By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
April 27, 2008
Read: John 14:15-21
Jesus says today, “I will not leave you orphaned: I am coming to you.” Jesus spends a great deal of time in John’s gospel explaining to his disciples that he is about to die and what they need to know before he leaves them. Jesus is explaining his death as some kind of family reunion. He is going to the Father and in the meantime, the disciples are in charge. But they are not alone. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will be coming and will be with them and us forever. We will not be orphaned.
It’s been a while since Jesus’ death on the cross. A long while. And it may appear as if Jesus did indeed leave us orphaned. Where is this Holy Spirit; where is God’s presence in our world today?
There is a story about a university professor who challenged his students with a question. “Did God create everything that exists?” One student bravely replied, that “Yes, He did!”
“God created everything?” the professor asked. “Yes, sir,” the student replied. The professor answered, “If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists. And according to the principal that our works define who we are, then God is evil.” The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with himself, and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the faith in God is a myth.
Another student raised his hand and said, “Can I ask you a question, professor? “Of course,” replied the professor. The student stood up and asked, “Professor, does cold exist?” “What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?” The students snickered at the young man’s question.
The young man replied, “In fact, sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is, in reality, the absence of heat. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat. All matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel when we have no heat.” The student continued, “Professor, does darkness exist?” The professor responded, “Of course it does.” The student replied, “Once again you are wrong, sir. Darkness does not exist either. Darkness is, in reality, the absence of light. We can study light, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton’s prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wave lengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”
Finally, the young man asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?” Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course, as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”
To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold – a word created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love, that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”
The professor sat down. The young student’s name – Albert Einstein.
Now, I’m not sure if this is a true story, but it is a story rich in meaning. Where is the Spirit’s presence today? Where is the light of Christ in our lives? Jesus says, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” There is a chain reaction of love expressed here and this chain reaction of love is the very revelation of God in this world! John’s first letter tells us that “God is love”, the self-giving love revealed in the living and dying of Jesus. This love, John writes, continues to be revealed to the world as we love one another as God has loved us. God will “look like” your smile offered to the new visitor in church; God will “feel like” your hand extended to someone in need; God will “sound like” your words of encouragement spoken to the one who is struggling.
God is real and present even if we cannot see Him, or feel Him, or hear Him…for ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’.
In her book, God in the Dark, Luci Shaw tells of standing at her window and looking west on a wintry Saturday afternoon. The sun was low on the horizon, and snow covered the ground. Then a strong wind came up and started blowing the loose snow. Listen to how Luci Shaw described that:
“The snow ‘made the wind visible in a curiously beautiful way, like a fast-moving river of light, with the snow dust catching and holding the glints from the sun.”
It’s a beautiful image…wind made visible by snow dust. We can’t see the wind, but we can see it’s effects. We can see wind move the limbs of trees. We can see wind catch a flag and hold it out straight. The moving limbs of trees aren’t wind and don’t look like wind, but we know that it is the wind that is moving them. But the snow dust, glinting in the sun and caught up in the wind, is different. When we see the snow dust caught up in the wind—moving with the wind—we are suddenly privileged to see something of the wind itself—to see the shape of the wind—to see its swirls—its ups and downs. The snow dust, at least for a moment, makes the invisible visible.
Then Luci Shaw went on to say something else. She took that image of the snow dust in the wind and made something even more wonderful out of it. She said that God is made visible in the lives of people. “God shines on them and shows us in their lives the way the wind is blowing”.
Today, let us reflect on the words of the student about evil. We know, we believe, in God. We believe that God sent his only son and we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. God dwells with us, leaving us notes all over the place… “love one another, don’t be afraid; believe in God, believe also in me. If it were not so, would I have told you?” “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”.
Let us be the light of Christ in this world and illuminate the darkness. Let us be a measurement for God’s love in the world; Let us shine so brightly that darkness, that evil, does not exist. Let God’s loves pour into our hearts, blow into our lives and shape our lives, in a strong and mighty way. Amen.
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