Just Words: Light of the World
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Dear Friends in Christ,
In these four weeks of Lent, we have fixed our thoughts on the central article of the Christian faith. That we are justified by the grace of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Four different metaphors for the Gospel are before us, four different metaphors out of John chapters 3,4,9, and 11. Two weeks ago, the Gospel was a new birth, one week ago, Jesus offered living water, next week Jesus will declare Himself to be the resurrection and the life, today, Jesus identifies himself as the light of the world.
West End Township Darkness…Back in the fall of 72, Debi and I met up at Concordia College in St. Paul, and it wasn’t long before I took her to the little farm where I grew up to meet up with my family and show her off to my friends. Ever since, she has told the story of how dark it was out there in the countryside. Other than a few mercury lights dotting the countryside about every half mile or so, and if the stars weren’t shining, when we turned the lights off at night, it was dark. Debi had grown up in the city of Milwaukee, where she tells me, it’s never really dark. Add to the darkness a few black angus cattle grazing nearby and a few dozen boxelder bugs flying around, and it wasn’t long before she was asking me if we had any nightlights. The answer was no.
I tell you all of that to tell you part #1 of our sermon today, which is that
There’s darkness, and then there’s (darkness.) In our Gospel lesson for today, there is the man blind from birth who experienced physical darkness, and there’s the Pharisees who kept on choosing spiritual darkness. In real life, there’s folks who travel through days of trouble with a faith that is stronger than ever, and then there’s folks who travel through days of trouble declining in their faith and even losing it.
In the first part of our sermon today, we focus on the Pharisees, and in the second part. In the first part, we see spiritual darkness deepening, and in the second part, we see the light of the world shining more brightly than ever. Darkness is a metaphor for sinfulness. Paul writes to the Ephesians that they were once darkness but now are light in the Lord. Sin flourishes in dark places. It lurks in the back streets and alleys, it hides behind closed doors, it sneaks around in the hidden places.
Even more frightening than sin and darkness which lies around the next corner is the evil that lurks in the darkness of our own hearts. Who among us wants to have our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds exposed for all to see? Who among us would like to be totally transparent before God and others when it comes time for the confession of sins? Who among us want to be told, as the Pharisees were told by Jesus, that we’re blind as bats and have no idea what we are talking about? As the Pharisees engage in conversation first with the man born blind, secondly with the parents of the man just healed, and third one more time with man, finally with Jesus Himself, we have a case study in the dangers of the blind leading the blind. Three lessons we learn from the Pharisees about what not to do as we spend our days renouncing the devil and all of his works and ways.
Lesson #1 is that Darkness deepens when we keep on asking ( bad questions) I suppose there is some truth to the old adage that there are no dumb questions, but in John 9, we see the Pharisees asking one question of unbelief after another. (Story of Pastor Schauland on vicarage in response to a Bible class participant who kept on asking hard questions and didn’t seem to be listening, “that is a question of unbelief.” It’s clear in our text that the Pharisees weren’t interested in the truth of what had just happened. They started out with the false premise that Jesus was a sinner, they pushed and they shoved and they bullied in an effort to get the answers they desired, and even though the very Light of the World was standing nearby, their darkness just kept on getting darker.
The kingdom of God is like a man caught up in the sin of pornography. A big part of him knew he was playing with fire, another part of him kept on asking, “Am I really hurting anything? Am I really hurting anybody else?
Lesson #2 is that spiritual Darkness deepens as often as we refuse (to listen) The blind man told the Pharisees exactly how Jesus had restored his sight, but they didn’t want to hear it. They asked the man who he thought Jesus was, he answered “he is a prophet,” they didn’t want to hear it. The parents told them their son was in fact born blind, they didn’t want to hear it. Again and again the blind man told them he was blind and now he could see, they didn’t want to hear it. The man told them Jesus was from God and God would listen to the prayers of anybody who would worship him, they didn’t want to hear it, they went a step further and threw him out of the synagogue. They wondered out loud to Jesus if they were also blind, and when Jesus affirmed that in fact the very teachers of the church were spiritually blind, you guessed it, they didn’t want to hear it.
The kingdom of God is like a teenager whose grandparents keep inviting her to church, but she doesn’t want to hear it. Her parents keep warning her against hanging out with the party crowd, but she doesn’t want to hear it. Her own conscience bothers her on a regular basis, but she has found a way to tune that voice out.
Lesson #3 is that spiritual Darkness deepens when we make it a habit of taking (wrong turns). In our Old Testament lesson for today, God is described as a mighty warrior who had for a long time held his peace, but his patience had run out. His people had been taking so many wrong turns for so long they thought he was indifferent to their idolatry, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In today’s Epistle lesson, Paul pleads with Christians to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness and to know that sooner or later, all things shameful will be exposed by the light.
The kingdom of God is like a married couple that keeps on ignoring the signs of a troubled marriage. Less and less do they confess their faults one to another, more and more time they spend explaining, excusing, and blaming. Less and less do they forgive as they have been forgiven, more and more likely they are to hold onto their bitterness and travel the road of self righteousness.
In the first part of our sermon today, we focused on the Pharisees who thought they could see, but were in fact blind. Now we consider the blind man who thought he would always be blind, but now he sees. We rest now in the truth that for you, the baptized and believing people of God, There’s a light at the end of every one of your (tunnels)
Jesus said it this way, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” In chapter 1 of his Gospel, John wrote that in Jesus was life, and the life was the light of men.” To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, For God, who said,’Let light shine out of darkness made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Peter writes to early and suffering Christians, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Dear friends in Christ, whatever fears and foes and failures are dragging you down these days, Jesus Christ has a desire to lift you up and get you on your way again. Whatever guilt of the past or worries of the future are overwhelming your heart today, know once again of your Father’s everlasting life, know once again of your Savior’s desire to have mercy, know once again the Spirit of God who would be your teacher, your counselor, your comforter. However lonesome and long are your tunnels of darkness these days, believe there is a way through, believe there is a purpose for every bit of your suffering, believe that Jesus Christ has gone on before you and even today He walks alongside of you. Three truths in closing, three stories by way of thinking about what it means to be walking as children of light.
Truth #1 is that Light shines more brightly as often as we ask (good questions).The kingdom of God is like a young couple who one day is ecstatic about being pregnant and the next is bent low in grief over the darkness of miscarriage. Initially they are angry, they think they deserve better, they ask, “Lord, how could you be so cruel as to let our little one die?” As the days go on, the Holy Spirit teaches them to be still, they begin to look forward, they ask, “Lord, would you help us not to be bitter? would you help us to trust in you? Lord would you be so kind as to take us by the hand and lead us? For what divine purpose are we suffering?
Truth #2 is that Light shines as often as we (listen well) The kingdom of God is like a middle aged woman whose husband dies suddenly. Initially she is angry, she thinks she deserves better, she asks why God is punishing her. As the days go on, she keeps on hearing the Word of God, she believes the Word of God, she holds close the Word of God. As the days go on, she wonders what the Lord might have in store for her, she wonders how the next chapter of her life might bring God glory, she wonders for what divine purpose she might be suffering.
Truth #3 is that Light shines for others as often as we stay on the (right path) The kingdom of God is like an elderly couple who has been walking hand in hand and humbly before the Lord for sixty years now. The Word of God has been a light unto their path and a lamp unto their feet. Without really thinking about it and just be being who they are, they let their light shine so that all kinds of family and friends see their good works and give glory to their Father in heaven.
Billy giving glory to God. (Story of Bill, born with Downs Syndrome, singing Gloria in excelsis deo every Christmas Eve. He was born with Downs Syndrome not because of his sin, nor the sin of his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
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