The pictures that were shown as a part of the sermon today
Sermon Text: Lean Towards the Light
What if you know you’re a dim bulb?
In today’s Gospel text, Jesus is talking to his followers. And I claim to be one of those. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” But I know I’m a dim bulb. I don’t feel like the light of the world. I know there is darkness in me.
Now, I’m not saying I’m an embezzler, or an adulterer, or a killer, or a thief, or something. But I know myself enough to see my own darkness. I see my own flaws. I see petty angers and jealousies and selfishness and laziness...and I can add to the list, but I don’t want to embarrass myself too much.
Light of the world, really? How about dark of the day? That seems more reasonable. If Jesus said, “You are the light of the world, and you are the dark of the day,” I could go with that.
I doubt very much that I’m alone in this view. Maybe you agree with me. If we are honest, there is darkness in our lives, as well as light.
So today I brought a couple of pictures for Show & Tell.
The first is a print of a painting by Salvador Dali, created in 1951. It’s an image of Jesus himself on a cross. There is a darkened sky, which is very dramatic. Jesus is on a cross floating in the air in that darkness above a body of water. There is a boat and fishermen with the boat.
Although it’s an image of the crucifixion, there is no blood. There is no crown of thorns. There are no nails. Dali claimed that this image came to him in a dream, and there is a dreamlike quality to the painting, as there is in so much of Dali’s work.
It is a controversial painting. The critics didn’t like it much. And after it had been displayed for a few years in a museum, a visitor attacked the painting with a stone and tore it with his hands. It took some months to restore. And although it is still not considered a great painting by the critics, it has been a powerful image for me since I first saw it when I was in high school.
Maybe it speaks to me because it is a mix of light and dark. Even as a teenager, I knew there was both light and dark in me. Even as a teenager, I knew there was both light and dark in the Jesus story. After all, the Gospels say that while Jesus was on the cross, darkness came over the whole land for three hours.
“You are the light of the world,” Jesus said, and he could also have said, “You are the dark of the day.”
My second Show & Tell image is a picture of my daughter Marie. She lives in a group home, and a couple of years ago, the staff of her home took this picture and had it made into a poster for me and Marie’s mom for Christmas.
Like the image of Jesus on the cross, this is a very meaningful image for me. It captures my beautiful daughter in a powerful way. The picture is very dramatic, with both light and dark. My sweet Marie is partly in shadow.
And that has been her life. She has great light in her heart. But because of her profound disabilities, she has also experienced the darkness of the world. And sadly, she occasionally dished out some of that darkness. But how can I judge her? She has a loving and compassionate heart. And if she has sometimes been violent, who knows how her brain chemistry has made her the way she is?
She is a mixture. Light and dark.
I am a mixture. Light and dark.
I am experienced enough to know that you are a mixture. Light and dark.
You are the light of the world. You are the dark of the day.
What if you realize you are a dim bulb? Well, I learned something from a course taught by a wise psychologist. His name is Mark Leary, and he’s a professor at Duke University. He taught something I find relevant when I realize that I am a mix of light and dark. Here are his words:
Many people are pretty mean to themselves inside their own heads. Other people take a kinder, gentler approach to themselves. They know that everybody has shortcomings and problems. They realize that everybody makes mistakes. The difference is not in how people evaluate themselves — that’s self-esteem — but in how they TREAT themselves — that’s self-compassion.
Self-compassionate people treat themselves in the same caring, kind and supportive ways that they treat friends and family members when they are struggling. Self-compassionate people approach their problems, failures and shortcomings with love and compassion rather that with judgment and self-criticism. Self-compassionate people try to be kind to
themselves in the face of difficulties.
That makes me think of the words of Jesus, when he said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have to treat ourselves as kindly as we’d treat others.
We are a mix of light and dark. “You are the light of the world.” You are the dark of the day. We are good and worthy children of God. And we are sinners capable of terrible things. We are both.
The Gospel says that God loves and accepts us as we are. I think we should also love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. We are a mix of light and dark.
Let’s be humble and realistic about the dark within us.
But let’s go with what Jesus said.
Let’s lean toward the light.