Good morning, Friends! Happy New Year!
2023 was a big year for Springfield. It was our 250th anniversary, and we celebrated all year long. Now we’re in a new year, 2024. The Christmas decorations are all down. There are no more Springfield history inserts in the bulletin. It’s time for us to look forward again.
In many ways, our meeting is starting over. We’ve got a great heritage, but it’s a new era. We’ve got lots of memories, but we’re also facing a new reality.
We don’t have as many people as we used to have. That’s hard. But we still have good people. You all are good people! There isn’t a bad apple among us. We aren’t many, but we are strong. We are dedicated.
We used to be a neighborhood church. We aren’t any more. But in a way, we have a new neighborhood, a bigger neighborhood. People in our meeting are spread out more. We come here from farther away. And that means we actually have greater opportunities to know people.
We still have a great message to share. Quakers still have a simple faith, which many people find attractive when they hear about it.
There’s freedom here. There’s fellowship. There’s a warm welcome, and there are few barriers if you want to start something new.
Our meeting isn’t a narrow-minded place. We welcome people from all walks of life. We have people who are wealthy, and people who just get by. We have people of every political point of view, and we get along with each other.
We don’t spend a lot of time asking for money. What each family chooses to give is private. Even I don’t know how much people give.
We’re grateful to God for our many blessings. We believe in Jesus. We pray in his name. We read the Bible and take it seriously.
We try to listen to the Holy Spirit. We can always listen more. But every now and then, we hear the Spirit speaking clearly. A lot of the time, that happens when people speak during open worship, or during a business meeting, or during a class or a Bible study.
We feel God’s presence when we sit down to meals together. We feel Jesus beside us, when we sing and pray. We can’t always predict when that will happen, but it’s real.
Let’s build on that. And to start the new year, let me read to you from the beginning of the gospel of John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning. Through the Word all things were made; without the Word, nothing was made that has been made.
In the Word was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. And the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it.John 1:1-5
A few years ago, I joked with you that we ought to change our name. Instead of calling ourselves Springfield Friends Meeting, we ought to call ourselves Springfield Power and Light. Because that’s really what we have to share.
Our history is interesting and an inspiration. But what people really want to know about, is the light of Christ and the power of Christ.
If we offer those, we won’t be able to keep people away. People will want to come, if they can experience light and power.
Light is kind of a metaphor. Quakers use “Light” almost like another name for God. We call Jesus the Light. We also call the Holy Spirit the Light. They’re kind of interchangeable.
A lot of the time, when Quakers say we’re praying for someone, we tell them, “I’ll be holding you in the Light.” It’s almost as though we visualize lifting people up, holding people up to be closer to God.
One of the great moments in our 250th birthday celebration last year was when Joseph Terrell shared a brand-new song he wrote, called Darling, Let Me Hold You in the Light.
It was the premiere – he’d never sung it in public before. There was complete silence as he sang. Everybody here knew what it was about. I hope Joseph will record it soon and release it, because people need to hear songs like this.
People go a little crazy at this time of year. We put up lights all over the place. Here at Springfield, we put lights in every window, to bring light to the whole neighborhood. We put up Christmas trees. We light candles every Sunday.
On Christmas Eve, we filled the room with candles. We lit our candles and sang together, and we felt God to be very near.
Did you know, the days are getting longer now? It’s true! The darkest days are past and behind us. Every day, there’s a little more light.
Christmas actually comes at the darkest time of the year. On December 21st, the shortest day of the year, here in North Carolina we only get 9 hours and 46 minutes of sun.
But every day in January, there’s two more minutes of daylight. That’s an hour more by the end of the month. In February and March, the old earth speeds up a little bit, and we get three more minutes of light, every day.
Then in April and May, the increase slows down to two minutes a day again. And in June, by the longest day of the year, we still get one extra minute of daylight every day. By June 20th, here in North Carolina, we’ll have fourteen and a half hours of daylight. No wonder people love summer!
We put up all those lights in December, to show people that “the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it. . .” But really, we need to be talking about power and light, all year long.
One of the other great moments last year, was when Tanna Shipwash made a birthday cake for Springfield. It wasn’t a very big cake, but it had 250 candles on it. Tanna showed it to the kids, and Levi looked pretty nervous. He said, “I don’t think we ought to light that!”
Everybody laughed. But in a way, I wish we had lit that cake. We can never have too much light. Each one of us is supposed to be a light-bearer, a light-bringer.
Jesus once said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill can’t be hidden. No one lights a lamp and hides it under a basket. No! Put it up on a stand, where it can give light to the whole house. In the same way,” Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they will see your good works, and give glory to your Father in heaven. . .” (Matthew 5:14-16)
People here do a lot of good things. Of course, we always wish we could do more.
Every time we help feed hungry people. Every time we visit people, and try to cheer them up. Every time we overcome our shyness, and pray with someone. That’s doing what Jesus told us to do.
Every time we tell people about what Jesus has done for us. Every time we welcome someone to our table. Every time we sit down at someone else’s table, and pray for peace and blessing to be at their house.
When we remember the sick. Whenever we forgive. Any time we try to build or make things better, in Jesus’ name. We bring light into the world when we do these things. We bring light into people’s hearts and minds. That’s what I’m talking about.
It’s not complicated. It’s stuff that anyone can understand.
Jesus is the light. It’s what he does. It’s who he is.
One of the books in the Bible says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with God while we are walking in darkness, we lie and don’t do what is true. But if we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. And Jesus washes away our sins.” (1 John 1:5-7)
I had something happen to me this past week. It was kind of funny.
I was working in the office, when I heard a lot of children’s voices out front. I looked out the window, and there was a school bus parked outside.
Turned out, there had been a small accident down at the corner. A car had bumped into the school bus. No one was hurt. There wasn’t really any damage. But the drivers had to wait till the police came, and the bus supervisor came.
So, here were all these kids out in the bus. It was the end of the day, the windows on the bus were open, and all the kids were pretty bouncy.
As I came up the walk, I heard one of the kids say, “Hey, we’re in front of a church!”
Then another kid saw me, and he yelled out, “Oh my God! That’s Jesus coming out to meet us!”
Felt pretty good to be promoted. My son told me, now I’ll have to grow a beard.
It was pretty funny, but later on, I felt kind of sad. Little kids say funny things, but I thought, “This kid probably never went to church. Likely, this kids parents never went to church. This kid probably never had anyone to tell them the real story of Jesus, in a way they could understand.”
If parents don’t know Jesus, they can’t talk about Jesus to their children. If the family doesn’t have a good church home, they just won’t know about Jesus, about the power and light.
That’s sad. That’s more than sad.
There are so many people who have never heard the story of Jesus. Or what they hear is distorted and garbled. They think Jesus judges them. A lot of people think Jesus hates them. That isn’t the truth.
When we tell people that God is love, that whoever lives in love, lives in God, when people hear that message and take it in, their whole face lights up.
When people hear that God wants to forgive them, that God comes running to meet them, that God doesn’t want them to be burdened, that’s life-changing. You can see that in their eyes, like the sun coming up.
Whenever one of you tells your own story, about how God has reached out and touched your life, people listen. When you tell someone about how you’ve been praying, people want to join your prayers.
This isn’t complicated. Light is not complicated. It’s simple, and it’s beautiful.
As we look forward, as we start over, as we start a new year, let’s make it about light. Let’s let our light shine. And especially, let’s find new ways to let the light of Christ shine.
If we do that, it’ll be a great new year!