Seniors at VTS are given the opportunity to preach one sermon during our chapel team week. This was my stab at it preached at the noon Eucharist today. I am happy to say that I didn’t pass out!
Luke 8:16-18 — “No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”
I know this will come as a shock to many of you, but I can’t hide it any longer: I love glitter. It’s true, I can’t deny it: gawdy or glorious, sequins or spangles: if it sparkles, I’m a happy girl. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But Audrey, glitter gets everywhere and is impossible to clean up.” // // // Exactly.
Glitter leaves a trace, sometimes for years to come. // My unnatural love of this craft supply stretches even further than the confines of my craft closet. My love of all-things-sparkle has become a metaphor in my life: I use the adjective to describe a certain type of person and I’ll bet there is someone in your life, either presently or in the past, who just seemed to sparkle. //
There are those people whose joy, depth, or energy seems to glow through them. // The light they possess is dazzling and infectious. // Their sparkle gives us something to strive toward. // Their light offers joy, comfort, hope, or encouragement seemingly without any special effort on their part. // That, my friends, is the light of Christ and I’d like to introduce one of those sparkly individuals now:
It was a bright morning in mid-September and Jessica was excited to drive herself to school after years of riding the bus. The sun was especially bright that morning and as she came to the crest of a hill she was momentarily blinded. It was just a moment, but in that moment Jess couldn’t see that there was a school bus stopped directly in front of her; She couldn’t see that she needed to stop. In that moment her life changed, but the the most important part of her remained exactly the same: her faith was unshaken.
Paralyzed from the neck down, Jessica arrived at the hospital for months of therapy and rehab. It would have been perfectly normal for her to experience depression or hopelessness. But while she had her difficult days, the remarkable thing about Jessica was the positive outlook she brought to each day. In her mind, her accident only proved further that God was merciful and loving and that there was a purpose for her life. // Jessica sparkled with the best of them.
Working with Jess was an exercise in listening: but not just with my ears, listening with my heart to even the smallest gestures. As the author of Luke’s Gospel wrote: ‘Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.’ // // // While this may appear at first glance to be at odds with the “last shall be first” theology we usually hear in the Gospels, we learn upon reflection that the Gospel writer is talking about faith. The writer isn’t talking about taking away from the poor or destitute. The writer is explaining that those who believe in the truth of the Triune God will learn more and more about God each day simply by experiencing God’s creation with an open heart. But those people who put their faith in transient things or false prophets, as they listen to each day, they will see their faith whittle away because new information experienced in creation will contradict their false assumptions.
This short passage is an imperative towards listening: not listening in the way we normally do, with our brains working full speed trying to think of what we will say next, but listening with our whole selves. Listening with our eyes and our ears and our hearts. It is only when we listen with our full selves that we can see the sparkle.
Many of us have spent so long telling our story that we forget how to listen without looking for the trick question or trying to find a way to make sure we are heard.
Well, friends, the time for trick questions has passed. Right now, in this moment, you have nowhere else to be. // If we all pause for just a minute, like the map at the kiosk in the mall, I would like to proudly declare: you are here. // Take a deep breath and rest in that for a moment. You Are Here. Regardless of where you need to be next, or where you just came from; right now, in this moment, we are here, together. And in a few minutes we will be right there *points at altar* at the communion table with Christ. ////
We are here at VTS to be formed in community. Whether we are staff or students we are all being formed by one another, because the process of Christian formation is lifelong. No matter if we are being formed to be teachers or priests, youth ministers or deacons, missionaries or evangelists: we are all being formed, and every person here: staff, faculty, students, spouses, and families, are part of that formation. There are members of this community who are going to leave traces of sparkle on your heart. Formation requires that we listen for that still, small, sparkly voice of God and if we do that, we will find the Christ light in some of the most unexpected places.
It is in listening that we are able to learn about one another, and in seeing each others sparkle we see the face of God. There is a little light of Christ in the heart of each – and every – person here. // We all have brokenness and pain in our lives, and what a shame it is when that brokenness becomes a jar that blocks the light of Christ, burning within our souls, from shining to the outside. – Our brokenness doesn’t need to be a jar placed over the flame… it can become a lens through which those shards of pain become kaleidoscope pieces that add interest to our sparkle. That is why we have come to this Monday healing service: to offer up that brokenness to God to be transformed.
As the gospel writer reminds us, “there is no truth that will not eventually get out,” so who are we to stand in the way of this truth? // Who would hide a light under a jar? No one, of course, except each one of us who tries to hide a piece of ourself from the world for fear they won’t understand. // // //
I would bet that each of us has the potential to be that “sparkly” person in the life of another, just like Jessica was to me. Maybe you already are. I would also bet that each of us needs to make a conscious decision of what we are willing to let go of in order to truly shine with all Christ’s light. We all have the light of Christ within us, but only you know what it is that is holding you back from shining to your full potential. // // // Won’t you share your sparkle with us?