A sermon with the congregation of Christ Church, Cataraqui, Kingston, Ontario, February 2, 2003
by Robert Brow (www.brow.on,ca)

Yesterday millions watched as seven of the finest men and women in the world died in the fiery explosion of the Columbia. The same day seven young people died in an avalanche in the Rockies. For many years to come their families will be trying to make sense of their lives. But some of you are facing similar tough questions in your life and family.

Prayer As we look at our Gospel reading today, we pray "O God our Father, we think back to the many good times, and some bad times, that we have experienced as your children in this confusing world. Help us by the Holy Spirit to make sense of our lives."

(1) Jesus' Parents Joseph and Mary had to move to Bethlehem so their son was born in what is now part of the Palestinian area of the West Bank. After his birth Joseph and Mary "brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord" (Luke 2:22). That tells us he was raised in a strict religious family. He spoke Aramaic, attended a synagogue in Nazareth, learned the Psalms in Hebrew. He was a Jew and thought like a Jew. That's how he took birth among us, but that did not interfere with his freedom to choose the path for his life.

My parents were both atheists. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan, where my father worked as an engineer. Then I was sent for my early schooling in French with my grandparents in Belgium. That has marked me for life. But I did not remain an atheist.

Where were you born, what kind of culture were you raised in? You didn't choose that, but if you think about it, you know it has marked you for life. That is why the fifth of the ten commandments tells us to "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you." We may not appreciate the way our parents raised us. You might not agree with their religion, or their lifestyle. But they gave you every gene in your body. They gave you a language as your mother tongue. And they gave you the hundreds of skills you learned in the first years of your life. That is most of what you are. They certainly gave you the preparation for the freedoms you now enjoy. Better honor your roots.

Prayer So let's take a moment to honor what we were given, and give thanks for our parents. (Some of us may never have known who they were).

(2) A righteous and devout man named Simeon pictured Jesus' destiny. "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death till he had seen the Messiah." And now "when the parents brought the child Jesus into the temple, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God." By faith he was able to say "My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the nations"

(Luke 2:27-32). Every one of us is a bringer of light or of darkness.

I wonder whether someone had a vision for you as a light bringer? Though my parents were atheists, I discovered after her death that my grandmother (Gagoo) was a woman of prayer. I am sure she pictured a destiny for me. It took me 23 years before I began to grasp what it was.

A sense of purpose in life is one of the first results of coming to faith in God. It may not be a great purpose like Paul becoming a missionary planting churches all over the Mediterranean. Or a fighter for civil rights for Black people like Martin Luther King. Or doing what Mother Theresa did in Calcutta. My purpose and your purpose is to be a light bringer. There are many ways of bringing the light of God's love to others. You have to do in your own way. Don't be ashamed of that purpose. Name it.

Notice that Jesus' purpose was to be "a light for revelation to the nations." He never saw that in his lifetime - he preached in a tiny strip of land now called Israel, and apparently only touched a few persons outside his national border. His own people rejected and crucified him. There is no other case of the most admired person of nation being rejected for two thousand years. Only now are Jewish people beginning to take pride in their Messiah.

But we belong to a church which has already taken the light of Jesus to just about every nation in the world. The Psalms that Jesus sang, and the Scriptures he read, have been translated into hundreds of languages. Wherever the good news has been received people have begun to love one another, children have been cared for. However insignificant your life may seem, you are part of Jesus' light in the world. There is a ripple effect; the light of your congregation here in Kingston is making a greater impact than you imagine.

(3) A very old woman had a vision of freedom Anna was 84 years old, having been widowed for 60 years. She came into the temple and also " began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38). The word redemption means the freeing of someone who has been held captive. She belonged to a group of people who had begun meeting, and fasting and praying together for the freedom of their city. And Jerusalem at that time was under the heavy oppressive power of the Roman army.

As you watch television, you can see how the longing for freedom is found among people all over the world. And when a group of people begin praying, as Anna did, for the freeing of their city, we can observe how God begins to work among them. In some cases there is political freedom, as in Europe in 1989 when thousands of people in Leipzig and other places began praying as they marched each carrying a candle. Not one commentator predicted the sudden movement of freedom that toppled the iron hand of communism. In the United States Black people marched and prayed for their civil rights, and one of them Colin Powell became the American Commander in Chief in the Gulf War, and now the Secretary of State in this present crisis. Low caste untouchable people in India are beginning to pray and find their freedom.

But political freedom is only one of the freedoms that God gives as people begin praying. In country after country as women have prayed together they have been freed from patriarchal oppression. Most people in Canada are anxious and riddled with guilt. Many suffer from terrible addictions. Young people are addicted to drugs and sexual confusion. People are not free to be what they long to be, and make the contribution they would love to make. Right now people are waiting for you to help them find freedom. Love means caring about the freedom of another. And it is prayer that does the freeing.

Prayer So we close this meditation with a moment to grasp the vision of freedom that God has in mind for us. "Help me to see how my life is involved in bringing freedom to my family, my community, and those who need redemption in the world."

model theology home | essays and articles | books | sermons | letters to surfers | comments