Transcribed from the audio

O God of light, from whom all good things come, send your spirit into our lives. By the flame of your wisdom, open the horizons of our minds, loosen our tongues to sing your praise in words, and to go beyond speech praising you in the silence deep within our hearts. Amen.

Today marks the midpoint of our Lenten journey. We are halfway to Jerusalem. As such, it seems an appropriate time to let loose of the luggage we brought with us on this journey and to take stock of where we are. You’ll recall that on the first Sunday of Lent Jesus is driven into the wilderness by the Spirit to keep company with wild beasts and to be tempted by Satan for 40 days and 40 nights. We, too, are invited on our Lenten journey to enter into the wilderness wrestling with the wild beasts and the temptations in our life. It is a time of self–reflection, repentance, and yes, preparation for renewal and resurrection.

For those of you who decided to wrestle with temptations and as part of your Lenten discipline decided that you would give up sweets or chocolate or alcohol or whatever, how’s that going for you? For those of you who decided to take something on, perhaps a new spiritual practice or reading the Bible daily, how’s that going for you? And for those of us who may not have made a plan, that we decided we would take one day at a time, how’s that going for you? The truth is I think we can all attest to the fact that some days we are more faithful and other days perhaps not so much.

I suspect we could also, in this period of self–reflection, attest to the fact that we find, at times—and perhaps for some of you today—darkness on that journey: a spiritual darkness, a relational darkness, a physical darkness, a financial darkness. It seems as if darkness is a part of the human condition. Of course, we’re sensitive to that because much in our culture and even in today’s gospel lesson and throughout much of Scripture, we have this dichotomy of the light and the dark. You definitely don’t want to be in the dark. That’s where bad things and evil things and dangerous things happen. Just look at today’s gospel lesson.

Today, however, I would like to invite you to do something that may seem, at least initially, counterintuitive, countercultural. I invite you to explore the possibility that actually embracing the darkness could give you more clarity on finding the Light or being better in touch with the Light of Christ that abides in you. A wonderful Lenten companion for me this year has been Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark. She posits the view that, in fact, to know the dark you need to go dark, to lose your sight and in that process discover how things can sing and bloom even in the darkness. She makes the point that 70% of our sense receptors are located in our eyes and that our other senses can be overpowered and driven by our physical sight. The problem with that is that we see things superficially; we see them in the outward appearance, not necessarily in their entirety, in their fullness. We can mistake sight for perception. In the course of this book she talks about finding—and I would call it the Light of Christ—by walking in the dark, by praying in the dark. Why do you suppose most of us who meditate close our eyes? It’s to shut out the external distractions and to get in touch, in better touch, with what is deep inside us, the Spirit, if you will.

The illustration in her book that really caught my attention was the story about a French resistance fighter by the name of Jacques Lusseyran who was blinded by an accident at age 7. In those days and in that culture, people who are blind were often swept to the margins of society. Unless you could learn to cane a chair or something of that nature, you were almost destined to become a beggar on the street. Lusseyran’s doctors urged his parents to send him to a residential school for the blind in Paris but they refused. They were not prepared to marginalize their son. They wanted to mainstream their son; so they kept him in the local public school. His mother learned braille. He learned to type on a braille typewriter and he learned a lot of other life–giving life–sustaining lessons along the way. His father was a deeply spiritual man and he told his son, “Always tell us when you learn something, when you discover something.”

So Lusseyran became a discoverer of the new world that he was inhabiting. He’d lost his physical sight; but what he discovered was that the light that had been external to him came to abide within him. He discovered that light dwells where life dwells: inside us. Then he came to know that the light within him gave him the sight that he needed to navigate a new landscape. He also discovered something else that was very important to him that he otherwise probably would never have known or learned had he not been physically blind. He learned that the quality and the depth of his light was totally dependent on his inner condition. When he was sad or he was afraid the light went out, sometimes totally to where he was left utterly blind. Conversely, when he was joyful and attentive to that light it came back as strong as ever. What he came to quickly realize was that if he wanted to abide and dwell in that Light the best way for him to do that was to love.

That lesson served him well when in 1944 the Nazis captured Lusseyran and shipped him to a concentration camp. He was surrounded by hate and evil and he learned that he was starting to get consumed with anger in response to that and he started running into things and tripping over things and his world got smaller and smaller and darker and darker. Then he remembered, remembered how to attend to the true Light inside of him and it came back. The most valuable thing he learned in that experience was that no one could turn off his light without his consent. My friends, isn’t that true of us? That when we are filled with anger or despair or fear we start to run into things and trip over things, sometimes ourselves? Our world gets smaller and smaller and darker and darker.

We’re halfway to Jerusalem. I invite you at this midpoint to consider dropping some of that baggage you brought into the wilderness with you. Travel light, go dark to better find the Light in your life. And as you journey on to Jerusalem tending to that Light, when you arrive at Easter Day may you be filled with the Light that came into the world and was not overcome by the darkness. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to the end that all who believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” That’s the promise that awaits us. A blessed rest of the journey to you. May you, too, rekindle the Light that abides in you and blaze like the holy fire of Easter on Easter Day.



The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope