Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 6 Sermon (Epiphany 5)

"It was a dark and stormy night."

These words written some 180 years ago, it is a phrase oft repeated… I think of the comic strip Peanuts and Snoopy sitting on top of his dog house with his typewriter. Again, again, he is trying to write the great novel, "It was a dark and stormy night."

It is phrase true of our lives. All of us have those dark and stormy nights in our lives and those dark and stormy nights can be very scary and it is good to be prepared for such times, maybe a flashlight to light things up can help (or maybe just the dawn) but there are some people who live every day of their life in darkness. They are lost and alone with no light to show the way.

I think of the movie I am Legend with Will Smith – years after a man made plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the one survivor in New York City struggles to find a cure in the daylight, for at night (in the darkness), those infected but not dead roam the city (afraid of the light). His hope is to bring light to those in darkness through finding a cure. And at the end, he brings life by finding the cure and through his death, passes it on to bring that light, that hope to others.

In a world that is full of darkness, with people who are suffering it is the good that we can bring into their darkness, to let our light shine for the good of others and praise to God. Jesus said,
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
It is up to us. We are called to be the salt of the earth. We are to let our light shine and not hide it away. Just like the Living Beatitudes I spoke about last week – that salt and light is living out of those blessings by the good we do today. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,
"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
We can show others the way by letting our light shine. If they see that we have the light, they will want it too. It is just like it says in the song we all know, "This Little Light of Mine":
1. "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!"
2. "Hide it under a bushel? No, I'm gonna let it shine."
We know the song, now what we need to do is do what Jesus said. We need to let our light shine to show others the way. I think of a story about a community that let their light shine:
The small French Town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon lived quiet, unnoticed lives as farmers and shopkeepers in their remote French mountain village. Then, at the outbreak of World War II, Jewish families began arriving at the town's small train station desperately seeking refuge from the Nazi horrors. The French Vichy government, collaborators with the Germans, banned harboring Jewish refugees. But the Chambonnaise, led by their pastor, defied the law and began offering refuge to any Jew who came to their village.

Members of the little church took Jews into their homes, fed and clothed them, provided money and forged identification papers, and educated their children. Despite the growing suspicion of the French state police, the Chambonnaise managed to carry on their work in secrecy. It is said that between 1940 and 1943, there was not a wine cellar or hay stack or attic in all of Le Chambon that had not sheltered a Jewish child.

In the dark of night, villagers would hide the children in their hay wagons and transport them across the mountains to safety in Switzerland. No resident of Le Chambon ever turned away, denounced or betrayed a single Jewish refugee. It is estimated the Chambonnaise had saved more than 5,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

An old villager later recalled, "We didn't protect Jews because we were moral or heroic people. We helped them because it was the human thing to do." The pastor, Andre Trocme, who led the work, said of his parish's actions, "We did it because we wanted to be with Jesus." [FOR MORE: Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There by Philip Hallie and Weapons of the Spirit, a film by Pierre Sauvage.]
The story of Le Chambon mirrors Jesus' call to his followers to be "salt" and "light" for the world. Jesus' words challenge us to live the Gospel we have heard and profess to believe. Until our hopes for justice become our work for justice, until our prayers for peace and unity in the world are first lived in our own home and community, until our professed belief in God as Father of all affects every one of our relationships, we are as good as flavorless salt, we are as useful as light hidden away under a basket.

Pastor Trocme and the parishioners of Le Chambon accepted that call in their courageous but little known work to help Jewish refugees. May we realize our own vocation to be salt to a world desperate to realize the joy and hope of God's presence; may we be light for those who have lost their way in the darkness of violence and injustice. “In the dark and stormy night” let our light shine for all the world to see. Amen.

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