The Power of Light


I will be at Lake Mahopac United Methodist Church this Sunday but I will only be assisting with the service.  I discovered that I have transposed the number in the church’s address and the location that I had posted before was across the intersection from the church.  This link should be correct and I hope that if you have the opportunity to visit this church, you will take it.

Betty Edwards, from Trinity-Boscobel UMC will be leading the service and I hope to publish her sermon later next week.

Here are my thoughts for the Epiphany of the Lord Sunday (4 January 2008).  The Scriptures for this Sunday were Isaiah 60: 1 – 6, Ephesians 3: 1 – 12, and Matthew 2: 1- 12. 

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This is the Sunday called the Epiphany of the Lord. To me, the word “epiphany” has connotations of a great light, illuminating one’s imagination to new solutions and new opportunities. But to have such an illumination, one must have access to power and I am reminded of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s thoughts on the day of Trinity.

The day of “Trinity” was July 16, 1945, and it was on that date, at a location southeast of Socorro, New Mexico that the United States tested the first nuclear weapon. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project and the person who came to be known as the “father of the atomic bomb” is said to have quoted the Bhagavad-Gita (“Song of God” in Hindu scripture), “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.” He would later add “Now I became Death, the destroyer of worlds” as he contemplated the power of this new invention.

The Magi are said to have followed a light, a light that would illuminate and change the world. It is not for us to presuppose what that light was even though, over the ages, many have tried to do just that.

Matthew tells us in his Gospel that the Magi understood that this light represented a new beginning. Matthew also tells us that Herod understood that this new beginning was a threat to his present.

That is the power of light. It brings with it the opportunity for a new beginning; it illuminates new pathways. But also shows the flaws and dangers that come with change. Many of those involved with the Manhattan project understood the power that atomic weapons possessed and what such weapons could do in the future. They were prepared to use the weapon in 1945 only because the terror and destruction of continued warfare was possibly greater.

But, at the same time, these same scientists also understood what could (and would) happen if these weapons were not somehow controlled. Through the lens of history, we know that these fears were correct and while no atomic or nuclear weapon has been used in anger since 1945, the threat of such usage still exists today. All we have to do is watch the saber-rattling that is going on between Pakistan and India and the distinct possibility that a war between these two Asian powers can involve the arsenal of nuclear weapons that each company possesses.

There is also the distinct possibility of nuclear weapons, stolen from the arsenals of the former Soviet Union or even made in a hidden laboratory. And before we begin upgrading our fear of international terrorists, there have been a number of studies that have shown that enough information is present “out there” for anyone to build a small, portable weapon. I would only hope that the reason that such weapons haven’t been discovered or used is that because those who have the knowledge to do so also have the knowledge of what such weapons can do. During the height of the Cold War, the only thing that prevented the exchange of atomic and nuclear weapons was the knowledge that such usage would lead to Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD for short. No better acronym has ever been created.

But the discussion of such possibilities exists because we, the inhabitant’s of this planet, still insist on living in a darkness created by ignorance. We continue to live in state of mind that says that one can only respond to violence with violence. And we willingly allow people whom we call allies to respond with extraordinary violence because it is what we would do.

We do not seek understanding in this world; we do not want to move beyond the boundaries of our limited existence. We seek a comfort zone in our lives and we are unprepared and unwilling to move out of the zone, for any reason.

Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, pointed out that the many who first heard Jesus’ message did not understand it. It isn’t that the message is all that much of a secret but that people were more open to hearing the message (see “It is no secret”).Actually, I think they did understand it and it bothered them, for like Herod, they saw His message as a threat to their position, status, and power.

We live in a time and age when power, in whatever forms it takes is all we seek. We are not interested in what we can do with it but how much we can have. We will read the words of Isaiah that are the Old Testament reading for today and we eagerly wait for the gold and wealth that Isaiah speaks of which comes with the new light. But we will miss the point that the new light that Isaiah speaks of will illuminate the whole world and the wealth that comes with the light will be for all nations, not just a few. I don’t think there are many today who will accept that idea.

The Magi saw a new light and they were determined to find out what it meant and what it signified, even if that meant traveling across a vast distant away from their homes and their lives. But Herod saw the light as the precursor to a threat to his power and his response to the light was to try and hide it.

An epiphany is a moment of enlightenment, a moment when it becomes clear that the old ways don’t work. We see the light but nothing will come about if we do not change the way we see the world. If we continue to see the world as we have, where power and status are the defining limits of society, the light will do no good. The power of the light is in its ability to change the way we see things, to make sure that nothing is hidden from sight and that the power that comes from the light is used for all mankind and not just a select few. The power of the light is not the nuclear processes which power the stars but rather that of the power of the Holy Spirit that comes into our lives and lights up our soul.

Shall we accept the power of this light?

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