Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lumos: Let Your Light Shine

Sermon given as part of our Harry Potter camp worship on 7/21
By Headmistress Iris Imaginoria (aka Jessica Gray)

 In the second Harry Potter book, “The Chamber of Secrets,” the spell “Lumos” was introduced as a useful little spell that allows the tip of a witch or wizard’s wand to light up.   It was not a deep or meaningful moment in the series, but it did become quite well known and used.  As the theme for our camp, it has given us so many opportunities to explore.  So many fun things glow in the dark – potions and paint, creatures and even sand.  At Friday Night Lights we had glow-in-the dark bowling, egg hunts, a firefly-lit labyrinth, and even glow-in-the-darkQuidditch

But even more than all of the fun activities, our focus on light has allowed us to delve into some of the deeper associations of light within the heart and within the mind.  In my class, Defense Against the Dark Arts, I have always taught that the easiest way to defend against the darkness is to turn on the light.  

One of my favorite ways to fight against the darkness is through humor.  In every religion, we ultimately seek some sort of enlightenment – and it is En-light-enment, not en-heavy-ment, after all.  I studied theatre in school, and the theory of comedy is actually much more complicated than that of tragedy, though both come from the same human instinct. 

You know how sometimes reading a single book can change your life – like a lightbulb going off?  Well, one of the lightbulb moments in my life came through reading a book called "Comedy,Tragedy, and Religion" by John Morreall.  He argues that comedy, tragedy, and religion (all religions) are ultimately intertwined because

“All three are concerned with the disparity between the way things are and the way they should be...
While religions, tragedy, and comedy all focus on the incongruities of life, tragedy and comedy have different responses to the incongruity, and these are important in their visions of life.  There are many ways to respond when things do not happen as they should – puzzlement, wonder, resentment, rage, despair, amusement.  Tragedy embodies certain emotions and additudes toward incongruities, like anger and rebellion, while comedy embodies the opposite response of not getting overly concerned.” (5)

Different religions, like tragedy and comedy, encourage different responses to the difficulties of life – but individuals can choose how they will respond to individual circumstances.  When challenges strike, when everything seems hopeless, when you are frozen by your own fears – you have a choice.  You can stay in the dark. 

Or you can remember the light.  The humor in life.  The positive memories.  And the light at the core of your own being.

And once you remember your own light, you have the opportunity to encourage others to do the same.  Like attracts like.  If you are letting your light shine bright, then you can help bring out that light in others.  And that is where our Hogwarts magic crosses into the real world.  Because we teach throughout our camp that the “real” magic in life is helping others.

On the back of our camp T-shirts and the cover of your Order of Service, there is a simple phrase.  Students, can you say the words with me:

It’s better to light a wand than to curse the darkness!

This is our adaptation of the Chinese proverb, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”  This quote was first brought into common use in 1961 when Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International, used it in a Human Rights Day ceremony.  And Amnesty International brings us full circle back to Harry Potter.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, worked at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London long before she wrote about a boy wizard facing the darkness.  She describes this as “one of the greatest formative experiences of her life” which ultimately had great impact on her writing.

In a graduation speech she gave at Harvard in 2008, she described her work:

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries…

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard, and read.
And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.
Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are not assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life. 
Every year at camp we work together on a social action project.  We work in some small way to change the world.  This year we ambitiously are making hygiene and school relief kits for Syrian refugees who have fled the current civil war.  Our children, even very young children, are sewing the bags themselves with the guidance of our Witch Stitchery expert Cindy Cordova.  They are bringing in items to fill the kits. Special guests from the Center for Nonviolent Solutions met with each house to explain what is going on and the importance of it.  Together, we are making very real magic for some people in the world who really need some magic in their lives.
When you face the difficulties, the incongruities, the darkness in your own life, I encourage you to remember your light.  This light is at the core of who you are.  When you shine your light for others, you bring out the light in them.  And pretty soon we are all connected, a web of shining lights, illuminating the darkness, making a difference in the world. 
In closing, I want to join me in a responsive litany written by UU minister Rebecca A. Edmiston-Lange.
After each phrase I say, you say:
We are the light of the world.
Some people say that Jesus is the light of the world. We all can be the light of the world if we seek to act in ways that enlarge the realms of love and justice. When we share another's pain or offer a comforting ear to a friend in need,

We are the light of the world.

When we give bread to the hungry or support ways to house the homeless,

We are the light of the world.

When we fight temptations to wrongdoing within ourselves and treat our neighbors with respect,

We are the light of the world.

When we try to overcome differences with understanding and solve conflict with peaceful means,

We are the light of the world.
When we look for the good in other people and in ourselves,

We are the light of the world.

When we do not stay quiet in the face of prejudice, but speak our minds firmly and gently,

We are the light of the world.

When we fight despair within ourselves and side with hope,

We are the light of the world.

When we use our powers justly and in the service of love for humanity,

We are the light of the world.

We are the light of the world! Amen and amen.