Scientists working in the deep sea off the coast of New Zealand have found three types of sharks that glow in the dark. They are fairly sure that they developed the capacity to glow in the dark because of where they lived, which makes sense since they live in the deep, dark sea.
Tonight, October 31st, All Hallow’s Eve – more commonly known as Halloween – many people will light candles in pumpkins. A light in the darkness of a different sort, and in the secular arena a night on which we see scary costumes contrasted with light and airy costumes; walks through the cold and dreary night contrasted with sweets and delights shared in abundance.
As you may know, All Hallow’s Eve (with the word “Hallow” coming from Old English and meaning “holy” or “sanctified”) is also the night before All Saints Day, a day set aside by the Church in the 700s (that over 1300 years ago) to remember those who recognized Christ’s loving claim on their lives and sought to live in deeply faith-filled ways. All Hallow’s Eve was and is, therefore, a time to hold vigil as we get ready to remember how profoundly and wonderfully God in Christ can shape the lives of others and our lives. Freeing us from captivity to sin – as the Apostle Paul wrote - so that our lives might shine with the light of Christ in the often darkness of this world.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by God's grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus -- Romans 3:23-24
October 31st was also the day when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis upon the door of the Church in Wittenberg, Germany, intending to open up a discussion on what we as Christians believe and practice in matters of faith, and to try and correct ways that Luther believed the Church had gone astray. Luther instead began a revolution - and though not everything went well with what became known as the Reformation – that movement of Christ through the people – the saints seeking to reclaim the core of what it means to be a follower of Christ who by grace freely given on the cross sets us free – became a great light in the darkness of the 1500s and beyond.
Luther was not alone – there were many other reformers before and after him. And the Reformation work of the Church continues even to these present days as we seek to listen to and follow the Holy Spirit’s revealing of Christ through Scripture and in life. We are inheritors of the Reformation and freeing work of Christ through generations of Saints who have come before us.
And today Patrick and Shane - on this day with all of these other significances - you as young people are affirming the faith of Christ in which you were baptized – light upon light upon light given for you and through you for others.
You are not affirming that you have no questions.
You are not affirming that you have no doubts.
You are not affirming that you have everything all figured out or that because you believe in God everything will always go well in life.
And you are not affirming that you are perfect, for goodness knows and certainly God knows that none of us as humans are perfect, and all of us struggle in this broken and sin-filled world.
You are affirming the faith given to you as a perfecting and loving and freeing gift by God through Christ in the Power of the Holy Spirit - a gift nurtured and encouraged by family members and faith community. Yes, you are affirming that this faith that has been given to you lays a claim of love and light upon your lives. And you are affirming that you, too, are called like Luther and the Reformers and even like those sharks in the deep, dark seas off New Zealand, to continue the work of adaptation so that the light and Love of Christ, the Gospel good News that God is present and active in and for the world - might be known through you in the world such as it is today and will become tomorrow.
This might seem like a great burden to you or to any of us – to share the love and goodness of Christ with the world even while we doubt and struggle in our own lives in many ways – yet we are not alone on this journey. This community of Redeemer, New Paltz, is here for you even as you are here for us – no matter how far afield you may travel in your lives. Most of all, we do not look at faith as a burden because as we hear in today’s gospel, Christ has set us free – as a free gift.
Though they seem to have forgotten it in today’s gospel, the Israelites had become slaves under the Egyptian people until with God’s help, they journeyed to a new freedom. By Christ we, too, have been freed from slavery to sin and are called to break the shackles of every form of enslavement in this world. And even as this can be back-breaking and heart-breaking work at times, it is also joyful work because Christ is by our side, doing the heavy salvation-bringing lifting for us.
So, Patrick and Shane, and all my fellow faith journeyers, on this All Hallows’s Eve that is also known more commonly as Halloween - this Eve before All Saints Day; on this Reformation Sunday that remembers Christ’s ongoing reforming work in the Church; on this day when Shane and Patrick affirm their baptism and faith and all of us join them in that affirmation, we are gathered not only on our own, but will all the Saints who despite their sins and imperfections, have brought Christ’s light to the deep seas of this world.
We are counted among those saints so that our lives might be - not book marked at birth with baptism and at death with Christ’s love and redemption, but saturated all along the way through our lives - every single day of them - with a light overflowing from us to the world around us, a light that is generated by, sustained and nourished and fit perfectly within us, a light known as Christ’s Love. And it glows so brightly. Oh, so brightly. Amen.