Our reading today speaks of a world of formlessness and void nothingness, until God speaks ‘light’ into existence! I can’t believe that it was 50 years ago in 1972 that Johnny Nash released his huge hit: I can see clearly now the rain is gone. Described as one of the world’s most recognizable Reggae songs, it’s been covered by very many artists including Jimmy Cliff and our own Ann Murray. It’s a song that always makes me smile.
What do you see as you look straight ahead into 2022? How clearly do you believe that you are seeing – actually? What unhelpful distortions are you allowing to mess with your vision?
We need to draw back, get back up to the gallery[i]. We need to regain some clearer, wider, healthier perspective. What do we see as we do so, looking at our own lives and our priorities, motivations, key insights? What do we allow most to drive us? What do we see as we look at others, or this awesome creation that we get to be part of?
Oh, most most clearly, please Dear God, I want to see YOU!
That’s exactly what teachers like Richard Rohr and so many others stress, how there is just this one holy and God-soaked reality. I’m grateful to them for so clearly articulating much of what I’m trying to say here. Central to all our seeing must be this awareness of how: ‘…there is absolutely no separation between us & God, or God and creation’. … and more ‘that we just have to keep saying it until finally we’re undefended enough actually to hear it and to believe it.’
But we struggle to believe it. That’s why we need to keep celebrating Christmas, our marking of how the Word of God came from heaven to Earth, in order to heal every bit of separation and splitness, brokenness that we experience.
That’s what Christ means as he announces ‘SHALOM’ at his resurrection appearances: that which was previously broken up and divided can now once again be whole. To come together. It’s what he prayed in his Highly Priestly prayer just before he was arrested in John 17: That they may be one – all of them – as you and I are one O God![ii]
That is the beautiful truth-missile which he aims straight at healing the separating brokenness at the heart of so much of our human suffering. It’s always as we feel most isolated, split off, divided, …from ourselves …from others …from reality as we know it …from God that we begin to break down.
However much some introverts may enjoy being alone, that’s not what I am talking about here! Clearly, we were not made for isolation! And we are especially not meant to be separated from our sense of God! Jesus Christ came to effect and personify that togetherness. Here is the one whose whole life, death, resurrection demonstrate the bringing together of all spirit and matter/ the sacred and mundane.
We all at times find ourselves feeling kind of like ‘outsiders’ wondering what this all means. What’s the point? Why am I here? Where is this all heading? Richard Rohr sums it all up so helpfully, like this, saying: I believe it’s all a school. And it’s all a school of love.
And everything is a lesson—everything. Every day, every moment, every visit to the grocery store, every moment of our so-ordinary life is meant to reveal, “My God, I’m a daughter of God! I’m a son of the Lord! I’m a sibling of Christ! It’s all okay. I’m already home free! There’s no place I have to go. I’m already here!” It’s aswe don’t enjoy that, don’t allow that, that we fall into meaninglessness. We need to surrender to ultimate meaning. We need to desire (to see it), to seek it, want it, and need it.
And so, I ask again, what is it that you most see / are being most given to ‘see’ as we move into 2022? Are you able to see how there truly is no separation between us and God?
O God, Please, Let There Be Light! Remember how we never actually ‘see’ light! Light is what we need to be able to see – anything. And so, when Jesus Christ called himself the ‘light of the world’, he was saying that he is the light by which we get to see the world ‘right’. Bathed in Christ’s light, may what we see[iii] be what he exposes:
- that there is only one reality in which we live: this good, benevolent universe.
- Let us see how all distinctions between the spiritual and the natural or sacred and profane are simply vaporous – the clouds – a lie – that Johnny Nash sang about, clouds that we believe will one day disperse, be gone!
That means that there is no place ever for scapegoating, for excluding anything or anyone… All ‘of what we see as evil’ needs to die is simply to be exposed in God’s light of justice, mercy, compassion, love…
I was very sad to hear of Desmond Tutu’s death the day after Christmas day. But I’m reminded of how that’s exactly how he lived. He could see the need never to exclude anyone from their place within God’s embrace: not the worst draconian Apartheid champion or most rabid violence-advocating Freedom Fighter. While determinedly attacking evil wherever he found it, it was always with tears of heart-felt compassion, aimed at restoration – longing to set the person free to be better, to become what God intended for them to be.
A restorative justice –never just for retribution! RIP Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
We need so many more like him. We need to be so much more like him.
Please God, that I may come to SEE CLEARLY NOW…
Also, I think that I am just noticing how the main bad guy in all of this – the problem – is invariably not so much anything out over there, as right here, in me. …how it’s my own often necessary but always SO LOUD ego that I have been so carefully building these past 62 years that I allow so easily to take ultimate control and to define me. And the moment I do that I become vulnerable to whatever that ego may or may not be wanting – in the moment.
My ego self or separate self is not a bad thing. My soul-self/ my best-self needs my ego in the same way that my physical body needs to be dressed in outer clothing. But please God, just as we may never allow ourselves to be defined simply by what we happen to be wearing, so may we never allow ourselves to believe that our inner selves are somehow to be defined by all the foibles and complications of our outer ego stuff. Because it’s not our egoic perfection/ a perfect ego that we are mostly after in this life, so much as an awareness of our divine union, you know, our oneness with God and with all of who and what God makes of us as part of God’s most beloved creation.
And so what do you see as you look into this new year? What do we need more than anything else going into 2022? Carey Nieuwhof quotes Nicky Gumbel: A firm foundation from which to make wise decisions in the midst of uncertainty and chaos.
Oh, let’s make Johnny Nash’s song our prayer – we say it with boldness, because we say it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright sunshiny day
I think I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2022.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon summary with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.
[i] Quoting both United Church of Christ Pastor Tony Robinson and Quaker, Parker Palmer.
[ii] John 17:21
[iii] Drawing from Center of Action and Contemplation’s Seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy