Light of the World–Easter Sunday 2010

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

...And the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overwhelm it! Photo: Courtesy Images

Light of the World

On the night of His birth a chorus of angels sang praises to God for this new life

Thirty-three years later He was reviled by angry crowds calling for His death

On the night of His birth He was hailed as the Prince of Peace, the heir to David’s royal throne

Thirty-three years later He was condemned as a false king and an enemy of the state

On the night of His birth shepherds came to visit Him and rejoiced that they had beheld the Lamb of God

Thirty-three years later He became the sacrificial lamb whose blood was poured out for the f0rgiveness of sins

On the night of His birth He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and gently held by His mother

Thirty-three years later He was stripped of his clothing and scourged by Roman soldiers

On the night of His birth He was placed in a wooden manger

Thirty-three years later He was executed on a wooden cross

On the night of His birth He was born in a stable, most likely a cave, open to the cold night air, attended by gentle farm animals

Thirty-three years later He was buried in a tomb, most likely a cave, covered by a massive stone, attended by armed guards

On the night of His birth a new star appeared in the heavens, splitting the darkness, and the heavenly host rejoiced that Emmanuel, “God With Us” had come into the world

Thirty-three years and three days later, He arose, a New Light, and appeared to the world, banishing the darkness of sin and all humanity rejoiced that Jesus, the “Light of the World” is the Risen Lord whose light shines forevermore.

December 22, 2002

This meditation was originally presented at Northwood Christian Church, Springfield, Oregon.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: He Stared Down Apartheid

Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  University of Portland, May 4, 2009.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. University of Portland, May 4, 2009.

He stood there, eyes often closed, telling a story, or was it an anecdote, or was it a parable?  How could he talk about the brutality and oppression of apartheid, and seemingly in the next breath, break into giggles?  How, indeed?  Because he had stared into the face of apartheid, knowing with certainty that this monster might strike him down.  Dead.  Like so many before him.  He stared and he did not blink.

The world noticed and wondered.  Then the world, in a most uncharacteristic act, joined his quest.  Far more from the bottom up than the top down.  People of faith–many, many faiths–joined.  Institutions and corporations, much to their complete surprise, joined.  It was called Divestiture, slamming closed the headgate on the financial pipeline to the government of the Union of South Africa.  Governments, some stunned into silence, others electrified into action found themselves in this ever gathering cloud of witnesses as this one man, although not alone among his people by any means, stared at the beast.

Unwavering, he held fast to the assurance of his faith.  Then, as he would say, the Spirit moved.  The monster blinked, then dissolved.  The predicted bloody civil war never occurred.  The backlash of black on white, or white on black never materialized.

Nelson Mandele walked out of prison and the Republic of South Africa was born.  This was no magic transformation, wherein all of South Africa’s problems evaporated like morning mist.  Poverty, AIDS, and a hundred other social disasters still had to be addressed.  And still do.

Tutu, Archbishop of Capetown, stands at the podium, his eyes closed, as the many reels of his long life are projected in his memory.  He laughs.  He giggles.  He does little dances.  He doesn’t do it because he won the stare-down with the apartheid beast; he does it because he forgave the men who were the apartheid beast.  He is reconciled with them and they with him.  This is why he giggles.  There is no hate, no grudge, not the most minuscule desire for revenge.

I sat in the hall, filled with people of many, many faiths, and I think I honestly can say that for those brief moments everyone of us felt hope, that the religious boundaries of our everyday lives had dissolved, just like the apartheid monster.

And by the end, we, too, were daring to giggle.

I am a Christian, a faith I share with Desmond Tutu, and I left with just the smallest inkling of what it might have been like to sit on a dusty hill in Galilee and listen to One who taught forgiveness and reconciliation.  Perhaps it was the giggles.