"The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (John 1:9).
This verse was not part of the Gospel reading yesterday (which was John 1:6-8, 19-28) but it was a verse I mentioned in my sermon.
Having spent three days last week in hearings of the Royal Commission on Abuse which were focused on Anglican complainants and how we had provided (or failed to provide) redress,* I felt strongly that yesterday's sermon could not by-pass the reality that while our readings invited us to speak joyfully and constructively about God's intention in Christ for the world, some people have experienced the church as a negligent and uncaring institution or suffered perverse, predatory abuse by its officers.
How can the church be an agent of the good news that the true light has come into the world when in its history there have been corners and crevices filled with deep darkness?
Yesterday I offered three reflections in response to the disparity between our claim to offer Christ's light to the world and the reality of darkness within. With some further development here in this post, I offer these reflections to you.
1. In the sweep of human history, the true light of Christ is still finding the darkness within human society, including within the church. The Royal Commission is an agent of that light, exposing that which is either not yet right or not yet put to rights. As darkness is replaced by light we need to maintain the light (e.g. by continuing commitment to boundaries training, to safguarding practices).
2. We can only be a church shining the light of Christ out to the world if we have that light shining also on us because we know we need help with our dark tendencies.
3. We should remind ourselves of the doctrine of sin: ALL (including ourselves) are sinners in need of God; Christ died to save ALL. None of us is beyond need for the redemptive work of Christ. Sin is pervasive in this life, and none of us should ever be complacent about our propensity to do wrong.