Can You Do It in Sunlight? [Sermon]

I am at an age where bright light helps with some things:

  • reading small print
  • threading a needle
  • finding that small item that rolled under the couch

There are some things I really can’t do well in the dark.

There are some things that are easier in the dark, but they mostly involve not being seen.

I don’t do a lot of that. I might trip over something.

Let’s go to God in prayer:
God of wisdom, may the words that I speak, and the ways they are received by each of our hearts and minds, help us to continue to grow into the people, and the church, that you have dreamed us to be.
Amen.

In the five years I have been here, there has been some damage to the church.
Windows have been broken.
Items have been taken.
Walls and banners have been defaced.
And those things happened at night.

We’ve even had Bible citations sprayed onto the banner out front.

At one point, I grew so frustrated that I started to work on a sign to go above it, in glow-in-the-dark paint: John 3:19.

That’s from our reading today:

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.

John 3:19

My thought that someone who spray-painted citations from Leviticus might recognize the verse, or at least bother to look it up, and think about why they were doing this in darkness.

The only reason I didn’t put it up was I had problems with the stencils sticking to the paint.

You may have heard the phrase “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
Louis Brandeis said this about transparency in government. The idea is that what can be seen is held up to scrutiny, while what is hidden cannot.

I’m wondering how well this works in practice though.

There was a time when left-handed people had to be careful about using their dominant hand in public, because using the left, or sinistral, hand was considered evil. Yes, “sinister” comes from “sinistral,” or left, while dexterity comes from “dexter,” or right.

I find it rather gauche.

Was it really evil to be left handed? I don’t think so. But as long as people hid their left-handedness, it supported the idea that being left-handed was bad.

There was a time when gay and lesbian people had secret places to meet
and coded ways to identify each other.

Hiding in the shadows supported the idea that there was something wrong with being gay, and even if one was gay and didn’t think it was wrong, the hiding made it feel that way.

The inverse is also true:
There are many harmful things that have been made acceptable in culture.

Women have historically been told they were too weak, too emotional, and too feeble-minded to do many kinds of work. That kind of rhetoric did not have to be said in hushed tones, or in closed rooms: it was said in the open.

People of color, especially Black people, have been openly discriminated against, and even lynched, with the crowds cheering them on.

I’m sure we could spend hours naming things that have been driven into darkness that should have been in the light, and things that have been done in the light that should never have been done.

I think most, if not all of you, know I am a transgender person.

When I first transitioned, I changed jobs and cultivated new relationships, leaving my past behind. Most people did not know I was transgender.

Some decades ago I decided to come out as transgender. One reason was personal: hiding that part of my life was making it feel wrong. That which we keep hidden becomes a burden.

Another reason was for people like me: by being public about my experience, I hoped I would make a small contribution toward making this seem not so unusual.

And another reason was that I knew people who thought they didn’t know anyone who was transgender.

As we read in verse 21:

“those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

John 3:21

So it’s important to bring into the light those things about which we should not be ashamed.

I’ve also seen some positive movement in other areas: while the legal penalties for driving while impaired have increased, we have also seen it become socially unacceptable to drive while intoxicated.

I do think social pressure works, though I think it ought to apply to things that are actually harmful.

So I guess the question is what we want to shine a light on. What is actually harmful?

Should we shame people for drag shows?

Should we laud people who prominently carry deadly weapons?

Should we look down on people going to 12 step meetings?

Should we cheer on people driving recklessly on the street?

My challenge for all of us this week is to examine what we encourage and what we discourage.

Can it be done in sunlight?
Should it?

Amen.


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