Posted by: dacalu | 27 April 2013

Life and Light

This afternoon, I was honored to be the keynote speaker for the Foundation for Episcopal Campus Ministry ( which supports the University of Arizona chaplaincy. 


Dear friends,

this week I keep coming back to one particular line

            from an Easter hymn.

In Hail thee, festival day, we speak of the Holy Spirit:

“Spirit of life and of power,

now flow in us, font of our being,

light that dost lighten all,

life that in all dost abide.”

It speaks to me of the research I want to do,

            the research I’m headed off to do,

            but it also speaks to me of evangelism,

            and, in a very important way,

                        an issue I see as central to out question

                        of who we are as a church.


In Genesis 1, we hear of the Spirit moving over the face of the deep,

            the Ruach, or breath of God.

And God making creatures,

                        nephesh chayah, living things with breath.

Humans, though, are special,

            being fashioned in the very image and likeness of God.

In Genesis 2, we hear of God breathing onto the dust

            to make Adam.

So, in a very real way, we can speak of God’s breath in us

            being necessary to simply being alive.

Every living breathing thing lives and breathes

            Because God breathed life into it.


On the other hand, we can speak of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

            the inbreathing of God’s breath.

The New Testament speaks of both unclean spirits and the Holy Spirit,

            using this one word – pneuma, breath.

John 14 speaks of the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive.

In Acts , the Apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit in a special way.

And Paul speaks of the spirit, the breath, and the soma, the body.

So in some way we must also speak of the breath of God,

            the Holy Spirit, as a special thing,

            which humans may or may not have.



And then there is light.

We call Jesus the light of the world,

            a light to enlighten the nations.

In the Nicene creed, we say Phos ek Photos,

light from light in the platonic sense

            as that which illuminates the universe.

We call him the Way, the Truth, and the Light,

            believing that to know anything truly,

            is to know it in Christ.

This gift of perception, intellect, and understanding,

            we say that every time we use that,

            we do so by the light of Christ.


And yet, still we think of “Seeing the light,”

            being “blinded by the light.”

Isaiah speaks of those who walk in darkness.

And John of those who prefer darkness to the light.

So there must also be a light that we may have,

            but we may also refuse.


Or the image of God,

            Genesis says we are made, all of us,

            In the image and likeness of God,

and yet in baptism we can put on Christ (Galatians).

We can enter into the fullness of God (Ephesians).



We are left with this dichotomy,

            between having physical life and having spiritual life,

            between being born of the flesh or born of the spirit,

            between life and eternal life.

Our definition of life is, and must be,

a metaphor for our understanding of life everlasting.

For Christians the two cannot be separated,

            because God redeemed us,

            while in the flesh.

And so we celebrate the God of Creation,

            who breathed life into the world,

            and set a light in the heavens,

But we also celebrate a God of Redemption,

            who makes all things new,

            and invited us into a greater life

than the one we knew before.



Many, both Roman Catholics and Protestants,

            have tried to separate life from Life,

            breath from breath, God from God.

They say that by the Fall, Adam lost whatever was good within us.

And they are quick to divide the quick from the dead,

            the inspired from the uninspired,

            the saved from the condemned.

Anglicans have always been suspicious of this divide.

            We refuse to believe that humans even have the power

                        to so permanently corrupt what God created good.

            We insist that God continues

                        to endow us with memory, reason, and skill,

                        whether we are baptized or not.

            We see ourselves as cultivating the good seeds already planted,

                        welcoming the God already present within us.

We respect the dignity of every human being,

            because our bare existence,

            is seen as a gift from God,

            before and after anything we might have done.

And so we focus more on the incarnation than the atonement.



The blessing of this theology is that it allows us to appreciate and sanctify

every corner of human knowledge.

It makes us the ideal faith for college campuses,

            because we respect human reason and tradition,

            both inside and outside the church,

            not only as tools, but as gifts of God.

It means we are perfectly suited (believe it or not)

            to an age when everything is being reconsidered

            in the light of science and multicultural communication.

We have been trained by centuries of dealing with this very question:

            Who am I in light of God and reason, faith and science?

We belong to the tradition of Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Richard Hooker.

Our faith produced thinkers like Darwin and Hume,

            though they may have been ambivalent about it

            during their lives.

We’ve got this one.



And yet, our theology is also something of a curse,

            because we appreciate the spark of divinity in each and all,

            we have a harder time convincing people to stoke the fire.

We are sometimes confused about evangelism,

            because we look so closely for the presence of God,

            already there, wherever we go.

And yet, this too can be a strength,

            if only we can be confident in our own ability

            to know the face of God,

            to recognize in the world around us the glory and the grace,

which we may also know by looking within.

We can call upon the Spirit,

            fan the flames,

            uncover the light.

All of these things and more.



I love you all.

And I love you because I have seen the light of Christ within you.

            As you have helped me see the light of Christ within myself.

And each of you burns a slightly different color.

The wind blows through each of you in a unique and powerful way.


But that doesn’t mean we can’t do better.

That doesn’t mean we can’t bring out the light that is within each of us.

There is work to be done.


This for me is the work of campus ministry,

            to reach out to the university,

            to find the many and varied, even riotous, different colors of faith,

            and tend each one.

Paul said “I have become all things to all people

so that by all means I might save some.” (I Corinthians 9)

And I feel so strongly about this,

            that the work of the chaplain,

            indeed, the work of any evangelist,

            is to go into the world and find where God is active

                        and encourage what flames may be encouraged.

With those who value knowledge, I encouraged knowledge,

            as evidence of God at work in creation.

With those who value reason, I encouraged good reasoning,

            as the light of Christ and the unknown God.

With those who value community, I encouraged healthy community,

            as the concrete and disciplined love of neighbor.

With those who value love, I encouraged love,

            as the very heart of God and God’s revelation to us.



I say these things, not out of pride but to share with you

            the very ministry I have shared with you.

I could do these things because you did them with me.

They were my gifts, but they became real

because they were your gifts as well.

They were us, together, doing God’s work in the world.


I’m thinking of Miriam Huber, Stephanie Adamson, Tom Lindell,

            and Katie McAllister, each of whom have the important,

            if often under-appreciated gift of administration,

            of making the pieces fit together with harmony and compassion.

I’m thinking Joey Freund and David Christy, who have the gift of reaching

            out to people in new ways and building friendships.

I’m thinking of Barby Goldschmit, Kay Wilson, Megan Underwood,

            and so many others, who have the gift of hospitality, the ability

            to make other realize the grace of God, in whose house we all live.

I’m thinking of Catherine Vassaux and John Hsieh, whose quiet,

            confident faith has been a source of strength.

John Wauters, Holden, Spencer, Sam,

and so many others who created a community out of the CCC

and the ECM.



We each of us have this power, and we all of us have this power,

            and we’re called to practice it every day.

I’d encourage you, whether you’re staying here

and discovering what the chaplaincy becomes,

            or moving on,

finding and creating

            new church wherever you go;

remember that there is always something you can do,

            to breathe more deeply of the Holy Spirit,

            to burn more brightly,

            to live more fully that eternal life,

                        that you have had from birth.

And, as always

“Glory to God, whose power working in us

            can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church,

            and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20)


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