Sunday, March 02, 2008

Eph 5.8-14, Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 2, 2008

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:8-14, ESV)

(This is a repeat sermon from Feb 27, 2005, preached at St. John's, Burt IA).

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, … I will turn the darkness into light before them” (Isa 42:16) Isaiah writes that in the Old Testament lesson for today. Those words remind us a lot of the reading from the book of John where Jesus heals the man who was born blind. Jesus does exactly what Isaiah said, he turns this man’s darkness into light. That blind man himself said as we sang in the hymn, “I was blind but now I see!” as the story continues the sees more and more. The more the Pharisees grill him about how he was healed the more his faith grows. In the end he gives a very powerful witness to Jesus. He worships Jesus, the one who took his blindness away. He moves from darkness into light.

The Pharisees go the other way. They see the light that Jesus brings but they choose to stay in the darkness. The fulfillment of the prophecy is there for them to see, the blind man who was healed, stands before them. It is sight and light brought to a man born blind, but they refuse to believe. For the man born blind, Jesus created a completely new world of light where there was only darkness before. How much different would his life be now?

That’s what this text from St. Paul is about. The words he wrote in Ephesians answer that question. The man that Jesus healed was blind, in darkness, and now he is in the light, he could see. The world that he knew only by his other senses was brought to new light. And not only that, but he could see the one that God had sent to be the Savior of the world. He saw the “Son of Man,” the light of the world.

You and I, we can see. We’re not blind. Probably very few of you even know person who is blind. Few people in this room even suffer from poor eyesight, that is disabling. We have the best of medical care that corrects and protects most of the problems we have with our eyes. In lots of ways we see better now than any generation. When I was a senior in High School the teachers told me they thought I might need glasses. I didn’t believe them, but I went to the eye doctor anyway. It was one of those “in-the-mall” eye clinics. After the checkup the doctor brought me out to pick the frames for the new glasses he said I needed. As I sat there he must have seen the dubious look on my face. “You don’t think you need glasses do you.” “No!” I answered. “I can see just fine.” He pointed out the window of the shop to a tree. “What do you see?” he asked. “A tree,” I said in a sarcastic voice. Holding the lens that would be my glasses prescription in front of my eye he asked again. “Now what do you see?” “Leaves!” I said. Before that, I didn’t know that that when you looked at a tree you were supposed to see leaves. I was blind to it. I was brought into the light. I couldn’t wait for the glasses to be done.

We also have light… at least the electric sort. It’s not very often that the power goes out around here. The lights are very dependable. Once in a while, we have power outages from snow and ice. Whenever you mention the power being out you always here about the old days when the snow piled up the roof and power was out for weeks. All that is just in our memory, our lights rarely go out today. But even if we can see and we have light there is darkness to be found in our lives. It’s blindness that doctors have no cure for. It is darkness that you can’t fix with a flashlight. And it all lives in the chambers of our hearts.

We live with this darkness every day. We struggle with what we know is right and what we want for ourselves. It comes out in our selfish desires. It comes out in our anger. It comes out in our laziness. It comes out in our apathy. We know the darkness. We most often point it out when we see it in other people. But we know that what we see in others is only a reflection of our own troubles. What’s more, God’s light, His Holy and Perfect Word exposes us for what we really are. It shines the light on our sinful nature. When what’s in our hearts is in control of our lives there can be only darkness in our lives.

Saint Paul also knew well what he was talking about when he said; “You were once in darkness…” He lived it in his own life. Before Jesus changed his life he stood by and approvingly watched as people threw stones at Stephen until he was dead. Stephen died because he confessed Jesus. He was the first Christian martyr. Paul even held the killers coats while they worked. Paul’s world, before Jesus, was darkness. And even if we don’t care to admit it, we know what he’s talking about, too. We don’t like it when the light of truth shines on our dark hearts and reveals our sin. We would rather keep our secrets, secret. We want our private lies, our private desires, our private darkness, to be only ours. But, God’s light shines on it and exposes it all and when it does we want to cower in the corner, and stay in the darkness.

But, Paul also says that we are Children of the Light. We are that because we have been made so by the Jesus. He said himself that he is the light of the world. He not only brings light into the world, like when he made the blind man see, but he is the light of the world. Jesus is life, and that life, is the light of men. St. John says at the beginning of the Gospel of John. So Saint Paul can talk about our darkness as a thing of the past. Just look how Paul says it You were once in darkness… he said, but now you are light in the Lord. God’s Word of Light shines on us and tells us of our need for a Savior. It shines on the darkness in our hearts and exposes it. God’s Word also tells us that Jesus Christ is the Savior we need. He won forgiveness that makes the darkness in our hearts go away. God’s Word tells us again and again of God’s great love for us in Jesus. His love was so great that, on a darkened hillside outside of Jerusalem, the Light of the World endured the pain and suffering, the punishment and the condemnation, that our darkness deserved. All the darkness of the world was gathered into that one place, and placed on Jesus. He took the darkness of our sin to death, and left it in the grave. We know what happened after that, he rose again. He came alive. The darkness of death was defeated by the Light of the World. That’s the Light that shines into your darkness with God’s great love.

When you walk into a darkened room you simply flip a switch and soon light floods every corner. We do it every day without thinking. Light makes a difference in the room. The Light of Jesus makes a difference in your life. Jesus is your Light. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in Word and Water and Bread and Wine, he enables us to push the darkness away, and see Jesus even more clearly. The Light that Jesus gives defeats the unholy, secret, dark things in our hearts. Like the blind man who saw the light of the world for the first time when Jesus fixed his eyes, our lives are also forever different.

Paul tells us again, Live as Children of the Light. The fruit of a life as a Child of Light is evident goodness, righteousness, and truth. And that describes you and me, too. Even though there still times when the darkness comes out, because of Jesus we always have the moments of light. Visits to the hospital miles away from home, a caring touch for a hurting relative, and an understanding smile. Faithful, often unnoticed, work for the church, and money that sends missionaries to the farthest, darkest corners of the earth. The Light of God shines in and through us, as the love of God reaches out from us, to the dark world that is all around us.

And there are times when we point to the darkness of the world around us, and shine the Light of Truth there, too. It isn’t that there isn’t darkness in us, but that God’s light is needed out there. “…light that makes everything visible.” There are times to speak up about sin in the world: to defend the lives of the helpless; to point out what God says is evil. So there are times when we must speak out against public sin. It’s not that we want to condemn but that we want to bring to light what God had done about the whole world’s sin. We want there to be repentance to life. We what God’s light for other people, too. Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. “God has sent Jesus Christ to remove the darkness from your life.” We say to those whose lives are controlled by the darkness. “Turn to him and live in the light.”

Jesus sent the blind man to a pool of water to wash the mud off his eyes. When he did his new life in the light began. Our new lives, our new life in the light begins with our washing too. Every day we as we wake, when the light of day wakes us from sleep and we hop into the shower or wash our face, we remember the new life, the light that Jesus brings to our lives in Baptism. We remember that we were blind but now we see. We remember that Jesus washed the darkness in our hearts away. We are no longer blind but are in the light. We also remember that every day we wake and rise only because the Light of Jesus Christ has shines on us. The Light of the World shines through us to make us a light to the world. Darkness no longer controls us, but light, the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

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