Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1
Epiphany is the season of light. Sometimes light draws us forward; sometimes it pushes us away. Sometimes light brings hope; sometimes it provokes fear. People who experience exclusion appreciate the power of its illumination. Words from Isaiah 60 pour into their very being: “Arise, shine…Upon
Divinity will shine…Raise your eyes, look around you; those who have despised you have gathered around you…The dust of their camels has covered you, so many have gathered….As you behold them you will glow and your heart will throb and thrill.” The light of God shines glory among those obscured by society’s shadows. It is time, Isaiah says, for God’s people to rise up as beacons of divine presence.
Can you name times when you shied away from being exposed to the light? Can you name times when you could bask in the light, confident of God’s blessing? Marianne Williamson reminds us, “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your are a child of God and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Unfortunately, light imagery has sometimes served evil purposes in our society. Racist discourse has glorified light hues and vilified darker ones. It is important for us as individuals and communities of faith to have open conversations about the ways we use the language of light and darkness in our worship and our liturgy.
This passage from Isaiah also reminds us that the light of our divinity has drawing power, and so does doing justice. God calls us to “rise and shine” for the immigrant, the poor, victims of gun violence and war, the exploited, the outcast, and the vulnerable. Epiphany light does not shine on everyone the same way. The arrogant turn away, while others rise to bask in its glow. Few places can rival the joy experienced when Queer folk worship together in an affirming community of faith, and that is what MCC has been about for the last 51 years. The work of rising and shining is never done.
May this holy season be for each of us a time of moving beyond what is reasonable, toward the star of wonder. God, move us beyond grasping tight to what we have, to unclenching our hands and letting go. God, lead us to the light, moving beyond competition to cooperation, seeing that all humans are siblings moving beyond the anxiety of small concerns towards the joys of justice and peace. Amen
Rev. Elder Dr. Mona West