This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 3/14/21, at Berkeley Friends Church (via videoconference). The scripture reading for this sermon was: John 1:1-14. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (The spoken sermon differs from the written text.)
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“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
That’s how the apostle John describes Jesus. Jesus is the true light. He is the word of God that was born into the world and became a human being. He became one of us.
He is the true light that enlightens everyone. He gives light to everyone.
Isn’t that amazing? But it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?
I mean, is John really saying that the light of Jesus shines on the bad people? The light of Jesus shines on people who don’t believe? Is he saying that the light shines on the people who treated him with cruelty and even killed Jesus? This true light enlightens everyone?
This simple teaching from the apostle John has been hard to hear for many people throughout the ages. It’s hard to believe that Jesus would really come to save everyone, not just a select few.
Berkeley Friends Church is a Quaker church, and so we look back to the early Quakers to help us understand the teaching of the apostles. The early Quakers were women and men who lived a long time ago in England, before America was even an independent country.
In those days, lots of people said that you had to be the right kind of person for Jesus to shine on you. You had to believe the right things and belong to the right organizations to experience the light of Jesus.
But the Quakers said: “No, that’s not what the apostles taught us. John says that Jesus is the source of everything we see and everyone we meet. He is our life, and his life is the light of all people.” The early Quakers pointed to the apostle John, who says: every single one of us has the light of Jesus shining on us.
That’s good news! Everybody is included in the light and presence of God. He is here with us. He was from the beginning, is now, and will be with us forever.
So why did people hurt and kill Jesus? If we are all being shined on – enlightened – by the presence of Jesus, why didn’t we treat Jesus with more love when he walked among us?
John says that “the world came into being through [Jesus]; yet the world did not know him.” Jesus was right here with us, walking and talking to us, and we didn’t realize who he was! His own people didn’t accept him.
We made a terrible mistake. We were so blind that we couldn’t see the light when he was standing right in front of us.
But, again, there’s good news. The light of Jesus was from the beginning, living a perfect life together with God. He shines on all of us, always. He’s always here for us. All we have to do is open our eyes and see. Open our ears and listen. If we do that, John says that Jesus will give us power to become children of God. Sons and daughters, just like Jesus.
That’s what the early Quakers said, too. They said, “You don’t have to be anyone special. You don’t have to look a certain way or have the right kind of car. You don’t have to eat organic food or go to the right school. If you open your eyes to the light of Jesus that is shining on you. If you open your ears to his voice. If you let his light fill you and guide your steps, you can be a child of God.”
We all have human parents, moms and dads who gave us life. We inherit so much from them. But the light of Jesus gives us power to become children of God. Brothers and sisters of Jesus. Receiving a much bigger life. Inheriting grace, truth, and love from our Father God.
John says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Life is hard sometimes. But we don’t need to be afraid when people talk about how bad the world is. Because God created everything good, and he can make things good again. Everything that is broken can be healed in the light of Jesus.
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” Jesus is here. He is shining on you. Open your eyes, open your ears, open your heart, and you will see him.