The Shining


Epiphany 2 Jan 16 2011 St. Paul’s Bellingham

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

Lots of us, I bet, are fans of reality shows on television.

Out of curiosity, I wrote “How to be a Reality Show Contestant” into my search engine and got immediate results. Forbes.com* has a slideshow that gives us five points of advice:

1. “No stereotypes, please”

2. “Ordinary is OK”

3. “Sing out, sister” (like the vocally untalented William Hung of American Idol, be confident in what you do)

4. “Do a little sharing” (let people know something about who you really are)

5. “Cut to the video” (prepare a video for the producers)

Some few will get fame. Some by their fame will get adoration. Some will have their worst qualities known to the whole world and will be forever branded as “that person who….”

And fifteen minutes of fame will last…well, fifteen minutes.

A little recognition can be fun. It’s nice to be noticed. We all need some recognition, to have our uniqueness and value discovered, to be known for what is special about us.

It’s especially fun for me when people are really noticed for qualities that are worth noticing; for deeds or service or talents that really enrich the community. I like it when people are recognized because they really shine due to talent or hard work or both.

All of us are intended to shine, and today’s Collect asks God for just that very thing. But it’s not asking that we shine individually; it’s asking that we together shine.

“Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth….”

You and I may want a little fame; our moment in the sun. Some of us will get it and some won’t, and that really doesn’t matter a whole lot, because in the whole scope of things, we’re already pretty special, because God created us and has purposes for us.

The readings today are full of this insight.

In our first lesson we hear the prophet Isaiah giving us the inner thoughts of a mysterious person we know only as “the servant”, who tells us today of the knowledge that from birth they were called by God for something special. “The Lord called me before I was born…formed me in the womb to be his servant.”

The servant acknowledges that he has not always reflected adequately the call. “I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” But the servant is trusting of God’s faithfulness, which is calling the servant to share God’s heart to bless Israel, and not just Israel, but all the nations. “I will give you as a light to the nations that my glory may reach to the end of the earth.”

The Psalmist gives witness that the Holy One heard his cry and “lifted him up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.” The Psalmist now has a song of praise in his mouth, a song of praise for God’s mercy.

Paul, in the beginning of his letter to the Church at Corinth, acknowledges his call from God, and the call of God to the members of the Church at Corinth. Paul overflows with language that stresses God’s abundance of mercy in sharing with him and with this church the ministry of Jesus. Paul writes this way at the beginning of the letter knowing full well that he will soon have to be admonishing the church members in this rowdy port city, and pretty baldly at that, for their failures to reflect adequately with each other the mercy shown them by God. They are special to God, even while they are far from shining in their example. Corinth, in case you don’t know, was in Paul’s day probably a bit like Fairhaven in the rowdy and uncouth days when lumberjacks and sailors crowded the streets looking to quench various appetites.

Then comes John the Baptist again, declaring “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

And in this sentence is the very reason that we all are pretty special, that we all can shine.

The world is forgiven. God chooses the world for mercy. The sin of the world, the brokenness, all the “missing of the mark”, is done away with.

And in that we are creatures of this world, we are caught up in that. God chooses us to be forgiven and forgiving. And God does all this because God chooses to do so.

John the Baptist is taking himself out of the spotlight. He’s telling us “it’s not not really about me, it’s about him.” And as he does so he points at Jesus.

In doing this he immediately loses two disciples, who take right off and become disciples of Jesus. Andrew and Simon go after Jesus, who turns to them with a query: “what are you looking for?”

That’s a great question for us.

“What are you looking for?”

15 minutes of fame? I don't really think that's what anybody really wants.

In our rites of welcome for those adults who seek baptism this is exactly the question we ask: “What do you seek?”**

The answer is “Life in Christ.”

Andrew and Simon find what they are looking for by “hanging out” with Jesus Christ. They will shine with radiance in due time.

And in our “Journey” process toward baptism and reaffirmation of baptism, and in every liturgy, and in every Cursillo reunion group or Bible study or EFM class or Rite 13 gathering or Eucharistic visitor encounter, we have a chance to be with Jesus, to respond to his invitation to “come and see.”

Then, we’ll go into the world and some of that shine might show as we teach school or manage a business or attend to our patients or engage an activity in our retirement center.

We’re all looking to know we’re valued, that there’s something worthwhile about us. There is. We’re created by God, and God is seeking us. Furthermore, God has found us. God’s mercy is everlasting and over all. It’s meant to touch and transform us, and through our willing efforts to invite and to touch and to transform others.

We’re meant to shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory. We do when we’re filled with a sense of God’s greatness and goodness, and with the hope that accompanies the conviction that God is utterly, completely, fully, and finally for us.

The world is always waiting for a people who shine with mercy, with compassion, with deeds and words that invite the reign of God into everyday affairs. The world is always hoping for the people who shine with the radiance of God’s glory.

We’re called to be that. We’re called to shine. And we will, if we trust God’s mercy.

*http://www.forbes.com/2004/09/13/cx_pp_0913reality.html
**“Admission of Catechumens”, Book of Occasional Services (New York: Church Publishing, 1991), p. 115.

Artwork: "John the Baptist" by Leonardo da Vinci.