*This sermon was preached on July 13th 2013 in the Priory on The Holy Island of Lindisfarne. It was preached in the context of an ecumenical pilgrimage celebrating the presence of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the North East. Pilgrims were given a DVD as they left which was entitled 'Good news for everyone' and featured seven places in the North as examples of ways in which the good news is being lived and shared today. Church Leaders from many churches were present and we were all commissioned to go and share the good news. It was a bright and sunny day, around 2000 people were gathered in the Priory and others were listening from the Heugh or outside the walls where everything could be clearly heard. We celebrated the Gospel.
Look around you. See the walls of this priory, each stone clear in the light of the sun. Look at the moss and grasses growing among the stones. See the hill behind us and the sky above, perhaps with a bird flying across. All made visible to us because of the light of the sun.
Now look at your hand, see the markings on it, marvel at the gift of light and the gift of life.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, "Let there be light" and there was light.
The first verse of St John's Gospel, a gospel of special significance for St Cuthbert reminds us of the poetic account of creation in Genesis and then we are led on to a greater truth: the truth that in Jesus, the light of creation, the light of life, was coming into the world.
God reached out to us in love.
When light comes it brings clarity.
When light comes it gives direction and guidance.
When light comes it is glorious.
Today we celebrate the gospels. We celebrate the gospel, the good news. We celebrate the good news of Jesus, the Light of the World.
When we know Jesus, we begin to see the world and ourselves differently. We begin to understand that we are loved and that we live in a world created in love. And when we know the risen Christ we understand that nothing can separate us from that love -not even death. We hear the good news that light has overcome the darkness and that death, the final enemy, has been overcome.
When we open our hearts and our minds to receive God's offer of light and life in Jesus Christ, the shadows are overcome and the disturbing shapes are transformed.
When I was a small child I would sometimes lie awake in my bedroom looking at the shadows and the shapes. Sometimes they were frightening because in the darkness things looked bigger and the shapes changed, everything was unfamiliar and strange. Then I was given a present, it was a night light. It was a beautiful china spirit lamp with a wick and it would probably be banned for health and safety reasons today! But it burned near my bed, not so near that I could knock it over, and by its light I could see the familiar objects again and the frightening shapes and shadows disappeared.
The light of the gospel shows us the true shape of our lives - lives shaped by the love of God. This is the light that gives clarity.
The Lindisfarne Gospels were lovingly created in the community here on Lindisfarne, written for God and St Cuthbert and all the saints who are on the island. The light of Christ gave shape and direction to the members of the community here. It was a community that was going through times of change and transition when Cuthbert was sent here as Prior.
Light gives clarity, it also gives direction.
Some years ago my husband and I were on holiday with friends and one afternoon my friend and I decided to go for a walk. We didn't take a map because we knew where we were going but then we decided to take a different route back, thinking we knew where the paths would lead. We didn't. We got lost and it began to get dark. We were heading back to a canal and we found ourselves on a steep, dark path and didn't feel safe at all. We had no torches because we hadn't intended to be out so long so we phoned our husbands who came with torches and led us home - and they've never let us forget it!
Light helps us to find our way.
All that Jesus said and did, all that Jesus was, pointed people to the love of God. A love without limits. An overflowing and abundant love. A love that respects human dignity and freedom. Jesus helped people to live their lives as those shaped by the love of God.
Jesus challenged people where their actions or words or traditions worked against the love of God. The good news of God's love is good news for every age. It was good news for the northern saints who in their way and in their time challenged those around them.
So Aidan walked and refused to ride the horse that was given to him because he wanted to align himself with the poor.
So Cuthbert reconciled a divided community on Lindisfarne through persuasion and patience.
So in Britain and in the North East today Christians challenge the injustice of a society where one in three children are living in poverty in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
We challenge the injustice of a society where increasing numbers are dependent on food banks because they cannot afford to eat.
And in a society where many politicians and media encourage a rhetoric which blames the poor for their poverty, Christians are challenging the lies and shining the light on the truth.
The Gospel is a living gospel. The good news is for today and you will find examples of the living gospel in the North East on the DVD that you will be given as you leave the Priory.
The light of the Gospel gives clarity.
And the light of the Gospel is glorious.
If you have been here at the end of a day you may have seen the glorious sunsets over St Cuthbert's bay. In Jesus, the Light of the World, we see God's glory.
Eadfrith and the community of Lindisfarne created a gospel book of great and enduring beauty to celebrate the glory of God.
The glory of God is seen in the careful formation of each letter.
The glory of God is seen in the elaborate carpet pages, with the cross integral to each one.
The glory of God is seen in the unusual depiction of the evangelists as human beings (rather than using symbols to represent them) - this is glory among us and for us.
The glory of God is seen in the beautiful title pages and in illustrations drawn from the beauty of creation.
The glory of God is what we celebrate here today:
God who has reached out to us and come among us in Jesus Christ, the Light of the World;
God who challenges us to respond and live as people of the light;
God who gives light and life to the world.
The glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ, the Light of the World is what we are called to share.
This is good news for everyone.
To God be the glory!
Revd Ruth M Gee July 2013