Good morning, friends. I thought I would start out with a little bit of context and explanation of my title for this morning. In what may seem like a great irony my title was originally inspired after reading the Game of Thrones books several years ago. If you are not familiar with this cultural phenomenon, you should know that many people think of Sunday as a day for worship, and also for watching Game of Thrones. The HBO series is wildly popular, although I am not one of its fans. Strictly the books for me.
It is a story that takes place in a medieval world, and each of the ruling families has a house sign and house motto. These motto’s are words which are central to each house, as if their identity could be distilled down into 3-5 words. Examples of these mottos include:
– House Stark ”Winter is Coming”: a depressing reminder of the inevitability of hard times.
-House Arryn ”As High as Honor”: This describes the fortress of this house, high in the mountains.
-House Lannister ”Hear Me Roar”: a call to the sign of one of the houses, which is a golden lion.
-House Targaryen ”Fire and Blood”: a cheerful motto, it harkens to this house and that they at one point used dragons in war.
-House Tully “Family, Duty, Honor”: Perhaps the only remotely positive motto among the bunch.
I am a huge fan of these books and some time ago I proposed to Krista that we come up with a motto for our family, for our house. As Friends we immediately thought of something pertaining to light, because looking for the light of Christ is an ever and ongoing task for Quakers. It was an energizing process for us to come up with a few words that could define what we wanted for our family.
Contrary to the bleak and dreary nature of the Game of Thrones house mottos, we wanted a phrase that captured our faith, and our search for good even in the midst of great and challenging evil. Light being the central theme of our faith, we wished to incorporate that as well. Out of that time of dreaming together we came up with the motto which serves as the title of my sermon today: “There is always light.”
I do not pretend to be a voice speaking for all Friends, and not even for the Friends gathered here today. However today I would ask us to consider the value of these words in our day and age. There are always narratives of darkness in culture, and we as a faith community have spoken out against them. Our historical Friends while not adopting a motto officially (for creeds are not really our thing) showed by their actions that “There is Always Light.” They often rejected the popular motto of the day, offering one that was counter to the culture swirling around them.
In the 1600’s when Margaret Fell and George Fox founded our movement, there were many mottoes in British culture. A few of them included “Men are more important than women,” “Prisoners have no rights,” “The nobility is of greater worth” “Always salute the king.” They rejected these notions and said instead “Women and Men are equal” “Nobility is title not virtue” and “Prisoners must be protected,”
Friends, “There is always light”
In the 1700’s after Friends had come to America they encountered a whole new set of mottoes that the culture had adopted: “Natives have no rights;” “God wills that we should own slaves;” and “Freedom of faith is geographical.” To this they responded “All people have rights;” “God wills that all are free;” and “Find religious freedom here.”
Friends, “There is always light”
In the 1800’s Friends again found themselves battling mottoes new and familiar “It is still right that we own slaves;” “Prisoners still do not have rights;” and “Women cannot be trusted to vote.” Once again they found themselves pushing back: “Freedom will triumph”; “All can and should vote.”
Friends, I ask us today to consider what are the mottoes in our culture? What mottoes do we encounter in our time?
To those we say instead,
I am not pretending that we have been a perfect movement, far from it. However, our message to the prevailing culture throughout history has been “There is always light.” We look for it, find it, and remind others of it. May we continue to be that voice in our day and age, in our homes, in our places of work, in our community, and in this upcoming election cycle.
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-4)
To conclude, I wish to share some dialog from one of my favorite film series, the Lord of the Rings. This comes from the second film, not the second movie. In a time of particular darkness. It is an exchange between Frodo and Sam, the most important characters in the story.
Frodo : I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam : I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
Friends, there is always light.
This message was given to Spokane Friends Church by Jon Maroni on Sunday, April 28, 2019.