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Collect

Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever.

(or)

Almighty God, give us reverence for all creation and respect for every person, that we may mirror your likeness in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings

Old Testament

Does not wisdom call,

   and does not understanding raise her voice?

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,

   the first of his acts of long ago.

Ages ago I was set up,

   at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

When there were no depths I was brought forth,

   when there were no springs abounding with water.

Before the mountains had been shaped,

   before the hills, I was brought forth—

when he had not yet made earth and fields,

   or the world’s first bits of soil.

When he established the heavens, I was there,

   when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,

   when he established the fountains of the deep,

when he assigned to the sea its limit,

   so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

   then I was beside him, like a master worker;

and I was daily his delight,

   rejoicing before him always,

rejoicing in his inhabited world

   and delighting in the human race.

Proverbs 8:1, 22–31

Psalm

26  O Lord, how manifold are your works! •

   In wisdom you have made them all;

      the earth is full of your creatures.

27  There is the sea, spread far and wide, •

   and there move creatures beyond number, both small and great.

Psalm 104

Epistle

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Colossians 1:15–20

Gospel

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1–14

Sermon on Second Sunday before Lent

Here we are – we have completed our Christmass celebrations, and yet today we read the prologue to the gospel of John, where he lays out the glory of the logos – the Word. Normally, this is a lesson for Christmass Day, isn’t it? So let us bear in mind what John says in one of today’s verses.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Candlemass and Christmass combine in one of the longest celebrations of a theological verity, the incarnation of God. I think we must take this notion on into Lent. For if Lent and Easter are to make sense, the glory of the Lord must be foreshadowed in what we understand as the reality of the incarnation.

As we follow the lectionary, we have been reading in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews about the perfect priest who offers humanity up to God as if we ourselves were being given as an offering. That perfect priest incorporates all of us in himself, our frail corporeality which can fail, as easily as it can fulfill, its potential.

Here in our readings we have the presentation of Wisdom in the world. Wisdom is the companion of the creator, the apprentice to the master. Wisdom

was daily his delight,

   rejoicing before him always,

rejoicing in his inhabited world

   and delighting in the human race.

The apprentice watched the master create the world in which the human race would dwell, rejoicing in humanity’s aspiration to wisdom. We still attempt to emulate the apprentice, don’t we? Don’t we, like wisdom, call out – perhaps in that indistinct groaning Paul calls prayer somewhere or in our petitions to solve the state of the world.

Does not wisdom call,

   and does not understanding raise her voice

about the state of the world and human fallibility? How everything has been “going to the dogs”? The despair of the understanding mind is all too apparent as wisdom is applied to what human being has done to God’s handiwork, that creation which delighted Wisdom when first unveiled in the light of a brand new sun.

We decry all sorts of things, don’t we? – when we call out against the injustice of the courts and laws, when we call out against the senselessness of our society, when we call out against the emptiness of our hearts … We call out, as wisdom does, into the abyss which lays all around us, where we must leap into life in all its fullness.

However, do we always emulate that apprentice of God, Wisdom, in all her delight in the creation? Do we care for the world around us, the oceans, the beaches, the farmland, even our own habitations, in the manner which would prove our delight in the creation, the work of our God for us, the reality which we confess of Jesus? When we profess that Jesus is fully human, just like us, we have perhaps forgotten that reality in our joy of Christmass, when we showed ourselves as party animals.

But today! – Today we are called back to this moment, two Sundays before Lent begins in earnest, when our discipline takes hold of our self-indulgent behaviour and beats it into submission with the great fast. Lent forces us to turn again to what is right, to what is just, to what is holy. We turn now to that “sober life” which the prayer book’s collect enjoins on us.

Wisdom and the glory of God are, I think, synonymous. They issue forth in that Logos of the gospel, don’t they? At one point we see the Logos as the wisdom of God, that unassailable argument about what love is perhaps. At another point we might see the Logos as the glory of God wrapped up in that love which has no vice, what I think fired Paul up to write his letter to the Corinthians. We are left to consider the Logos in its glory and its demand on us, aren’t we? Lent is an austere time when the glory of Christmass and Epiphany are not at all apparent. With the dousing of the lights in the church at Candlemass, we have perhaps left the world bereft of enlightenment.

The other night I was reading in the daily missal about Candlemass. The ritual of the day actually was quite different from what we did last week, when we celebrated the feast. Instead of extinguishing the candles, everyone should have been given a candle in order to go out into the world as lights. We were to become individual beacons in the world where there is so much darkness – in hearts, in corners of rooms, in forgotten areas of communities, in the halls of state where the affairs of individuals are determined with scant recourse to the people themselves. We are bid to keep our lights lit for the sake of others, not hidden away in the dark.

The dark corners of the world exist – they should not be denied. Terrorism is darkness unleashed on each and every one of us, and no one realises their complicity in those acts we dread.

When we look to the light of Christ, in that supreme act of love which is the reason for everything we cherish – when we light our candles in this dark world, we do more than hope that the flame will not go out. When we hold our candles in the wind, we profess a profound faith – a faith which the world bludgeons to smithereens because it does not want to love without any desire to control. The love of the candle flame has no concupiscence, no grasping of the other. Rather the flame’s light is given to all and sundry, the worthy and the unworthy. Like the sun’s rays, it illuminates all, were their eyes open to see.

How many times have we tried to tell our contemporaries that message? That “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

The grace and truth of the Word become flesh, can be lived out in the flickering flames of faith, hope and charity in our lives, but it blazes ever so clearly in that christian love of the other whatever the time and place, opportune or ever so inconvenient. That is why I think we are asked to turn to the beginning of John’s Gospel just as we enter into our great fast of Lent, when we aspire to do great deeds in the name of Christ.

Amen

 

This sermon is from Stilman Davis. It is copyrighted. You are welcome to use it, but put some extra money in the plate if you do.

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