March 4, 2007
There is no doubt that today’s gospel involves light, overwhelming light, glorious light. Jesus’ garments become white with a brightness that dazzles the disciples. And yet, it is also clear that for all this light, the apostles do not see. Even though Jesus stands before them in glory, they do not understand. The brightness of the light leads not to faith, but to terror. Peter wants to set up three tents, but he does not understand what he is saying. And after the whole experience is completed, the disciples say nothing to anyone—hardly the sign of confident believers. Light does not necessarily lead to faith. Many things can be illumined but none of them force us to believe. Faith is a gift from God and a gift that we must choose to accept. Two people can see the same thing and come to two very different conclusions. For all the brightness of the light, faith is never inevitable.
Over three hundred years ago the French philosopher, Blaise Paschal, wrote: In faith there is enough light for those who wish to believe and enough shadow to blind those who do not. More recently, the comedian, Ellen DeGeneris put it this way: At the beginning of all things, there was nothing, absolutely nothing, and then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a lot better.
Light is one thing, faith is another. The question that stands before us this morning is what will we do with the light which God gives? What shall we see? The gospel points to what we should be looking for: the presence of God in our lives and in our world. At the heart of the gospel is the conviction that our God is not absent, is not idle, but active. Through the resurrection of Jesus, God is working to establish a kingdom, a kingdom of justice, of peace and of love. We believe that that kingdom is being established through God’s power and through our cooperation. Believers are always on the look-out to see signs of that kingdom, signs of God’s presence in our world. Because Christians are looking for those signs, their lives are characterized by joy and hope.
Christians are a joyful people because each time that we see a sign of God’s presence, we rejoice. Each time medical science takes another step towards conquering a terrible disease, we rejoice because we recognize that it is God’s action and power directing that development. Each time warring nations put down their arms and establish peace, we celebrate because we see that action as one step closer to God’s kingdom. Every time that we survive a difficult period in our marriage, recognize a family member has moved towards reconciliation, or learn that our child or our grandchild is born healthy and safe, we celebrate. We see in all of these events the signs of God establishing the kingdom. Christians are people of joy.
We are also people of hope, because when evil strikes, we do not give up. When innocent children die of a terrible disease, when thousands of people are killed in war, when greed and selfishness characterize our culture, we do not stop believing that God is present. Instead we hope that God is active in a way that we cannot yet perceive. All of these evils that are present in our world do not lead us to despair but to action. We give our energies towards building a more peaceful and just world. When someone we love is struck with cancer, when our marriage ends, when someone we trust betrays us, we continue to hope that God will still save us. We look forward to a future in which God’s action and love will become clear.
Other people will look at the blessings of life and the heartbreaks of life and interpret them differently. It is only with the gift of faith and our willingness to accept it that we can see God’s action among us. This morning we are surrounded by God’s light, the same light that illumined the disciples on the mount of the transfiguration. Let us open our eyes, not to be blinded, but to see—to see God’s presence here among us and in the events of our world and then to live as Christ’s disciples in the joy and in the hope that only faith can bring