Lights, Camera, Action!

Prayer from Congregational Lenten Prayer Books

Way back in March and April, when Zoom worship was still new and I was still learning the ins and outs of it, I took a couple of webinars on the technical side of things and also on some best practices. And some weeks, despite my best efforts, there are still some technical glitches… but the reality is there are glitches in worship each week in person too… but we scarcely notice them.

We don’t expect in person anything to be perfect, but we are accustomed to a certain level of excellence on what comes across our screens. At least I am… and I lay that burden on myself, probably more than you folks do!

Anyway, getting back to the first days of worship via Zoom and best practices. I learned, where to position your computer so that the light fell on your face, but not to bright, not right in front of you, not right behind, preferably over your shoulder! You should have seen me in my study at home, trying to find the best spot, it was several weeks before I landed on the spot where you see me the most.

I used to tape a piece of brightly coloured paper next to the camera eye on my computer as a reminder to look there and not at myself! I don’t have to do that anymore; I know instinctively to look at the little glowing light.

The other thing I found challenging was leading worship sitting down. I was accustomed to movement, to a certain rhythm of sitting and standing, to being able to gesture and emphasize with body language. But with Zoom, that is just not possible.

Lights, camera, action.

Words that I never expected to use in my ministry. Sure, we had ONE class at AST where we were videoed and then our preaching and worship leadership was reviewed, and while I was ordained in 2004, it was a century ago in terms of technology. We had TWO computers at AST when I went there!

The other day, I used the pulpit for prayer as Food Bank got underway and there in the choir loft was Kathleen Cameron’s eulogy for her father, Laird Stirling, dated March 6, 2020. Little did we know how much the world would change just 10 days later.

What has not changed though is the Word of God. While we are called to reinterpret the words for each new generation, and how we view the words might be dependent on our race, ethnic background, age, gender and a range of other variables, it is precisely those variable which has made the words so enduring. Let’s listen to these timeless words from the gospel of John, in the first chapter:

In the beginning, there was the Word;
the Word was in God’s presence,
and the Word was God.
The Word was present to God from the beginning.

Through the Word,
all things came into being,
and apart from the Word
nothing came into being that has come into being.

In the Word was life,
and that life was humanity’s light
a Light that shines in the bleakness,
a Light that the bleakness has never overtaken.

Then came one named John,
sent as an envoy from God,
who came as a witness to testify about the Light,
so that through his testimony everyone might believe.

He himself wasn’t the Light;
he only came to testify about the Light-
the true Light that illumines all humankind.

The Word was coming into the world,
was in the world
and though the world
was made through the Word,
the world didn’t recognize it.

Though the Word came to its own realm,
the Word’s own people didn’t accept it.

Yet any who did accept the Word,
who believed in that Name,
were empowered to become children of God
children born not of natural descent,
nor urge of flesh
nor human will
but born of God.

And the Word became flesh
and stayed for a little while among us;
we saw the Word’s glory
the favor and position a parent gives an only child
filled with grace,
filled with truth.

John testified by proclaiming, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, The one who comes after me ranks ahead of me, for this One existed before I did.”

Of this One’s fullness
we’ve all had a share –
gift on top of gift

For while the Law was given through Moses,
the Gift-and the Truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God;
it is the Only Begotten,
ever at Abba’s side
who has revealed God to us.

Lights, camera, action.

John’s gospel has no birth narrative. It begins with a Christ that has been with God from the very beginning of creation, which used to confuse me no end, because Jesus came at a particular time in human history. However, came in human form at a particular time in history, but like Wisdom in the First Testament, was there at the very beginning of creation.

In John’s gospel, Jesus was Light. It is true few things on earth can live without light. It is also true that few things can live without darkness. It is the balance of the two that makes life possible. Tomorrow, here in the northern hemisphere, it is the longest night, and then the earth tips once again in her axis and the days start getting longer. And despite the fact that we have many more months of winter left, the earth continues on its way, as it has for thousands and thousands of years.

What has that got to do with John and Jesus you ask. First of all, like the other gospels, we don’t know exactly who wrote the gospel of John. It was written around 90-100 after Jesus’ death. As I said, it opens with beautiful words recalling creation. And then introduces John the Baptist. John is Jesus’s cousin, Elizabeth and Zechariah’s son. John testifies, that he is not the light, that he is preparing the community for one greater than he.

I wonder what that was like for John… when people are looking for a saviour, and they are looking at you, I wonder if he wrestled with his own ego as he prophesied? But he points toward the light! Jesus! Unnamed at that point, simply one that is coming after him that is greater than him! He is focused on Jesus, he wants to give us a clear, sharp picture of Jesus.

Just like a camera focuses on a certain point, depending on how you turn the lens, John is preparing us to see Jesus. Not the baby, because, like I said, this gospel doesn’t have a birth narrative, this gospel introduces Jesus fully grown. After the joy and celebration of his birth this coming week, John is calling us to focus on Jesus’s life and ministry as an adult. Bring that into focus.

What stories in the Bible are important for us in our time and place? What stories resonate within our body, mind and spirit that compel us to action? Because if we gather, read stories, pray, share in communion, baptize, teach, but NOTHING changes about the way we live, why are we gathering? Is it the first miracle story in John’s gospel? The water into wine? Is it the feeding of the five thousand? Is it the parable of the Good Samaritan? And then we are called/compelled to action. Action that can be both very local and very global.

Lights, camera, action.

Lights – Jesus
Camera – Focus
Action – Loving our Neighbour.

Last month, some of you heard the report of the Listening Circles and indicated how you want to be part of next steps. There’s going to be another opportunity on January 13 at 7pm, for those who were unable to participate earlier.

Lights, camera, action.

Lights – Jesus
Camera – Focus
Action – Loving our Neighbour.

Let’s all be part of it. Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following Jesus in our time and place. Amen.

John 1: 1-18 – Inclusive Bible Version
December 20, 2020 – Advent 4
Stairs Memorial United Church

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