“HAVE YOU SEEN THE LIGHT?” –
A sermon preached at the
A sermon preached during a service featuring
a preview of the student musical
on the Book of Esther,
an appeal on behalf of the “Crossline” charity
working with the homeless of Exeter
a reading of the Exeter Interfaith
on the current Sharia Law debate
has come into the world,
but men loved darkness instead of light,
because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19)
You are walking along a country lane on a dark and cloudy night.
there is hardly any light at all –
you are almost groping forward like someone blind.
Then a gap in the clouds and a star
Or a farm house with a chink of light between the curtains
even a phone box lighting up a cross roads,
and the occasional sweep of a distant car headlight
car comes your way and bears down on you
so that you shield your eyes – even dive into the hedge -
Then you are plunged back into darkness again which seems all the thicker
And finally you reach your destination -
you see the glimmering of light filtering through the window -
and then the door is open - Hello, come in -
and there you are in the warmth
and mellow light of the fireside and journey's end.
So we walk life's path -
frankly we are in the deepest darkness -
we are lost, we are in despair, overwhelmed
by the darkness of our sins or the sins of others.
We don't know which way to go, we stumble, we fall.
times we seem to find our way - and we see more clearly,
we distinguish the muddy ditch from the gravelled track,
we step more firmly
Then again the clouds gather, we are again in the valley of the shadow.
perhaps the light comes but we cannot cope with it -
the light of judgement threatening to show up our frailty and weakness
and we shy away from being seen for what we are,
and stumble back into the dark
Look back over your own life - see where you have walked this far
points of spiritual clarity
suffused with the light and warmth of love and truth -
the day you affirmed your faith or fell in love or gave yourself to another -
points of sin and failure
when you could hardly bear to turn on the light
and look at yourself in the mirror
those points of despair and heartache
when the clouds seemed to overshadow all and blot out the stars.
us is on our own individual journey –
some right now I know are celebrating on the sunny uplands of life,
others of you (and you know who you are)
are struggling in the dark and the mire.
But here is the Gospel: In darkness or light, Christ is with you -
Even in your darkest hour, even when we see him not,
Christ was and is there with us and for us
Victor Frankl was
imprisoned in Dachau during the 2nd World War.
He describes how at the end of the war
the gates of the camp were flung open,
and he and his fellow prisoners were freed.
They walked into the sunlight, and blinked.
But then some could not cope with the light,
and then walked back into the familiar darkness.
by choice or necessity,
or because of our sins or our brokenness
we find ourselves in a dark place –
we discover the message of the Cross –
that Christ has come to be alongside us in our darkest hour,
and darkest place, even the valley of the shadow…..
even thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil,
for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.
And he replied, Go out into the darkness
and put your hand in the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.
But of course if Christ is with us
in the dark,
he also seeks to bring us into the light of God’s presence –
that can be a searing and judgmental experience -
like a car headlight at midnight,
or the hard light bulbs round the theatre dressing room mirror -
making us face up to ourselves as we really are.
what our Lenten journey is all about –
opening our small and dirty lives to God,
feeling our inadequacy in the midst of his glorious presence,
confessing our sins, and letting his light (like a surgical laser)
purge us and cleanse us.
is a painful enlightenment, it is also a glorious one –
Christ who has found us in the mud at the foot of the cross
leads us to the glorious light of resurrection morn.
That is not the end, but only the
Christ then calls us to be a light for others.
And how that light is needed.
Towering over the Book of Esther is the gallows,
75 feet high, built for the hanging of Mordecai –
symbol of the persecution and oppression
of the vulnerable and marginalised
within the cities of the Persian empire..
half thousand years later, many things have not changed.
The rich and comfortable still oppress and abuse the poor and vulnerable.
the Muslim women of Exeter who wear the Hijab
and who are spat at in our streets. Why?
Apparently because (to our shame)
some of the so called good people of Exeter choose to reject and abuse
those whose culture and laws are different from ours –
just as the Medes and Persians chose to resent and reject
the Jews living in their midst.
the homeless and marginalised members of our society
who turn to Crossline for help –
ask them how the world treats them –
powers that be, the powers of greed and selfishness in our society,
the powers of darkness, still overshadow the land.
The gallows built for Mordecai still casts its shadow today.
It is in the midst of this darkness, that we are called to be a people of light.
Remember the child who was asked to define a saint?
And thinking of the stained glass window, she replied –
“A Saint is someone through whom the light shines”
So are we
called to be saints – Not hiding our light under a bushel,
but letting the light of the Gospel shine like a lighthouse in a dark winter’s gale.
In the words of the old Sunday School song -
"Jesus bids us shine With a pure, clear light,
Like a little candle Burning in the night.
In this world of darkness We must shine—
You in your small corner, And I in mine. "
It is bad
enough being in the blitz in a blackout,
keeping your head down and your light out of sight -
but when your light is shining brightly
the powers of darkness are likely to home in on you.
figure shining in the darkness,
you are an easy and vulnerable target -
Those who espouse love and peace and truth
are always easy to hit in a dark and sinful world.
But such is the way of the cross.
Never fear to walk it – for it is ultimately the way of victory.
good time we shall all reach our journey’s end, our homecoming,
where Scripture says there shall be no more night of need of lamps,
for all shall be bright with the glory of God.
that day – let us continue God’s work below -
and whilst there remains but one child of God
who is homeless or abused or ignored or spat upon,
let us not rest until the light of God’s heavenly glory
has touched and transformed every life on earth.
Order of Service
10.30 am Service of Holy Communion led by
Rev Andrew Sails and Rev Chares Hadley
Hymn 457 “Christ whose glory fills the skies”
Reading: Esther 3:8-15 (p. 503) - Haman stirs up hatred against those who follow other laws and customs
Introducing the Musical “Poly-Esther” and also the Exeter Interfaith Group Statement on the Sharia Law controversy
Reading: John 3:16-21 (p.1066)
The work of “Crossline” – Kate Spencer
Hymn SOF 329 “Let there be love” 우리 안에 사랑을
Sermon – “Have you seen the Light?”
Hymn 796 “Lord of light”
(during which the collection is taken)
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer
[Young People enter]
Hymn SOF 315 “Jubilate” (sung three times)
(during which the offertory is brought forward)
Hymn 29 “Thou whose Almighty Word”