Posts Tagged ‘Candle of the Lord Sermon’


moth found in the tealight candle

I’m going to work with the words of Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) for a moment to help express what I feel after repeatedly seeing footage of the men in Charlottesville, Virginia, especially the night before the violence, their faces illuminated by firelight. What is the source of their purported rage and of their very visible glee? Are they really so blinded by the “charisma” of white supremacists like Richard Spenser, Steve Bannon, David Duke or of a Trump. Actually Trump and charisma are two words I’ve never heard mentioned together. Yet there are people who still eight months into his presidency look up at him with their faces illuminated by something.


It was that sense of illumination that reminded me of a sermon by Rector Phillips Brooks. It is The Candle of the Lord and in it Brooks plays a riff and then does all sorts of variations on the proverbial theme that the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. He begins, in essence, describing how there are those in this world … people who have a certain light fed by a certain source and they do good work in this world. And then there are those other individuals who too cast a bright light but the source of that light is far different.

[Such a person] “burns so bright and lurid that often the purer lights grow dim in the glare.” And if one were to believe that the source of this man’s light was from a dark place, “then we can understand the sight of a man who is rich in every human quality, cursing the world with the continual exhibition of the devilish instead of the godlike in his life. When the power of pure love appears as a capacity of brutal lust … when the almost divine magnetism, which is given to a man in order that he may instill his faith and hope into some soul that trusts him, is used to breathe doubt and despair through all the substance of a friend’s reliant soul; when wit, which ought to make truth beautiful, is deliberately prostituted to the service of a lie; when earnestness is degraded to be the slave of blasphemy, and the slave’s reputation is made the cloak for the master’s shame …”

He projects light and power “and men who want nothing but light and power will come to it. It is wonderful how mere power, or mere brightness, apart altogether from the work that the power is doing and the story that the brightness has to tell, will win the confidence and admiration of men from whom we might have expected better things. A bright book or a bright play will draw the crowd, although its meaning be detestable. A clever man will make a host of men and boys stand like charmed birds while he quietly draws their principles out of them and leaves them moral idiots.”

It saddens me that there are so many brightly lit individuals, who get too much face time on TV and in social media, let alone book deals, who project power even though they have very little, who as they gain great wealth that enables them to feed their narcissistic desires, are creating a host of white walking (sorry, Game of Thrones) moral idiots in this country that may be the future of its undoing.

But even as I write these words of negativity, I see the positive, in the sacrifices made in Charlottesville, and around this nation each day as people stand up to bigotry and hatred in any form. These are scary times but they’ve been scary before and will be again. Its what we do in this moment that matters. And it all matters.


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