by Associate Pastor Jen Shenk


Arise! Shine! Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you and God’s glory appears over you.

                                                                                                                                      ~Isaiah 60:1-2

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a great sunrise (or sunset). When I see one in the sky, I love to take a moment- no matter what I’m doing- and just watch, soaking in the changing colors. Sometimes it’s subtle and barely there (thank you, northern Indiana Permacloud). Other times it’s spectacular and I feel like I have a front row seat to an amazing display of color and majesty like no other.

To me, a sunrise is like God’s love and grace. It’s a new beginning-- a fresh start. No matter what I do or don’t do, it’s always there. I can’t earn it, and no one can take it away. It’s free, it’s unconditional, and it’s expansive. I also know that this sunrise is for every one of God’s creatures-- available to all-- as a reminder of a steady loving Presence who is always gently and powerfully with us.

When I think about the sun, I also think about this scripture verse from Isaiah, one that we often hear during Epiphany. We, too, like the sun, are commanded to “Arise!” and “Shine!” As I’ve been reflecting on this verse, especially with the new year upon us, I wonder what it might mean for me, and for us here at Kern.
Every single one of us has a gift. We are created for a purpose, with God’s shining light and love written into our DNA from our very beginning. This gift is not limited to age, education, gender, sexual orientation, race, or income. This gift of God’s love and light is free to all, and it is for all. Period.

So what is your gift? Perhaps you find joy in encouraging others. Or maybe you get satisfaction from solving problems. Explaining ideas, creating art, organizing, praying, singing, working with numbers, healing the sick, relating to children, listening well, cooking … the list is endless.

Your gift is exactly that-- a gift. Just like the sunrise, it cannot be earned or taken away from you. It is given to you so that you can shine. You can be radiant. When you live into who you are created to be, God’s joy and love will flow through you to others. The beauty of this is that no one person can do it all-- we are simply called to arise, shine, and use our particular gift to dispel the darkness.

Speaking of darkness, just like each of us has our own gift and light to shine-- we all have different areas of darkness where we are called to radiate God’s love. Where I am called to shine my light may not be where you are called to shine your light. Some of us are called to be lights of service across the ocean; others may be called to shine lights of joy in a nursing home. Part of knowing what our gift is also involves discerning where and to whom we are called to use our gift.

As this new year dawns, I invite you (if you haven’t already) to take a step back and reflect. Take inventory and discern what God is calling you to in life-- regardless of your age or life stage. If you’re not sure, keep listening and paying attention to what brings you joy, and what gives you deep satisfaction. When you are centered in knowing who God created you to be, you are free from the expectations and approval of others. You are free to act without guilt, fear, or concern for external praise. You can shine your light in the darkness. You can have joy and be radiant.

Shine on!