A NEW WAY OF SEEING: A sermon preached on Sunday, January 16, 2022, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, by Priest in Charge the Reverend Terence L. Elsberry.
Let us pray: Lord, even as you gave your servant Martin Luther King, Jr., the dream of equal justice for all, so give us your dream of ultimate hope and peace and joy for your people who are called by your name. And show us, we pray, how we can play our part in making your dream become reality. In your name we pray, AMEN.
One of the parts of my life as an ordained minister I like least is when I have to apologize for God.
Apologize for God? Yes. How many times through the years have people come up to me and said something like, “If God’s a loving God, why do all these horrible things keep happening?”
Good question. And, of course, I can’t possibly provide the full answer. There’s a lot all of us don’t understand in this world—especially the untold suffering and misery of innocent people.
But what I usually tell people who ask me this question is something like this: I usually tell them that God is not yet fully in charge of what happens here on earth. Someday He will be. But not yet. Earth is still a fallen realm. Those of us who put our faith in Him, who belong to Him, who are redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus will ultimately be with Him in glory forever.
However, that doesn’t mean any of us are immune from suffering. Evil, cruelty, selfishness and simple human error abound, working havoc, causing untold misery and grief. How well we know. Turn on the news. If you’re like me, you may sometimes find it hard to keep from getting down from all the horrible happenings we keep seeing and hearing about.
However, the Lord doesn’t want us to get bogged down, become preoccupied with the negative, prevalent though it is.
He’s not asking us to deny reality. He also doesn’t want us to get trapped in negative thinking. He wants us to remember that He’s always at work in the world, working out His own plan that will ultimately outlast and triumph over the pain and suffering and evils of human experience. It’s a plan of His making. It’s a plan He reveals to us in His Word the Bible. It’s a plan of ultimate peace, harmony and joy. It’s a plan that’s always unfolding, always moving forward, if we have eyes to see. It’s a plan you and I are part of.
In the words of the old song: “There’s a new world coming:”
“There’s a new world coming, and it’s just around the bend
“There’s a brand new morning rising clear and sweet and free
“There’s a new day dawning that belongs to you and me
“Yes, a new world’s coming
The one we’ve had visions of, coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love.”
A secular song describing the ongoing, ever-evolving, ultimately glorious plan of God!
He’s here present with us by His Spirit and He wants us to see more of what He’s doing in the world around us. He wants to help us expand our perspective, adopt a longer, broader, more hopeful view.
He wants to give us a new way of seeing. A way of seeing more clearly where He is and what He’s doing. He wants us to make the giant leap of seeing the world through His eyes.
He wants us to ask Him to show us what He’s doing in the world and in our lives—to pray, “Lord, show me. Show me where you’re at work, where you’re active in the world, active in my life now and the lives of the people around me.”
Ask Him to show you and He will. He wants us to see Him in action, see the works of love and healing and encouragement that He’s carrying out all the time, if we have eyes to see.
If we do this, if we pray and receive the vision of His activities here and now, if we keep asking, keep receiving—then gradually we WILL adopt a new way of seeing. We’ll have an expanded perspective, a longer, broader, more hopeful view. The more we get in the habit of looking for what He’s doing, the more examples we’ll see.
The awful things we hear about, read about, and see going on won’t bring us down quite as much. Because with the Lord’s help, we’ll be constantly reminded that misery and pain are not all there is. In the midst of the darkness, He shows us His light, shines His light on a pathway He clears for us and so many others through tribulation to a new beginning.
This world is passing away. His kingdom is forever. That’s why we celebrate the Epiphany, which means the showing forth of light, the light of God in the face of the Baby, the light the three kings traveled so many miles to find, to see, and to carry forth into their world. They found the light and were forever changed.
Where the Lord is, there’s always light. One of the ways John, at the beginning of his Gospel, introduces Jesus is by calling Him “The true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every person.” (John 1:9)
Later, in describing the new heaven and new earth which we’ll ultimately inhabit, John in his revelation says that in that new world the light of the Lord is so bright it’s the only light anyone needs.
When you and I have found the light of Christ, experienced His light in our lives, like the kings we’ll never be the same again.
So what IS this plan the Lord’s busy unfolding? What’s it look like here, now, in our lives today?
We may see it as some unexpected blessing; in some wonderful occurrence the world calls coincidence and we know is a miracle. We may experience the Lord’s plan in moments of startling beauty—in nature, in music, in our relationships. Sometimes we may feel it as a rush of joy, the sense of great opportunity, a feeling of peace that passes understanding. We may see it in an act of healing—bodily healing or the healing of relationships. We may find his plan in the sudden solution to a problem that has plagued us, in a breakthrough revelation of some kind.
We see images of God’s plan going back to ancient times. We see it in the words of Isaiah, the most eloquent of the prophets. Some call him the “poet prophet.” Isaiah’s words apply ultimately to you and me, to His Body the church.
He says: “For Zion’s sake and for Jerusalem’s sake (Zion and Jerusalem represented God’s people in Isaiah’s day), “for their sake I will not rest until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:1-3)
That’s us: our new name is Christian. Followers of Christ. Members of His Body the Church. The Lord loves us so much He compares us to a royal crown!
As God’s people, you and I are automatically part of the greater plan, the glorious, always moving on, ultimately triumphant drama of God that Isaiah predicted and John described.
What we need to do is look for the light now. It’s here. God is shining His light in all kinds of ways. Look for the light. Like the kings, like Isaiah, like John, look for the ways the Lord is present. We have our part to play in making that light shine.
What is our part?
Reach out to people who need a helping hand. Thank God even when you don’t feel thankful. Take every opportunity to be positive and upbeat. Come to church. Pray for the people you love. Pray for the people you DON’T love. Thank and praise the Lord for His blessings in your life. Ask Him to help you live HIS will for your life. Invite Him into your daily activities. Ask Him to lift you up when you’re down, give you strength when you falter and hope when you need it. Ask Him how to help Him carry out His task of ongoing redemption.
When we do these things we’ll be carrying the light. We’ll be shining the light. We’ll be PART OF the light. We’ll have that new way of seeing the Lord wants us to have. We’ll have a new way of BEING.”