1As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ 9Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ 10But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ 11He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ 12They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’
35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ 36He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ 37Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ 38He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. 39Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ 41Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.
Next Monday is summer solstice. I have always loved the sun. Not in the sense that I needed to travel south to warmer climes but simply that I loved the light. In fact, when in 2002 we moved from the prairies back to BC I was wondering how I would do emotionally, trading sunny and bright Manitoba winters for rainy and dark BC winters. Not that I wasn’t used to rainy winters from growing up, just that I loved sunny prairie winters where even during the shortest days of the year the sun shines brightly and is amplified by its reflection on the snow.
It was in 1996 that we first observed summer solstice as National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It’s a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. In Norway, where I spent quite a few summers of my youth, summer solstice was moved the St Jean Baptiste Day or Sankt Hans. Pagan holidays were always baptized and made Christian, even if it meant to move them by a few days. The same is, of course, true for winter solstice and Christmas.
We are urban people living in an industrial society, so its hard for us to understand the significance of changing seasons beyond the beauty of a particular season or the preference for warmer weather. But for the First Nations of this land this is not only a memory but as far as they pursue their traditional ways of life they know that all of creation is shaped by the path of the sun.
When Jackie and I were living in Germany, she taught English in a couple of places, one was a private language school. Her British colleagues always referred to her as being from the Colonies. That was long before our current awareness of the colonial history of Canada. National Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes the First Nations of this land and their cultures. But we can only celebrate them if we take time to listen and pay attention to their stories and traditions. That seems more important than ever. Last week a petition was made to Richmond City Council to have regular consultations with the Musqueam Band.
Hand-in-hand with paying attention to the First Nations of Canada goes paying attention to creation. Of course, the path of the sun and the seasons of the earth have always been important to all people, as all of us depend on the land, even if we buy our groceries at the store.
Yet it is also true that in an industrialized society such as ours, we have tried to insulate our lives against the effects of nature as much as we can. Who cares about solstice when you have electric lights? And yet, all our efforts to insulate ourselves against the natural world have made us more vulnerable to it. Global warming is of our own making and we realize that the earth cannot be commodified, for we all depend on it. And we realize this while we are still commodifying it.
In the Gospel of John Jesus declares that he is the light of the world (8:12; 9:5). In the book of Revelation we read about the heavenly city, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (21:23)
As we give thanks for the path of the sun and the seasons we remember that Christ is our light, the true light. And as Jesus speaks in John 3 about judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil, as the light would show us who we truly are, so we approach Christ our light with love and humility that our deeds also may come to light so that we may open our lives to God and to one another.
Let me close with a hymn:
1 I want to walk as a child of the light.
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world.
The star of my life is Jesus.
In him there is no darkness at all.
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
2 I want to see the brightness of God.
I want to look at Jesus.
Clear Sun of righteousness, shine on my path,
and show me the way to the Father. Refrain
3 I’m looking for the coming of Christ.
I want to be with Jesus.
When we have run with patience the race,
we shall know the joy of Jesus. Refrain