Saturday, October 07, 2006

LWML Sunday, John 8:12

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 8, 2006
LWML Sunday.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, ESV)

(from an LWML Sunday outline)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Let there be light.” Those are the first words we hear from God in the beginning of the Bible, “and there was light” the account continues.  “And God saw that the light was good.  And God separated the light from the darkness.”  These words begin a consistent theme of light and darkness that stretches all the way through scripture.  Right up to the last page of scripture, in the book of Revelation, we have it again as St.  John tells us about his vision of Heaven.  

And night will be no more.  They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.  (Revelation 22:5, ESV)

As people who live since the harnessing of electricity we don’t really quite get the full understanding of what these symbols are all about.  Before people could flip a switch and fill a room with light, darkness was the rule when the sun went down.  Oh, they had oil lamps, candles, torches, and fires but they only barely pushed back the darkness for a time.  Dusk meant that darkness was in control.  Danger and difficulty thrived in the darkness.  Evil lurked in the shadows were it could not be seen clearly.  The sunrise brought safety.  Light scattered whatever hid in the night.  Back then, life was centered about the light.  Darkness was limiting.

We just don’t have a firm grasp on these ideas.  Maybe we’ve experienced it in a small way.  Power outages caused by snowstorms sometimes bring the nighttime darkness.  But it is seldom dark for long.  And even then we have generators that put the light back in our homes.  Some people have a better understanding.  Police know that happens in the darkness.  They know one of the best ways to control crime is to flood light where trouble breeds.  We know about crime in the dark, but crime is the most shocking when it is perpetrated in broad daylight.

We should keep in mind the nature of darkness and light as understood by earlier generations when we hear Jesus words, “I am the light of the world.” For them it had a very important meaning beyond only the end of night time.  Darkness and light in the bible is used to describe sin and salvation.  Sin in human lives causes the darkness of pain, and trouble and death.  When Jesus came he brought the light of salvation, forgiveness of sins, a canceling of the effects of sin.  Jesus birth, life, death and especially His resurrection are the light of life to a dark and dying world.

What Jesus does is necessary.  It’s easy to see the need.  People of all times and places are in the darkness.  It’s not just “out there” either.  We confess to each other that we are sinful and unclean.  We know about sin because we see it everywhere and most of all we see it in ourselves.  Sin is darkness.  As real as the darkness that was there before God said “Let there be light.”  We know our place before God when we hear the truth about who we are.  

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3, ESV)

Although we’d like to believe we are better, we know we are only a step away from those who kill young children; those who steal from the poor; and those who scandalize their office.  There are those among us who are involved divorce and drug abuse.  And although we try to say we aren’t guilty of these things, what those who do them openly is the same sin that you and I have in our hearts.  That darkness that brings pain and sorrow and grief and death is very close and unavoidable.

And we must not forget that we have an enemy that takes full advantage of our condition.  St. Peter warns us:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)

Satan creates darkness.  He first brought sin into the world through his words to Adam and Eve.  He continues to nurture it.  He wants nothing more than for the darkness to grow.  He wants nothing more than for you and I to spend our eternity in the darkness of Hell, that absence of God for all eternity.  And make not mistake Satan is powerful.  We are helpless against his attacks, without God’s Holy Spirit.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, ESV)

Jesus is necessary.  He brings light.  And we need it because our sorry sin-filled condition is darkness and it is all around us and it is in us.

It is God’s nature to give light.  In the beginning He said “Let there be light” and the darkness scattered.  For our sake He sent Jesus, “the Light of the World.”  It’s Good News about Jesus.  When the bible talks about the coming light its talking about Jesus.  Like Isaiah’s words to God’s people:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2, ESV)

That’s Jesus whom God sent to save His people from their sin.  He is the great light that walked among people, healing and teaching, preaching and forgiving.  He shined on them the light of God’s Word.  He made it clear that God was in the world to save them from sin.  He hung on the cross and died.  The sky turned black.  Sin and death and Satan seemed to have won.  But Easter brought light and life.  Jesus takes back our lives from the darkness of sin and death.  He defeated them by rising again after death.  He promises to you and me that after our eyes close in death we’ll see the light of our own resurrection to eternal life, too.  It’s all too amazing to contemplate.  This plan of God’s for our salvation, this pure light, was planned before time and eternity.  You and I were in God’s mind, He loved us and planned to save us through Jesus, before the world began.  That’s light.  That’s light that we want to see and hear about again and again.

What’s most interesting about light is how it reflects.  Think of the moon.  It shines during the blackest night.  It’s not its own power but the power of the sun.  God’s people reflect His light.  We don’t have light of our own either.  But God’s plan of salvation for us can’t be concealed.  You know the song, “This little Gospel Light of mine…”  the Gospel light is the story of Jesus.  The Gospel light is Jesus and all that He has done for us.  

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV)
for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8, ESV)
that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Philippians 2:15, ESV)

It’s automatic when we have the light.  We shine it into every corner of our dark world.  You know how a child can’t leave their new flashlight alone.  They keep turning it on.  “Sally, leave that light off until later or the batteries will be dead.”  Well, we don’t have to worry about the batteries.  We’ve got the eternal light, Jesus.  He’ll never go out.  We can enjoy shining His Good News on everyone.  Showing them what He has done about their sin.  Pointing them to their one and only Savior from a life of terrible darkness.  Let there be light!

Today we celebrate the work of the LWML.  Not one of the women involved would tell you what they do is from them.  They know they shine the light of Jesus because He shines through them.  I don’t have a list of all the wonderful ways this international organization shines, but just ask any of them, they’ll give you some idea.  One of the things I like best is that they start right here, with their light shining and then point it to the world out there.  It’s been suggested that their name could just as well be Lutheran Women’s Missionary Lights.  And it fits.  God has used them, they listen when He says, “Let there be light.” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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