“Walking in the Light” by Rev. Stephanie Cooper

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Listen to the sermon from August 4, 2019, titled “Walking in the Light” by Rev. Stephanie Cooper.  

Before we get started this morning, I’d like for everyone who would like to participate, to take an index card and a pen.  If you would prefer not to participate, that’s fine, just please don’t participate later in the service when we come back to the cards.  

So take your card and write down your name, how long you’ve been a member or attending UBC.  If you’re visiting, write down how long you’ve been visiting. Write down your first and last name.  And once you’ve done that, fold it in half and place it back in a basket.

We’ll come back to these a little later.

 

Let’s begin in prayer.  God, you are the light. And there’s a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in. Amen.

UBC: I’ve been struggling all week trying to figure out what to say to you.  What do you say in a “last” sermon? How do you wrap up over 5 years of shared life together?  Over 300 times of gathering with you in this room to acknowledge this God who is bigger than all of this?  How do you imagine a new future for you and for me that doesn’t include the other in it?

Larry chose the stoic and intellectual route; that suited Larry well.  He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. My friend Brett chose to tell all of his favorite stories of his time with his congregation.  I have other friends who have used it as a swan song. 

But I’m not going to do that.  All week, as I thought about what to say to you– this last time from this pulpit– I just kept coming back to this Leonard Cohen song and this passage from 1 John.  

There’s a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.  

Because our lives, our world, our relationships, are all full of cracks.   There are cracks. And these cracks can be places where darkness breads, or it can be a place where the light– where God can infiltrate our minds and our world.

Cracks.  

It’s a justice system that is bent to benefit the white and wealthy and the men of our society.  It’s religious systems working hard to uphold societal norms instead of following the wild spirit calling us into the forest.  It’s choosing comfort at the expense of young women and LGBTQ folks.

Cracks.

It’s my inability to slow down because we are told that our worth is in responding quickly, to text messages, comments on instagram or retweeting– being constantly “on”. 

Cracks.  

Its my friend Eva calling me out on my stuff many years ago, holding a mirror up in front of me and me running away for years before I acknowledged the cracks all over the story I had been telling myself.  Eva and I didn’t speak for years. But eventually those cracks in my story flooded with light when I chose to acknowledge (with the encouragement a loving partner) and in Eva’s forgiveness. And three years ago when Ashley and I got married, Eva stood next to me at our wedding. 

Cracks. 

We are all full of cracks.  Parts of our life, learned habits, modes of doing and being; cracks that break us. 

Addiction.  Pride. Hatred.  Putting our heads in the sand.  As first John says, “walking in darkness.”  Letting these cracks fester with darkness that is where sin breeds.  But through the broken parts of our lives and our world, that where the light get’s in.  That’s where God is able to penetrate the depths of our being. Light shines in through the cracks and illuminates what has been broken and points to where healing is possible. 

At one point or another, we’ve all pretended that we have our stuff together.  Sometimes it’s easier to live in the story we’ve made up instead of acknowledging that there are cracks all in the story.  But the light’s never going to get in if we’ve boarded up all of the windows.

1 John tells us that God is light.  And we choose what we do with that. We can claim to see no cracks.  We can choose to double-slat wood over those windows. Or on the other hand,  we can acknowledge the messed up, screwed up places in our world and in our relationships as cracks and choose what we do with them.  

I know my story is shaped by how I respond to those cracks. I make the choice to walk in the darkness or choose to step out into the light.  I choose to loosen the nails on the boards on my windows and see the light begin to flood in– filling the room, my heart, with a new way of seeing. 

Healing is only possible when we bring things out into the light.  

So as I leave you, I’ll leave with these few things:

  1. God is light.  The Bible directly describes God twice, and they’re both found in 1 John.  God is love and God is light. So where you see light pouring into the cracks, that’s God.  Trust your gut on judging between what is darkness and what is light.
  2. Walk in the light.  You have a choice about how you’ll walk.  Lean into the discomfort of seeing the cracks in your world, stepping into the vulnerability of the light and allow yourself to be seen and be real.  Walk in the light.
  3. Pray for one another.  Some of you aren’t praying people.  And there is no shame there. I have told many of you this, but my favorite form of praying is to carry you with me as I go about my daily activity.  If I tell you I am praying for you what I’m saying is that I am carrying you with me. I will be carrying this church with me in these days to come as you seek to walk in the light. 

Sisters and Brothers, as Wendell Berry said, “We are, even as we do, the work of love.”

“We are, even as we do, the work of love.”

I will always be shaped by the work of love we have been and done here, UBC.  

  • I will be shaped by our shared time together and by our love for the same things.  
  • I will remember the faces of these youth and children who have been light in the darkness.   
  • I will be shaped by shared ministry together–things like gathering at the capitol at the “families belong together” rally. 
  • I will be shaped by all of those afternoons spent under the live oaks at Opa talking life, reality– honestly and openly.  
  • I will be shaped by joy filling our kid’s place playground with church picnics, snow cones, and a dunking booth.  
  • I will be shaped by hard and honest parenting through the messy-ness of life.  
  • I will be shaped by mud sliding down a mountain in NM with our youth in a lightning storm, and living to tell about it. 
  • I will be shaped by the curiosity of so many who have openly shared their honest questions and inklings about this faith over beers and coffees.  
  • I’ll be shaped by your love for God and for being on the right side of history.  
  • I will be shaped by our kids scream singing camp songs and VBS songs.  
  • I will be shaped by your vulnerability in sharing your life with me.  And the safe space you’ve created for me to be a vulnerable leader among you.  

So pray for me.  As I will be praying for you. Carrying you with me in these days to come.

So what about these cards.  If you filled out a card I want you to pick up a card as the baskets are passed.  If you get your name, please trade with someone nearby.  

I was inspired by Brene Brown’s work of taking on a posture of generous assumptions.  She says, “what if we assume that folks are doing the best they can with the tools they have been given?”

She is clear that this work is only possible when it comes from a place of integrity and with healthy boundaries are in place.  I would be hard pressed to not name that without boundaries and integrity, this posture can be used as a weapon. And that is not what I am talking about.  

But I am so enthralled with how we might be liberated if we choose to approach each person and each situation with this posture of generosity. 

So my challenge to you, UBC, for this year ahead is to pray for the person who is on your card for the next year.  Whether you know them or not. Whether you genuinely like them or not. Set whatever boundaries you need, and then carry them with you.  And if you can, take on a posture of assuming they’re doing the best they can.  

I truly believe that if we lean into these practices, these thin places in our world become available to us, where it just feels different.  It is mystery. It’s those cracks in our world being filled with light, transforming us in the process.

There’s a crack in everything, and that’s how the light.. God’s very being… gets in. Amen. 

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