Then the Pharisees said to him, “Because you are testifying about yourself, your testimony isn’t valid.”
Jesus replied, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, since I know where I came from and where I’m going. You don’t know where I come from or where I’m going. You judge according to human standards, but I judge no one. Even if I do judge, my judgment is truthful, because I’m not alone. My judgments come from me and from the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the witness of two people is true. I am one witness concerning myself, and the Father who sent me is the other.”
They asked him, “Where is your Father?”
Jesus answered, “You don’t know me and you don’t know my Father. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” He spoke these words while he was teaching in the temple area known as the treasury. No one arrested him, because his time hadn’t yet come. John 8:12-20 (CEB)
I am the light of the world. These are the words that Jesus opens tonight’s reading with. I am the light of the world.
Preparing for tonight has brought me to thinking about light. When I was a kid, there were times during winter when we would lose power, just as many here in our area have lost power with the flooding. The only way for us to see in the dark of night was to light a candle.
We’re going to try an experiment tonight with light. What happens if I turn the lights off? (We can’t see. It’s completely dark.) What happens if I light one candle? (We can see a little. The candle gives off a little light.) What happens if I share the light from the candle with others? (It gets brighter and brighter. It sends the shadows away.)
Over these past weeks, I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics. Perhaps you have been, too. In the few weeks leading up to them, we were witness to the trial of a doctor affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee. A doctor who was convicted of numerous counts of sexual molestation against many young women, most of whom were children at the time. It was ugly to hear their stories. It was heart-breaking to watch. And, for me at least, it was frustrating to learn that complaints had been lodged against him and met with no response. A system that was supposed to protect and develop these young athletes had instead protected a doctor who continued to molest over and over and over again.
This is what systemic sin looks like. Darkness. It is only with the in-breaking of God’s light that such sin and such systems are dismantled. And it is only with the in-breaking of God’s light that justice happens. That those in power are disrupted. That new systems and new structures are created that serve all people, and not just a few.
This was the stumbling block for the Pharisees in tonight’s story. They could not--they would not--see the in-breaking of God into the world in the person of Jesus standing right in front of them. In the moment of judgment--or crisis in the Greek--they missed God in front of them. They missed the light that was Christ, choosing instead to remain in the darkness of their unbelief.
Where are you in this story? Are you like one of the Pharisees? Or are you like the blind man who will be healed in the very next chapter--a man who, through God’s grace, believes in, is healed, and, then, who witnesses to Jesus. The Messiah. The Son of God.
Do you see God shining into the darkness of your life? Are you even open to the possibility? What are your spiritual practices during this Lenten season that might help you better focus on and see Christ standing right in front of you. Perhaps in the face of a client at our food pantry. Perhaps in the person seated beside you. Jesus. Right in front of you. The Word made flesh. The great, “I AM.”
We give thanks tonight for the light. For Jesus, the light of the world, who continues to break into our lives and into the systems of our world and to turn them upside down, to expose our sin, and to re-create us into new beings and build new systems that witness to the presence of God in our world and that serve everyone, bringing darkness-dispersing light into all the world. Amen.
Preached Feb. 28, 2017 at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Midweek Worship - Lent 2
Reading: John 8:12-20