27 February 2010

Lent 2 C - Journey Home

Lent 2 C – The Journey and the Purpose

Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18

Luke 13: 31-35

28 February 2010

By Stuart Pike

We are a people on the move. It seems that every year we become more mobile. Almost every family that I know has one extended family member living across some continent or ocean. We, or our kids move away to get educated, or to find work. And even if we are one of the exceptional people who have lived in the same house since we were two, there’s still something in us which draws us to travel and to look further afield. There is a deep restlessness which, I think, impels us to journey. I think that it is God that places that restlessness in us. In some way God makes sojourners of us all.

Could this have been part of what impelled Abram to leave his familiar country and his wealth and to journey into the unknown? For Abram was a man of great wealth in his first country of Ur, which was itself a beautiful land of plenty. He was also very old when he started his journey. What would his neighbours have thought as he left all of this, to strike out across the desert? There was just something “more” which he sought.

Likewise, even if we have all that we need and more – even if we live in a land of plenty, we sense that there is something missing, and so we embark on a journey to find this “more” which we lack.

Nevertheless, there is another, opposing force which is in direct competition with this desire to search for more. This opposing force is the desire to belong – the desire to put down deep roots: our need for depth, to really know and be known, our need for the familiar and the security which it seems to promise.

Many people’s lives are lived in the space between these two forces and sometimes they pull is in two different directions at once.

Much of my own life has involved experiencing the influence of both of these forces. Growing up in a military family meant that we had to move every one to three years. I loved it for the most part – always seeking a new adventure, but every now and again I would pause and imagine what it would be like to know stability of place.

There were people, I knew, who had deep roots. When I began in ordained ministry 20 years ago, I started meet some of these people. In Gaspé there were people who’s families owned the land on which they were living for generations. In Grimsby there was one old gentleman fruit farmer named Don who died just a month ago. His farm is called two century farm because that is how long his family has farmed it. The roots of the cherry and peach trees in his orchards were symbolic of his connection with the earth: with this place.

When the farmers came up for communion and held out their hands for the host, I could see the soil right in the skin of their hands. It could never be totally washed off, because of their deep connectedness with the land. They worked the land to produce food for themselves and the whole community. And the land made its indelible mark on them as well. It isn’t that the land belongs to them, but it is they who belong to the land. And the land is passed on to their descendants after them. It is almost a kind of immortality that their line continues in the stability of the land which they truly know as “home.”

When I see the people of the land and know that they are marked with the earth of their belonging, something in my heart smiles, and I wonder. What would it feel like to belong like these people? I am still baffled when people ask me where my home-town is.

Abram had already been a sojourner for a long time when he meets God in today’s Old Testament lesson. He had already shown his great faith; he had followed his restless heart and now he is looking for depth – for roots. Abram wanted to find “home.” He wanted a place for his descendants to live in.

But he is met with a huge obstacle: he is already old, and so is his wife, and they are childless. Now perhaps his wanderings seemed to him to be aimless, and he thinks that his only heir will be his servant rather than his own flesh and blood. Abram is feeling very mortal right now and he thinks that his life will stop and his bloodline will stop with him. He is beginning to feel hopeless. Abram knows the reality that being a sojourner means obstacles and struggle.

We too can have periods of hopelessness in our journeys. There are times in our lives when we might look back and think: “What was it all about? Am I really headed somewhere? Or have I just wandered aimlessly?” These periods often come when we are at an intersection between a time of searching and the great desire to find home and to belong.

Jesus is on a journey too. He is doing his ministry of healing and casting out demons and simply by doing this he is threatening the power of the kings and empires of the earth: Herod and Rome. Herod is threatening to take his life, just as he did the life of John the Baptist.

But Jesus knows that his journey isn’t over. He has set his face toward Jerusalem, which is code for the big showdown which he will have with the powers which rule the physical world: the chief priests and the Roman Empire. Jesus knows that he is heading for “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (Luke 13:34) Jesus is heading toward the cross, and yet he faces it with courage and faithfulness. No threat is going to throw him off his course. His journey is one of sacrifice, not to finally find a home for himself, but in order to bring all who are on the journey of faith home. To make us all belong.

God does an amazing thing for Abram in his time of hopelessness. When Abram is dejected and looking around and longing for a home, God takes him outside and gets him to look up at the stars and gives him the promise of home and belonging.

It is the season of Lent, and it is appropriate that we be sojourners: that we be seekers, looking for the “more” which we lack: that we be on the journey which God has placed in our hearts. It is a journey of struggle with our obstacles, and with our very selves.

And it is appropriate that we sense our need for belonging and for home. May God grant you the strength you need for the journey. And may you have the grace to look up to the stars and know God’s promise to you that you belong, and that you have a home with him, through the sacrifice of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

22 February 2010

Lent 1 C

Sermon for 21 February 2010

Luke 4: 1-13

By Sharyn Hall

The big news these days is the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. We put a great deal of pressure on our Canadian athletes to win medals for the pride of our country. This seems unfair to people who have trained for years to compete at a high standard and then their performance may be over in minutes or tenths of a second. It is important that they give their best effort and compete fairly, not for the glory of a medal or the adulation of the country, but for the noble goal of developing the talents God has given them. Sometimes people inspire us to remember how blessed we are by God and how our blessings can inspire others.

As a nation we experienced a moment of euphoria when Alexandre Bilodeau achieved a gold medal in his sport of mogul skiing. This was the first gold medal won by a Canadian athlete on Canadian soil and the whole country joined in the celebration. Alexandre was overwhelmed by adulation and the celebrations have not ceased, but what was important to Alexandre? While he was pleased to win a medal for his country and he was gracious in accepting praise, his thoughts were focused on his brother. A special person can be our inspiration, and whether we acknowledge God’s role or not, that person can bring us a glimpse of God’s infinite love in the human spirit.

Alexandre’s older brother Frederic has cerebral palsy. Frederic struggles to walk and to talk, and yet he never complains and he never accepts the limitations others place on him. Frederic was standing awkwardly front and centre at the spectator fence, yelling support for his brother, and waving his arms in jubilation as Alexandre was acclaimed the gold medal winner. When interviewed after the race, Alexandre spoke of his brother as his inspiration, and in a poignant moment the two brothers embraced for a long time. Alexandre skied the race of his life, not for himself, but for the love of his brother.

All the athletes at these Olympic games have the temptation to seek glory for themselves. It is natural to want to win, to be the best in your sport. It is human nature to want the admiration of others. Sometimes we humans want to be superhuman, a person with god-like powers.

The familiar story in Luke’s gospel of the temptations of Jesus is not only a story about the divine Jesus; it also is a story about the human Jesus. The devil knows what tempt humans, wealth and glory, but wealth and glory do not tempt Jesus. So the devil offers Jesus superhuman powers over the world, and again Jesus is not tempted. Then the devil tempts Jesus to test God’s love for him, but Jesus has no need to test God’s love, for in life and in death, God’s love is steadfast, not only for the divine Jesus, God’s Son, but also for the human Jesus, God’s Son.

The temptations of Jesus are a battle between the devil and God. Jesus as both human and superhuman is the ultimate temptation for the devil. If the devil can entice the human Jesus to succumb to the human desires for wealth, power and glory, then the devil will rejoice in his power over humanity. If the devil can entice Jesus to display his divine powers in a spectacular miracle of cheating death, then the devil will rejoice in his power to manipulate God’s power. The temptations of Jesus are essentially challenges to God, challenges to take control of humanity, to turn humanity away from God, challenges to God’s principle of human free will. God’s great love for humanity will allow humanity to choose God’s way or the false power of the devil.

This may seem overly dramatic, because the power of the devil rarely invades human hearts in spectacular ways, despite what we might see in horror movies. The power of the devil comes in human weakness through the temptations of everyday life, temptations to jealousy, cruelty, greed, arrogance; the list is endless, but for every failure there is forgiveness in God’s love.

All our scripture readings today are about faith in God’s love and belief in God’s power to save. We read in our passage from the book of Deuteronomy that the Lord God is faithful to God’s people. The great exodus of the Israelites from Egypt was dramatic proof of God’s power to bring salvation. St. Paul writes that anyone who believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead will be saved by God.

Many temptations and challenges in our daily lives can shake our faith and make us question our belief. As human beings we cannot expect to be immune to those temptations. Jesus was not immune to those temptations. After days of fasting in the wilderness, Jesus was vulnerable to a wily devil, but he firmly resisted every test because he had the strength of God’s love to sustain him. We too can have the strength of God’s love.

God’s love may be sent to us through the unwavering love of another human being. That person lifts our spirit with his/her belief in our ability to overcome obstacles and to succeed despite failures. That person inspires us to be the best we can be. We may be inspired because we see that person persevere through hardship. We may be inspired because we recognize how blessed we are to be loved by them. We all can name famous people who inspire us, but often it is people close to us who transform our doubts and fears into confidence and courage because they believe in us. When we recognize how much they mean to us, we are humbled to realize that we have not succeeded on our own.

Humility and love are what many people saw in the joy of Alexandre Bilodeau as his best was acclaimed worthy of a gold medal. He has no illusions that his accomplishment is of his own making. He recognizes that he has been sustained by the love of others, and he freely acknowledges that he has been inspired to persevere by the perseverance and determination of his brother Frederic, who strives to be the best he can be despite the challenges of his physical limitations. There is irony or perhaps natural symmetry in the fact that Frederic’s physical limitations inspire his brother to excel in such a physically demanding sport. We do not know if that was God’s plan, but those of us who see God in the lives of people, can see the love between Frederic and Alexandre as a reflection of God’s great love for us. Through failures and triumphs, through a race lost and a race won, God calls us to believe in each other, to inspire each other, to be the best we can be, following in the footsteps of Jesus, who was the very best he could be because he knew that God believed in him.

We, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, need to believe that God believes in us. We need to believe that God is with us, around us and within us, inspiring us to be God’s people, the very best we can be to bring the mission of Jesus into the world today. With our doubts and fears, our failures and triumphs, we still have much to offer our troubled world because we believe in God’s love for all creation. Amen.

21 February 2010

Ash Wednesday

Sermon for Ash Wednesday

17 February 2010

By Sharyn Hall

Recently I saw a bumper sticker, which made me stop and think. It read: SPIRITUAL PEOPLE INSPIRE ME. RELIGIOUS PEOPLE SCARE ME. I thought to myself, what am I? Do I inspire people or do I scare people? Does my clergy collar remind people to think of God in their lives, or does my clergy collar turn people off? This is an important question for me as a clergy person, and it is an important question for you as people whose relationship with God is important in your lives. First of all, I object to the implication that being spiritual is good, being religious is bad, and the two are mutually exclusive.

Being spiritual seems to be popular these days. It can be a way in which people say they are connected to God without membership in a religion. Or some people say they are spiritual in a way of their own making without any reference to God at all. For them, being spiritual is open-ended, no strings attached, and being religious is the antithesis of being spiritual. Being religious is placing God in a box, in a set of doctrines which define the nature of God and which determine the acceptable rules for living. Being religious is being judgmental, exclusive, self-righteous and self-centred.

If this attitude is so pervasive in our society that it is advertised on a bumper sticker, then the Christian Church should take note. If we were to ask people outside our doors for their view of the church, what would they say? They might talk about our very public bickering over scripture and doctrines. They might mention that Christians are split into so many splinters that the Christian Church has no clear relationship with God. They might say that the church is irrelevant to life today and will soon be extinct.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail had the headline, “Anglican Church facing the threat of extinction.” Based on declining figures of Anglican membership, our church is dying and will be gone in fifty years. We are not the only Christian denomination in this situation. Why would a spiritual person wish to join a dying church? People outside the church learn about life in the church from the media. Sadly, most of the stories they read are about scandals, sexual abuse and church people who break every commandment. The impression is that religious people are hypocrites, that religious people create a façade of being righteous to be seen as superior to others.

This is the warning of Jesus to his disciples in our passage from the gospel of Matthew. “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them…as the hypocrites do.” The Greek word translated here as ‘hypocrites’ is more accurately translated as ‘stage actors’. Stage acting can be a noble profession, but it does involve hiding your real self behind a projected false image.

The religious people in this gospel passage are announcing to the public that they are righteous, when in truth, their actions are insincere. They are not worshipping God. They are seeking their own glory. They are not serving others to fulfill God’s will. They are pretending to be charitable to win the admiration of others.

We cannot count how many times this warning of Jesus has been read or proclaimed in churches for centuries, and yet people who claim to be religious can fall into the same self-righteous trap. What can we do to avoid this human weakness? The prophet Joel says to repent and return to the Lord. St. Paul tells us to be reconciled to God: “…putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way.” St. Paul lists the changes and chances of life, the hardships and the joys, which face the servants of God who can and will persevere.

On this Ash Wednesday, we are reminded to beware of the temptation to be religious like the hypocrites and to beware of practicing our piety for our own glory. For in being false to others, we may prevent them from coming to a true relationship with God. On this Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that a spiritual life calls for an honest relationship with God in our secret hearts, and our Father who sees in secret will reward us, not with treasures or glory, but with patience and mercy and great kindness. Amen.

Charge to Vestry

Charge to Vestry

By Canon H. Stuart Pike

St. Luke’s Church

14 February 2010

As usual on our Vestry Sunday I am giving you my charge to vestry in place of the usual sermon at this time.

I do note, though, on this last Sunday of Epiphany we have the lesson of Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain. Peter, James and John, though not understanding all that they saw, were able to see Jesus’ appearance change and a holy light shone from him.

We at St. Luke’s, being a Christian Church, are a part of the body of Christ in today’s world. And just as Jesus shone on that day, showing him to be more than ordinary, we too are to shine with Christ’s light. We are far more than a social club or even a charitable organization. We are called to be the body of Christ. We are called to carry out Jesus’ mission. We are called to shine.

I have now been your Rector for almost a year and a half and so this vestry is the first time in which I speak about my experience with you for a whole year, rather than just a few months.

2009 was a marvelous year. It was our 175th year and so it was filled with many activities which reminded us about our beginnings and some which helped us to imagine our future.

When I look at the history of St. Luke’s, I see a Church which was an essential part of our wider community. We were an important religious and social centre for the growing village of Burlington. We were involved in the religious education of thousands of children and adults. And we made a great difference in reaching out to the needs of community. We lived in what we could call “Christendom.” We had great relevance in our society, and we shone.

Some of the triumph of that history is reflected in what we have witnessed in our community over the last year and last several years. So much ministry and good work has been done in this community. Our faith has shone.

One of the most remarkable things is the fact that our new parish hall was built. As you know it is a beautiful structure, and it was built by this community because we believe we have a strong future and we need to have the facilities to be a more effective community of faith. Even more astounding than this is the fact that the building is almost paid-for! We closed the year owing less than $80 K on a building which cost $2.6 million. This is a truly remarkable achievement and I hope that it will encourage enough people to want to completely pay it off this year or next.

Now, in terms of finances, our focus can begin to shift from the physical bricks and mortar to securing a strong support for the ministry and mission this place was built for.

In order to do this, we need to raise up the concept of stewardship in this parish. We have started this already by forming a the Division of Resources which brings together the heads of Stewardship, Planned Giving, and Fund-raising along with our Treasurer and the Trustee of our Memorial and Trust Funds.

The main stewardship message which is the essence of all of our financial work is this: “God is the creator of the universe: God has created our physical world, our bodies, our abilities and our presence in time. It all belongs to God and yet, while we live on this earth, we have the stewardship of some of it. As citizens of the Kingdom of God in the here are now, we need to use what we think of as ours for the purpose of building God’s Kingdom. Using our time, our talent and our treasure well is how we live into God’s dream for us.

To help us fulfill God’s purpose we have had a good look at our financial picture over the past year. We have made a heroic effort in our building campaign and I cannot express how pleased and impressed I am with this community for this, but it has probably put some stress on our regular givings.

We have relied far too heavily on our Line of Credit with the Bank during this last year. Our maximum on this line is $100 K and far too many times we were dangerously close to reaching this maximum. In fact for much of the year we were late in paying our Diocesan Assessment in order to keep below this $100 K. We have had a year of very low interest rates, so perhaps we haven’t really felt the urgency of the situation. We are now at the end of this low interest period.

This is simply not an acceptable practice going forward. As one of the four biggest parishes in the diocese, we simply can’t continue to be part of the problem for our Diocese which exists only in order to serve the needs of the Church. We want to be part of the solution.

A key strategy to deal with this problem will be the formation of a new Capital Fund which we call the Capital Reserve Fund. The sole function of this fund is to have a pool of funds to draw on during the lean months so that we can both pay our fair share to support the ministry of the Diocese, without having to borrow from the bank. This fund will be raised through planned gifts and donations. Through this fund we will begin earning interest, rather than paying it.

We are also initiating another new Capital Fund as our Building Fund winds down. We will start a Capital Improvement Fund which will pay for major improvements and renovations going forward. Sooner or later roofs have to be repaired or siding redone. We will have this Capital Improvement Fund to pay for these expenses and we will be able to bring forward the case to support this fund in the years ahead as we understand the capital improvements which we will face.

These new funds, plus the strategies being developed by our Division of Resources will ensure that our financial house is in order. But why do we have such a focus on finances and the soundness of our buildings? Well, it’s because they provide us with the ability to do the real work of this Church, which is living the message of Jesus Christ. The worship of our God, our fellowship together, our mission to bring the good news of God’s love to all and our outreach to those in need is the essence of what we do, and we need the tools to do this. Stewardship of our time, our talent and our treasure provide these tools.

At the beginning of this charge I spoke about how, earlier in our history, our ancestors lived in Christendom.

Today we are faced with a much different social reality. We no longer live in Christendom. We’re in a post-Christendom, multi-ethnic society and it has its good points and its not-so-good points.

Today it is harder to just be the Church by doing the same old things we used to do. In Christendom Sundays were protected. People understood the command and the need for Sabbath time. There was a social expectation that people would go to Church. People were Christians by accident of birth. We did not have to compete with Hockey and Soccer and other activities.

Today, Sunday is largely just another day. And to choose to go to Church to worship God is decidedly counter-cultural. We live with governments which have misinterpreted the idea of “Freedom of Religion” to be “Freedom from Religion.” It is considered uncouth now to speak about matters of faith in the public square. The Church is considered irrelevant by most of our culture.

One key advantage about living in a post-Christendom society though, is that we aren’t “Accidental Christians” anymore. It is a choice which we need to make, and this connects us deeply with our faith. It is swimming against the stream to be a Church-goer now. But that can mean that those of us who are here will have a greater sense of commitment to our Church. This is good because we have much to share with a greater community which has such great spiritual need.

We live in a hurried society in which people have starved their souls because they have no Sabbath. They are held captive by materialism and by a culture of consumerism, and they need to be liberated to tend to their souls once again. I believe a large part of God’s dream for us right now is to be a community which supports the building up of souls once again.

But in order to do this, we need to reach the people we aren’t reaching now. When we look at the demographics of our Church membership, it is easy to see that we are reaching very few young people and young families. We are no longer relevant in their estimation. And yet, we could be such a support to them as they try to bring their children up to have strong values and principles and to be people who make a difference in their society.

For this reason, we believe that the time has come to hire a new staff person: a Youth and Family Ministry Worker who will help us develop and run programs which will reach out to younger people.

In addition to this, we will be proposing some changes to the way we worship so that we can meet the needs of people whom we simply are not reaching now.

The Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi spoke to our Diocesan Synod in the Fall and said that many Anglicans are amazing creatures: somehow, despite in all other ways appearing to be reasonable and logical, they seem to expect a better result by continuing to do the same thing!

Although we did experience a very slight increase overall in Church attendance in 2009, there was a steady decline in our more traditional worship services. We must face the fact that this service simply isn’t reaching out to new people now. We will propose a new pattern in our worship services which will still keep some traditional worship services, but which will also position us to enable new services in the future designed to speak to those we’re just not reaching.

Jesus never commanded us: “Go forth and be comfortable with familiar things.” But he did say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” He did say, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ We’re not here primarily to serve ourselves, but to serve God, and to faithfully discern God’s will for us.

The great news in all of this is: we have the people and the skills and the will to turn a corner here at St. Luke’s. I want to thank our amazing ministry team including our paid and volunteer clergy, our office staff and especially the great throng of volunteers who have made a huge difference in all the many excellent ways that we have been engaged in mission and ministry in this place. With such an excellent team which you make, I have a great hope and expectation that we will make and even greater difference in this year. We will shine again, and will be a spiritual centre in this place. May we be blessed with God’s dream for us in the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Epiphany 5 C - Candlemas

Sermon for 7 February 2010

By Sharyn Hall

This past Tuesday, February 2, was a very important day in our society; it was Groundhog Day. It is such an important day that some people dress in top hat and tuxedo to witness a groundhog forecast the weather for the following six weeks. You can learn a great deal on the internet about Groundhog Day – perhaps more than you would ever want to know, but it might be worthwhile to learn that Groundhog Day grew out of the religious observation of a Holy Day in our Christian calendar.

In the late 1700’s, German settlers brought the tradition of Candlemas to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Candlemas was celebrated at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, which is on February 2. The tradition in Europe and the British Isles was (and still is) that clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people. A lighted candle was placed in the window of each home. If on the day of Candlemas, the sun was bright, the belief was that there would be six more weeks of wintry weather. A traditional English rhyme explains the folk wisdom:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again.

Several of the northern European countries have similar folk tales about the festival of Candlemas.

When the people of Punxsutawney decided to let one of God’s creatures determine whether Candlemas was cloudy or bright, they chose the groundhog because he breaks his winter hibernation at mid-point to gather food. The people of Punxsutawney held the first official celebration of Groundhog Day in 1886. We did not have our first Groundhog Day in Canada until 1956 when Wiarton Willie began predicting the weather. Now there is a groundhog prophet in every time zone across Canada. Scientific studies show that groundhogs are accurate 37% of the time, which I suppose is not a bad record for a member of the squirrel family. If we can accept that the ceremony and excitement around this event provides a welcome moment of fun in a dark and cold winter, we can smile and join in the fun, but having faith in the prophetic powers of a groundhog may be unwise.

I would guess that most people who observe February 2 as Groundhog Day would be surprised to learn that the annual celebration grew from a religious festival. The connection between Candlemas and Groundhog Day is not only history. The connection is the significance of light. The seasonal prediction of groundhogs is based on how brightly the light of the sun shines on these little creatures. The importance of Candlemas to people for centuries was the necessity of candles for light. Candles were expensive, a luxury for the rich and barely affordable for the poor. Eventually oil lamps and gas lights became common, but did not entirely replace candles. In our society, we are so used to electricity giving us light in our homes and on our streets that we expect to have the power to create light. We become very anxious when electricity fails us and we are confronted with impenetrable darkness. Then we are thankful for the light of one candle, because the light of one candle has the power to illuminate far more darkness than its single flame.

Candlemas is a time to give thanks for the ability to lighten the darkness of our world, and Candlemas is a time to celebrate the light of God, which came into our world in Jesus. The holy feast of Candlemas is the commemoration of the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem. It was a requirement of ancient Jewish law that a first-born son be taken to the Temple six weeks after birth to be dedicated to God’s service. When Joseph and Mary arrived at the Temple, they were greeted by Simeon and Anna. Taking the child in his arms, Simeon praised God and acclaimed Jesus as the saving light of the world. To symbolize Jesus as the light of God, the western Christian church developed the custom of blessing and distributing candles. Eventually the religious service was called Candle Mass.

The image of light has great significance in the Bible, and symbolized many things to the Hebrew people and the early Christians. Light symbolized goodness, blessing and truth. Light fills the emptiness of darkness. Most importantly, light symbolized the presence of God in heaven and on earth. Simeon declared Jesus the saving light of God because he recognized the divine presence in the child. Jesus brought God’s light into the everyday darkness of human life. Jesus embodied God’s light in human form, which signified that humanity, with all its frailties, is made in the image of God. Jesus also brought God’s light into a world in need of salvation and new life. He said, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

There are many kinds of darkness in people’s lives. The people of Haiti have far more darkness than the lack of electricity. They are struggling against fear, danger, poverty, sorrow and despair. There are many places in rich nations where darkness is drowned by the neon lights of big cities, but behind those lights there often is darkness lurking in the shadows. The light of one candle may seem overwhelmed by so much darkness or so much artificial brightness, and yet we believe that the light of Christ has the power to reach into the dark corners of life to bring hope where hope might be counted as foolishness.

One candle radiates light well beyond its single flame, and the light of Christ radiates light beyond his time on earth, beyond his early disciples to generations of Christians in every age to the 21st century. Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Those of us who claim to be disciples of Christ are called to shine as the light of Jesus in today’s world. That light is the light of God’s love for all creation. That light can bring hope against hopelessness. That light is in each one of us, because each one of us can be one candle, and one candle can begin to light the world. With God’s help, all things are possible. Amen.