Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Readings – Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40: 1-12; I Corinthians 1: 1-9; John 1: 29-42
This week I have been thinking about and praying for the people of Ukraine. If you want a picture of evil, just watch what the Russians are doing to them. They are striking the utilities, gas, water, and electricity, and slowly but surely, they are making everyday life exceedingly difficult for the people of Ukraine. The darkness is pushing to overcome the light. Yet I recall the words from the Gospel according to St. John —
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
So, I pray that the darkness will not overcome the light in Ukraine where people are struggling mightily.
When St. John wrote his words, the Light of God had come into the world and the world tried mightily to snuff it out. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of that day, tried to snuff the light by constantly challenging Jesus.
Jesus, the sabbath breaker; Jesus, the tradition breaker; Jesus, the rule breaker.
And they could not, so they turned to the government to snuff out the light. They went to King Herod, and he differed to Pontus Pilate, and he differed to the crowd. Choose Barabbas or Jesus of Nazareth.
And the crowd cried out that Jesus was to be crucified. So, he was nailed to a cross to die, and later his body was sealed in a stone tomb. But God would not let it be. The Light would not be snuffed out and buried. On that first Easter, the Light rose and his spirit then shared with his followers and beyond. We know the story.
Returning to our gospel for today, when Jesus saw two men following him, Jesus asked them, “what are you looking for?”. They followed with a question, “Where are you staying? and Jesus answered, “Come and see”.
Come and see was the invitation Jesus extended to them, “Check me out”; “Check out the life of a person of faith”; “Check out the Light of the world”; “Check out eternal life”.
For three years they followed; for three years they experienced how the darkness tried to overcome, tried to snuff out the flame. And on Good Friday, they thought the darkness had won. On Good Friday they mourned, and they got ready to go home, and continue their search for another star in the sky that would light up their lives, another light in the darkness that could not be overcome.
They learned on those dusty roads of Israel that following the Light, that following Jesus was not for wimps, not for the faint of heart, not for pleasure seekers. To come and see and follow, to come and see and pick up the torch, to pick up the light, was tough. As the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. That is the path of life for the people of God.
So, I object to John the Baptist’s words – “Behold the Lamb of God”. Yes, I object! Jesus was not a cuddly, soft, gentle bleeding heart of a man. Jesus was a man of loving service, and it took all his strength to serve the Lord God with all his heart, mind, and soul, and to love his neighbor above himself.
As we read the gospels, we are constantly reminded of the Light come into the world, and the darkness did all in its power to extinguish the Light. It was not easy for Jesus, and it is not easy for those of us who follow in his ways.
We read our gospels full of Jesus’ stories.
We receive the sacraments of grace.
We gather in prayer.
We gather in conversation.
We generously give of ourselves.
We work to keep our hearts burning with the lamp light entrusted to us in our day.
It ain’t easy. It ain’t for wimps.
Be strong. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.” (I Peter 5:8-9) Be strong.
The Lord God, the Light of the world, is with us!
The Light shines forth in the darkness, and the darkness did not, the darkness does not, and the darkness will not overcome it.