[Note:These are somewhat scattered sermon notes, not a full manuscript]
I speak to you in the Name of Jesus Christ, our light and our salvation (Ps. 27:1). Amen.
Friends, we are in the season of Epiphany in the Church calendar. The word ‘epiphany’ means ‘striking appearance,’ like a bright, brilliant light. So at this time of year, Christians celebrate that God’s glory has dawned upon the world through His Son Jesus Christ, whose birth we just celebrated at Christmas. The Bible likens the coming of Jesus to the rising of the sun, bringing life and growth, truth and exposure, beauty and joy to the world. As we just proclaimed in the words of our Gospel canticle: with the coming of Jesus Christ, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on us, and our pathway through life, so as to guide our feet into the way of peace. Our reading today from Romans shines some light on what this means for each one us, practically speaking. It shows us how the light of Christ is to be reflected in our own lives as Christians.
v. 6-8, v. 11-13
Here we see that the light of Christ is refracted through His people in many ways, like a prism or stained glass window. You might say the light of Christ shines upon us and through us in a different way, a different direction, with a colour unique to each one of us.
Your light is your God-given spiritual gift; and as Jesus says, don’t hide your light under a bushel or snuff it out, but let it shine.
Friends, as we approach Vestry (our annual general meeting), I encourage you all to think about how you can use (or continue to use) your spiritual gift to serve God’s church here at St. James.
There are a diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit. The light of Christ is refracted through a prism in different direction and colours, but it’s the same light.
Skipping ahead to v. 10b-13,
Outdo one another in showing honour. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
v. 9-10 - Love
Love is the source of this light. This is the centrepiece of the reading:
Let love be genuine. True love is not sentimental emotion, nodesiring good for another person and being willing to give of yourself to bring about that person’s good.
Abhor what is evil, Hold fast to what is good, that is, cling to Jesus Christ who is good. Love one another with brotherly affection, that is, with a family love. See your fellow church members as family This involves sharing our burdens and joys (v. 15), our lives, our possessions.
Bless those who persecute you - this is perhaps the highest form of love, as demonstrated by Jesus in His life, Passion, crucifixion and death.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly - the Church, at its best, brings together people from all walks of life who would not otherwise associate with each other.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (London 1934):
“What does it mean to believe in Christ, who is himself love, if I still hate? What does it mean to confess Christ as my Lord in faith if I do not do his will? Such a faith is not faith but hypocrisy. It does nobody any good to protest that he or she is a believer in Christ without first going and being reconciled with his or her brother or sister—even if this means someone who is a nonbeliever, of another race, marginalized, or outcast. And the church that calls a people to belief in Christ must itself be, in the midst of that people, the burning fire of love, the nucleus of reconciliation, the source of fire in which all hate is smothered and proud, hateful people are transformed into loving people.”
The light and love of Christ is the holiness of God come near, and this has a purifying effect, like a refiner’s fire (Mal. 3.2).
So in addition to bringing life and growth, truth and exposure, beauty and joy, the light of Christ purifies and forges us into something new, better and more precious (1 Pet. 1.7), making us shine with a greater beauty.