(1/3) Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12 • Psalm 147:12-20 or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21 • Ephesians 1:3-14 • John 1:(1-9), 10-18
Family is mentioned a lot in this week's scriptures. From Jeremiah on, the texts find different ways to play on the theme of people as children of God. In Jeremiah, God has become a father to the people of Israel. In Ephesians, adoption extends the eligibility requirements to all, regardless of place of origin! Finally, in the book of John, (and by the way, a separate person from John the Baptist) one reads that the true light, enlightening everyone, was coming into the world. This week's readings combine to form a universal message to all God's children.
And yet, it is not that simple. Times are hard. Tension is in the air. Where did this tension come from? The John reading gives some clue, in beginning way back, before anything was created. By verse three, a hint of trouble shows up in a line seemingly meant to assure us that all of creation is good. By verse five, darkness is mentioned: in tension with, but not overcoming, light.
From a human emotional perspective, darkness is scary. A person can go for a walk on a sunny day and enjoy herself. But try the same walk after dark, and suddenly one is worrying about coyotes, possibly, or other creatures lurking in the bushes. It's an instinctive fear, and it's useful. When the sun begins to set, the urge to get home is protective, decreasing the risk of everything from a car accident to a predator attack.
The tension between darkness and light is a motivating pressure for us humans. As with most things these days, Covid highlights the process. An extra measure of fear has been tossed into the mix, with daily attention to possible exposure to a strange, unseen viral threat. Most of the normal ways of living – and in holiday times, celebrating – are gone. The simplest things, from how one gets food to where (or if) one gets work to when one sees family, all these things have had to be re-thought, re-organized. Confusion and chaos have interrupted our lives.
But wait! Lo! While confusion and chaos can bring a sense of helplessness, they can also stimulate curiosity and clarity. Every time a person has to think about a task she has always done more less automatically, she has a chance to get clearer about her aims in life. Take John the Baptist for example. John is often called John the Baptist to describe his function as a baptizer. Here he is known for another role he fulfilled: that of witness to the gospel message (v. 15). Under questioning, John told the religious leaders who he was. Perhaps more importantly, he told them who he was not. As an addendum (John 1: 19-28), the message was not well received.
When a person gets clear about some aspect of her life, choosing what she is going to do and not do, she becomes a witness to the singular value of clarity. Her testimony is her life. In a sense, the person described in verses 6-7 - a man sent from God, who came as a witness to testify to the light – is everyman and everywoman. As with John, the world does not always appreciate the effort a person makes to get clear about himself. The good news here is that as a person moves from confusion to clarity, the need to please others matters less. What's left? Light shining in the darkness.
Morning: What are my functions in my family and in other settings? What is not mine to do or be?
Evening: How did my underlying principles inform my actions today? What was my lived testimony?
Psalm 147:14 The Lord grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.