The Revd Steve Morris standing in front of St Bride's wooden panels

I am the Light of the World

Written by
The Revd Steve Morris
Sunday 2nd October, 2022

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Tonight, I want to speak about a question that is close to my heart – what is truth? Or better still, is there any such things as truth? You might ask why such things matter – there are enough problems in the world to worry about right now without teasing our philosophical questions. And yet, this one, gets to the heart of the Christian faith and life itself.

We need to go back and go back and abroad – to the Left Bank – Rive Gauche – in Paris. It was a place of artists and philosophers; cafes and counter-culture. A place of ideas, a place where amongst all its bohemianism people asked what really matters, and why?
You could say that only a certain level of wealth and indulgence allows a society to encourage this kind of thing. But asking tough questions is part of the journey of a life well lived.

You could say that only a certain level of wealth and indulgence allows a society to encourage this kind of thing. But asking tough questions is part of the journey of a life well lived.

Some of the ideas were ideas of despair and angst and confusion. The world seems absurd perhaps. And in the firing line comes the issue of truth – or whether there is such a thing as an overarching truth.

Now I have history on this. I was the first person in my family to go to university. I was a very radical young man. I grew up with the nihilism of punk rock and a sense that the country was falling apart. I went to study literature because I loved books – still do.

Literature departments were awash with a new idea and that idea was there is no such thing as absolute truth. You have your truth and I have my truth. Every truth is true – every truth is equally valid because it is true for you.

Now we see this idea has made its way out of the literature and philosophy departments and is a big idea in everyday life. Truth has become unstable – you have your truth and I have mine.

No of course, to an extent it is true and liberating. Every truth is in a context. If there is no such thing as absolute truth, then how could we deal with Jesus’ claim – I am the light of the world. I am – an absolute truth. I am, the way the truth and the life.

This reading helps, if we go through it carefully. Why? Because it has the absolute ring of truth – it is trustworthy, Jesus is trustworthy.

Look at the amazing quality of the conversation and interaction. The neighbours who wonder if the man is the same one they have seen begging around the place. No he just looks like him. Then the man in his artless way says – no it was me. He is frank about not knowing anything much about this Jesus fellow, but he can see now when he couldn’t before.

Then you get the way his parents chicken out.

It has the ring of truth. Why? Because it has inconsequential details, fragile people, selfishness, suffering and towering over it all is the figure of Jesus.

We are told he is 100% God and 100% human – a dual nature. This is some claim and it must have been very hard to live it out. But the sheer naturalness of Jesus around people doesn’t seem forced or contrived. This is very encouraging in our quest for absolute truth.

We get to the nub of it through a beautifully drawn piece of narrative – incidentally the Bible is alone in ancient literature for its naturalistic style.

Let’s follow it.

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

The rulers of the law are rather thin skinned aren’t they and the man cured of blindness finds them out. They have a rather narrow way of judging Jesus. How can he have the truth when he is a provincial nobody.

He doesn’t fit the criteria. But as the man who can see now says – if this man were not very special indeed he could not have healed me. The pharisees didn’t see the evidence in front of their eyes, but the man who had been blind did and he chose not to doubt it.

The man chooses to believe the evidence of his own eyes. He asserts an absolute truth and incidentally it is one I assert as well. Jesus was God among us. That, of course, is the true miracle.

We all need a sense of secure truth. The ideas that there is no truth is very wobbly indeed. It is an absolute that claims there is no absolute – so it fails at round one.

We live in a world full of conspiracy theories, the doubting of science and great mistrust of the big stories that hold our lives together and makes sense of them. This worries me…not because I don’t believe that everyone has a right to their opinions and to express them. But because if we strip away the fundamentals – love, sacrifice, hope and faith then what have we left?

Now let me go back finally to my university days and the way they ended. I was in a seminar for my MA and we were doing the usual thing of looking a book and picking it to pieces using different frames. The lecturer asked us why we loved this book. People said because of its clever use of language, the way it deliberately drew attention to itself as fiction, the way it played around with the reader.

Then one brave person – I cannot remember her name. I do remember that she was American. When it was her turn she told us that she loved the book because she loved the characters in it, the plot and because they seemed very real to her. She loved the way she learned something about herself and her life. She was filled with wonder and was transported to a new lands almost in the reading of the book.

And do you know what happened? We all, including the lecturer, laughed at her. How dare she.

But that night I decided that I could no longer pretend that I agreed that everything was just a set of literary games. I had lost the thing I loved about the books that I loved. I loved them because they felt real, spoke truth and helped me to be a better person.

Jesus is the Light of the World. Thank God for that.

congregation sitting for service


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