Christian sect from Europe who came to the shores of Massachusetts on a ship. When they were boarding that ship in England their pastor Rev. John Robinson said something to those pilgrims that UCC folk have been quoting ever since. The pilgrims were trying to escape persecution and seeking religious freedom and before they took off in this pursuit Rev. Robinson said God hath yet more truth and light to break forth out of his holy word. God hath yet more truth and light to break forth out of his holy word. This was a bold claim back then, just like God is still speaking is a bold claim today. Why? Because both claims push back against the idea of a static, unchangeable, entirely transcendent God. Both claims push back on the idea that God is just sitting back in the sky, watching all of this life unfold, entirely unaffected by anything that goes on. To claim that God hath yet more truth and light to break forth, to claim that God is still speaking is to claim that God is active NOW, today, in this world. Alive and engaged. Attentive and present with us. When Rev. Robinson made this statement back in 1620 he was urging the pilgrims not only to escape their persecution and to pursue religious freedom, but he was confirming for them as they stepped out in risk that their faith in God was not in vain, that they 2

3 were not alone, that God would reveal the way to them as they moved forward. God hath yet more truth and light to break forth. We believed that a year ago when we started Koinonia. A year ago a group of us believed that God hath yet more truth and light to break forth here, here at FCC, here in Battle Creek MI. More truth and light to break forth here. And so we began. Began building relationships with each other. Began building particular styles of music and liturgy. Began reaching out to folk who weren t here. Began preaching sermons that felt faithful. And you started coming. Many of you, like the pilgrims, have come because this is a place where for the first time in your life you can be who you are in a Christian environment and not worry about retaliation and repercussions. Many of you have come because you feel the spirit of God in here. Many of you have come because you believe everyone should be able to voice their own prayers, that the leadership of the church should reflect God s creation not a good ole boy network, that gay and queer love should be affirmed for its faithful beauty and boldness, that young people should have a place of their own, that music should flow from our lived experience not just echo language and theology of the past. You started coming because something inside of you believed there was more truth and light to break forth in your life and this place might just help that breaking forth to happen. I know I can speak for my colleague Rev. Ryberg on this one: we are grateful to God most high that you have come. When I look around the room and think about how many of you we didn t even know a year ago, my heart is humbled. When I think of how you ve formed networks of support and care here in this sanctuary, on facebook and around town, I can t help but feel a certain pride in our bearing witness to what the beloved community is all about. How you touch each other s lives. How you show up when someone is in pain or loss. How you gift each other s 3

4 families with acts of kindness and service. How you reach out for each other in worship. How you share your truths in bible study. How you hold each other s children. It s more truth and light than we could have dreamed of a year ago. Glory be to God. On Friday I was at the gym with Rev. Tom Ott. We were talking about the properties of light and he reminded me about something that I probably learned in fifth grade in science class but had forgotten. He reminded me that light is only visible when it smacks up against something and reflects off of it. He reminded me that light is reflective, that it s only seen in its engagement with real life stuff, otherwise it just floats on through infinity invisible. Light is reflective. It s gotta smack up against something, have contact with something to be seen. When Tom reminded me about this property of light, all of a sudden the scripture from Matthew s Gospel took on a whole new meaning. Jesus says to his followers: You are the light of the world. Notice he did not say God is the light of the world. Or I am the light of the world. He says to the crowd, to the people gathered, he says You are the light of the world. You, flesh and blood human beings. You, broken and blessed human beings. You, messy and magnificent human beings. You are the light of the world. And you know what? If Jesus was standing where I m standing right now, he d say the same thing to all of us here. You are the light of the world. Just as you are. And we would all say a collective: thanks, Jesus, but yeah right. I d be the light of the world if I had a decent career. I d be light of the world if I lost weight. I d be light of the world if I met someone and settled down. I d be light of the world if I had a degree or came across more intelligent. I d be light of the world if I could get a hold of my anger. I d be light of the world if I didn t struggle with this addiction. I d be light of 4

5 the world if I hadn t been such a bad parent. I d be light of the world if I could learn to forgive so and so. I can t be the light of the world: I m to flawed, to unsure of myself, to ordinary, to... to... to... well me. During Thursday night bible study some of us were sitting around talking about this scripture and it became really clear really fast that none of us *really* believe that we re light of the world. There seems to be something, for all of us, that gets in the way of our believing that we are sufficient. At one point Simon started talking about what gets in the way for him. As grateful as he is to have a job, Simon doesn t necessarily feel like the work he s doing is meaningful enough. He struggles with not maximizing his mind and talents in his day to day labor and doesn t think he s living into his true potential. So, you don t feel sufficient. You don t feel like you are light of the world? I asked him. He buried his head a bit and said no, not at all. I looked up and asked someone else: And what about you, Carmen? Do you think Simon is light of the world? You see Carmen is Simon s wife. And I was being a little sneaky because I already knew what she was going to say. Carmen s eyes brightened and she said Of course I do. She smiled as she looked at him, the kind of smile that reflects light. Carmen is always going on and on about what an incredible husband she has. She does it on facebook. She does it in conversation with her friends. She is never slow to point out Simon s kindness, his depth of intellect, his capacity to make her feel loved. And she s not alone. Most of us think Simon s a pretty amazing human being. I don t think there s anyone who would come away from an encounter with Simon that wouldn t agree that he s light of the world. And yet, he can t see it or can t feel it. 5

6 And I think he s pretty typical. You know why? Because light isn t visible until it smacks into something. Light doesn t shine unless its in contact with something else. Most of us can t see our own light, can t feel our own light and therefore have a hard time claiming it, but those who love us can. Ever notice how much better your loved ones are at seeing and claiming your light than you are? There s a reason for that Our light doesn t just dwell within us. It s smacks up against stuff. It does that when we love people, when we serve people, when we practice patience and kindness with them. Even though many of us do these things, we often cannot see or feel the impact they have on others. But others do see and feel the light of our lives and they can reflect it back to us. That s why we need a space like this, like Koinonia. That s why we need relationships day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, relationships that reflect our light back to us. Those of us gathered in this space are a lot like our pilgrim ancestors. We are a people of escape and voyage and new arrival. I want us to remember, in a personal way, on this first year anniversary of Koinonia the words of Rev. Robinson: God hath yet more truth and light to break forth. Bold claim back then. Bold claim today. We ve only been doing this worship service for a year and there s already a lot of truth and light here. But I believe God hath yet more. The truth and light that is yet to break forth here depends on our ability and willingness to smack up against each other, to be in contact with one another. It depends on our ability to reflect it back to each other Sunday after Sunday. But there s even more. More truth and light. Here s the deal. Most Christian churches are still full of pastors and theology and liturgy that tell people they are anything but the light of the world. There are way too many 6

7 houses of worship where the message is consistently from beginning to end: you are a sinner. Christianity is still known as a religion of hateration and foolery among way too many good people out there. And there are way too many folks walking around on this Earth, full of radiant light, who don t have anyone reflecting it back to them, people who are lonely and alone. Way too many people not hearing Jesus words of blessing or feeling God s all inclusive love. There is more truth and light to break forth here. But there is also more truth and light to break forth out there. Let us continue the boldness of our ancestors by claiming that God is active NOW, today, in this world. Alive and engaged. Attentive and present with us so that when new folks walk in these doors or meet us in the street we smack into them and reflect their light, thereby confirming for them and for us that our belief in God is not in vain, that we are not alone, that we are ALL indeed light of the world and that God will reveal the way as we move forward together in faith. Amen. 7

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