This is a sermon for the second Sunday of Easter. The Scripture it references is 1 John 1:1-2:2, and it was written for a baptism.
Light and dark, life and death, good and evil… the last couple of weeks, in different ways, have given us a lot of reason to focus on those themes. And this morning, we’re looking at the same themes again, but from a slightly different angle.
Partly because it’s Samuel’s baptism day, and in the rejection of selfishness, injustice, and evil, and turning to God, we come again to some of the fundamental things in the Christian life. But also because of our readings; in the letter from John, he wrote, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.”
There’s more than one aspect to light; more than one thing that’s meant by saying that “God is light.” By that we can mean that God is truth; that God is essential to life; that God is dynamic; and so on. But the aspect I’d like to pick up on this morning is the idea that in light there is meaning, as opposed to the darkness of meaninglessness.
If God is light, and light is a mediator of meaning, there are some things which flow from that. One of them is the value of every human person – including Samuel – because we each have a place in the meaningful creation of an intentional creator. As one ancient poet put it, that each person is “a jar full of delight,” suggesting that God delights in us, and that we’re invited to delight in each other.
Another is that every person has something valuable to bring, a part to play, in human society; because each one of us is created uniquely as we are and is irreplaceable in the network of relationships that make up community.
Another is that faith – or religion, if you prefer – is supposed to operate on a different level than a set of rules. Becoming a Christian isn’t about committing to be “good,” as if goodness meant no sex or chocolate or freedom; it’s about committing to a system of meaning; a system of meaning in which we discover and cherish and nurture the goodness God has given to all aspects of the created universe in which we find ourselves.
Some ethical boundaries will arise from that, of course; but not because religion is a controlling force in our lives, but because boundaries are a healthy part of knowing who we are, and what we’re about.
And this parish’s long connection with various social justice causes is part of being committed to Christianity as a system of meaning; because it says that the vision of human flourishing being open to every person which is at the heart of the quest for social justice, is also at the heart of God’s system of meaning for human life. They’re two different ways of relating to the same truth.
Having a system of meaning involves a sense of identity, of knowing who we are, and to whom we belong. Of course on one level we can talk about family – and when you’re as young as Samuel, that’s pretty much your whole framework of meaning – but as we grow, it includes friends, work, leisure, a sense of what one’s life is about. But there’s a level of meaning deeper than the daily routine of work and leisure, or even the personal connections of family and friendship; without denying the value of family, friendship, work and so on.
But that deeper level of meaning has to do with being children of God; with all that flows from that, as I’ve already touched on, giving meaning and significance to all the other, more mundane aspects of our lives.
This identity as a child of God can give us a self-confidence that’s not broken by adverse circumstances in life. How can we hate or despise what we know God created to be good, our very selves? It’s not about image or external success, but about something that remains even when we’ve messed up or failed or been the victim of external forces. Who we are created to be can never be taken from us.
And it can give us a sense of purpose; a sense of the direction of our lives as contributing to the overall good of the world around us.
God is light, in whom there is no darkness at all. God doesn’t do anything meaningless or make anything worthless, but everything God creates is good, and has value and purpose, including each of us. That’s part of what we say yes to, in baptism. It’s part of what we say yes to, as we gather week to week to worship together and be community to one another. And it’s part of what we ought to say yes to, as we live our lives out in the world, the rest of the week. That’s what it means to live as a disciple of Christ.
So with all of that in mind, I encourage you each to reflect on your baptism, and what it means in your life, as we continue to celebrate the season of the resurrection.