"Let There Be Light" Sunday, May 8, 2022, Easter IV, Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life

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Depositphotos_18648725_LCall to Worship

Sunshine Cathedral is a different kind of church

where the past is past

and the future has infinite possibilities!

This is the day our God has made.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it

Opening Prayer

Almighty God, give us true faith, and make that faith grow in us day by day. And give us hope and love, so that we may serve our neighbors according to your will… now and forever. Amen.

Based on a prayer found at https://www.christianity.com/wiki/prayer/prayers-for-hope.html

The Lessons

Click Here for First Reading

The Wisdom of Nona Brooks

“Three weeks of study and treatment with [Emma Curtis Hopkins in Chicago] brought Mrs. Frank Bingham back to Pueblo radiant and with health and joy [whereas before, she had been quite ill]…Friends and neighbors began asking Mrs. Bingham to tell them what had brought about her transformation. Informal classes grew up in response to these requests; she gave in simple language what she had learned from Mrs. Hopkins. [My sisters and I] were always invited to these meetings, and knowing how much we needed what she was giving…we accepted.

We were, as a family, in sad condition physically and financially…

I, myself, was in very poor physical condition, being able to eat only very soft, [specially] prepared food. For more than a year I had been praying almost constantly, ‘Give me light.’ On the Sunday before we were to start our new lessons with Mrs. Bingham, I attended my church, where during the communion service the song to be sung was, “nearer My God to Thee.’ I could not bring myself to sing the first stanza, ‘nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee, e’en tho’ it be a cross that raiseth me.’ 

I rebelled – I and my family had had all the crosses we could possibly bear. As the congregation sang I was filled with an inner turmoil, but as the song progressed I realized a complete surrender of myself and of the family conditions in order that I might be nearer to God and so I was able to sing the last stanza with the others. 

It was during the fourth class lesson...with Mrs. Bingham that my whole being was completely filled with a great light – a light brighter than sunlight, brighter than any I had ever seen. It filled me! It surrounded me! I was conscious of nothing but that intense white light! I thought that of course all in the room had seen the light too, but they had not. I alone had this wonderful experience. I discovered that I had been instantly and completely healed. 

Tho’ the actual healing was instantaneous, yet I truly believe that the months and months of praying that I might receive light had been a preparation for the healing which had actually come to me in the form of light.”

Click Here for Gospel Reading

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (9.1-18) 

Now, Saul, still breathing threats and violence against the Lord’s disciples, went to…[Damascus]…

On his journey, suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.”

The men who were traveling with him stood there speechless, for they had heard the voice but had seen no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was unable to see. Therefore, they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days, he was without sight and neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. In a vision, the Lord said to him, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the…house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.”

Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man and how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. Now he has come here [to cause trouble for] all who invoke your name.”

However, the Lord said to him, “Go, for this is the man I have chosen as a vessel to bring my name before the Gentiles and their governments and before the people of Israel. I myself will show him how much he will have to suffer for the sake of my name.”

And so Ananias went forth and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your way has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized.”

Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher

Click Here for Audio Let There Be Light

Imagine… Ananias hears God’s voice telling him to go minister to one of the most ruthless haters of the people who followed the way that Jesus taught. Quite understandably Ananias says (in my paraphrase), “Saul? You’re telling me to go minister to this guy who has persecuted, jailed, maybe even killed, my friends? You want ME to go minister to this guy who is hell bent on destroying even more of us?” You can see how this might be alarming to Ananias.

This is the story of Saul who later is known to us as St. Paul or Paul the Apostle. A large portion of what we call the New or Second Testament is filled with his letters to this church or that church after his conversion. He is a Pharisee who has lead the persecution of those who believed in Jesus’ teachings. What a weird choice of people to carry the message of Jesus’ teaching to the Gentiles.

Even his conversion is ironic in that he is struck down and blinded by light. But Ananias, ever faithful to God’s call goes to Saul, laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your way has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.” And Saul did see and did carry the message of the teachings of Jesus and the love of God to many, many places and people far and wide.

Light is a powerful element. It pierces the darkness so that we can travel and work at night. It provides heat, it disinfects, it cheers our spirit, and it can blind us when the intensity is beyond our capacity to perceive. In the creation story in Genesis God’s first words are ויהי אור  (v'y'hi or)  “Let there be light!” Everything else in creation followed that command by God.

Even on a sunny Sunday afternoon this time in history seems filled with darkness. From the greed of the rich, to the pandemic, to the unprovoked war Russia is waging on Ukraine, to droughts, earthquakes, volcanos, a looming famine, and the news this week that women in the United States are about to lose the right to control their own bodies, this seems like a tipping point in history. It feels a bit like the darkest hour of the night. And yet…

We know that the darkest night is always followed by the creeping slow return of the dawn. Even if the day that is dawning if full of dark clouds, the light still scatters the darkness. Even when we meet the dawning of the shortest day of the year, the light still comes as our earth rotates around the lifegiving sun.

It’s hard to believe that morning will come when we are at that darkest moment in the night. It’s difficult to remember that Spring will come when we are buried in the cold and snow of winter. And yet, it comes. The morning dawns and the Spring buds bloom and our hearts are once again filled with hope.

Today we are confronted by the story of Saul who became St. Paul, the Apostle Paul, a man who served God in ways we can only imagine. He persecuted the early Christians and many of the Jews of his time because he thought his list of 613 laws were what God required of us if God was to love us. But when he was blinded by a light as he traveled to his next destination to terrorize those who followed Jesus, he had to stop and listen to the voice of God telling him he was wrong. And when the Spirit came upon him he changed, he repented and began to do his best to bring the message of God’s love to all who would listen.

Where are the dark places in our lives that need the light of God’s love for us? Where are we unable to see God’s goodness? Can we open our mind and heart to dare to hope for a better tomorrow? Will we resolve to do our part to feed the hungry, clothe and house the homeless, visit the sick and work for prison reform? Will we open our eyes to see not only the darkness of the world but also the goodness of people even in the chaos? The Spirit of the living God can change us. Will we believe it? Will we allow ourselves to the changed?

Ken Yehi Ratzon Let it be so. Amen

For a list of music suggested to meditate on for this service click the link below:

Download SL20220508


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