Sermon for the Holy Communion

         Rev. Misa Furumoto

Happy New Year. The massive earthquake in Ishikawa, on the Noto Peninsula on New Year’s Day, and the aircraft collision accident the following day, have left us in Japan unable to truly feel happy. It’s heartbreaking to see people’s lives lost so suddenly, so cruelly. They were joyfully spending special New Year’s family time, sharing childhood memories and their hopes and wishes for the new year. We’re left questioning what this all means and what God’s plan might be. We don’t know, and perhaps we can’t know God’s plan. What we do know, or must believe, is that God is good, no matter what.

In the Gospel according to John, there’s a passage where the disciples ask Jesus about a man born blind, questioning who sinned—this man or his parents—for him to be born blind. Jesus responds, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” It’s hard to accept this explanation or the notion that everything has a meaning when my loving family was instantly killed in an earthquake. However, we must try hard to trust God and believe that His works and love will be revealed in this tragedy. And remember, God’s works, love, and peace don’t suddenly appear like magic, but are always revealed through humans loving each other. Let us pray earnestly and ask what we can do for our neighbors in the disaster area.

Today is the Sunday to commemorate the Baptism of the Lord, and yesterday, January 6, was the Epiphany, the holiday celebrating Jesus’s first manifestation to the Gentiles, as represented by the wise men from the East. An epiphany, according to the dictionary, is “a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something very important to you.” The wise men were led to this epiphany by a rising star shining in the darkness.

Like continuing the story, this morning, we read from the Book of Genesis, the beginning of the Bible, where the creation story is written. The first thing God created was light. Before light, “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Imagine the spooky, chaotic darkness; then God’s voice commanded, “Let there be light,” and there was light. One might think, “Ah, God created the sun first.” But no, the sun, moon, and stars were actually created on the fourth day. So, what was this first light? It may not be the same light as what we see and feel as brightness and warmth. It’s something much greater. This light was the beginning of everything, the beginning of life and love.

To make this invisible light visible, God sent us Jesus. Jesus was the light of the world. Yet, people didn’t recognize this light. Jesus, like an ordinary person, was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. It was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Why did he need it, having come from God? The Bible doesn’t provide an answer, but we know that when he emerged from the water, a voice from heaven declared, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” This was another epiphany, possibly showing that Jesus was the bridge between God and us. He was the Son of God, but also a human being, familiar with all suffering, sorrow, and pain. This humble person was indeed the light of the world.

Do you now see this precious light? When the world around you is too bright, you might not see it, or think you don’t need it. But when everything around you is too dark, it’s also hard to find this light, as in great despair, you might give up seeking it. There are so many who have lost this light sent from God, especially in the areas struck by disaster. Let those of us who see this light, knowing it shines in the dark no matter what, send it to them through our prayers and donations. Now is the time for us to work together so that the works and love of God are revealed.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.