Third Sunday after the Epiphany Year A

Offering relief to one who is suffering may be one of the holiest gifts that can be given.

A suffering person often feels alone, hopeless, and helpless. A person who is suffering cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel...in fact, there is often no light at all....and no tunnel....just limits and walls and darkness.

Suffering shows up in 10,000 ways. And being able to offer some relief from suffering can happen in 10,000 ways.

You know this from your own life. You have suffered. We all have suffered in some way or another in our lives. In one way or another we have all found ourselves sitting in darkness.

And (hopefully) we all also know the great relief that can come when someone else reaches out and brings some Light to our dark and hopeless situation.

Often, when Light comes, we are filled with more than relief....we are elated....we know that we are not alone and that there is a chance things will be better.

This is an important theme through all of scripture. Some folks even believe that this is the primary message of the bible--the Light of God always overcomes the darkness of the world.

In this week's reading of Isaiah we see one of the happiest moments in all of scripture: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them a light has shined." Isaiah was actually writing about things that had already happened and things that he hoped would happen again in the future. The people reading / hearing his words knew and understand darkness and oppression, and they also could understand the dream of the Light shining on them again. An interesting side note in this passage....look at one of the ways Isaiah said they would rejoice: "they rejoice....as people exult when dividing plunder". Now it is fun to make a modern day comparison here to kids dividing up Halloween candy, but I think Isaiah had something else in mind.

In Psalm 27 we see a person who has experienced both darkness and Light....we see a person who knows what it means to be down and what it means to be up. Read Psalm 27 and then read Psalm 23. There are so many of the same images and messages shared between the two.

In the portion of Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth we are looking at this week we see Paul doing a bit of housekeeping around what appears to be a quarrel within that community. People were fighting over the lineage of their belief--one was baptized by Paul, others were baptized by Apollos, or Cephas, etc. Paul appears to be upset about this for a variety of reasons, but the primary issue is they were putting themselves back in to a darkness from which they had been pulled. He wanted them to understand that they no longer needed to divide their loyalties among gods or people, but that there is power and Light and relief and freedom found when focusing on Christ.

The message that Isaiah shared was so powerful, as the writer of Matthew was telling the story of Jesus, he quoted it to emphasize what it was that Jesus was doing. That writer saw that Jesus's message of repentance as bringing Light in to the darkness. And this is a hard message to argue with....after calling disciples, what do we see Jesus does? He travels "throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people." That seems to be a great example of offering relief to suffering people and bringing Light in to darkness.

God of Light,
why do I love the darkness so much?
Why can I not accept the Light
you shine?
Why is it important for me to
keep my head under the covers
and make myself suffer?
Help me as I attempt to accept
Your Light.
Help me as I learn to
follow your example
and bring

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