Friday, February 23, 2007

Sermon on John 8:12, LWML Sunday

....Just to inform you before you read. This is not an original sermon, but the theme, the introduction, and the outline of the sermon, along with some thematic statements come from a prepared sermon study that was sent out as part of the materials for LWML Sunday. I did assemble the skeleton into my own sermon and include material that was written by me, but I just want to make sure not to steal credit. Thanks!....

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text for this LWML Sunday is John 8:12 “I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

As some of you may have noticed, the theme for today’s LWML Sunday is “Let There Be Light.” In the sermon text you just heard, we learn that the light we are talking about is not just a ray of sunshine, or some abstract “light,” but it’s Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. He is the one who shines light into our darkness—His Light. The personal God and Creator of Light is Himself Light. But the verse doesn’t only mention light—it also mentions its opposite: darkness. For we who follow Jesus will not walk in darkness, but in light.

Light and darkness are probably one of the most common themes in the Bible, from Genesis 1 to the end of Revelation 22. Until the 20th century light and darkness divided the day. With the setting of the sun, darkness dictated the rhythm and style of life—what you did plus when and where you would do it—changed. The “edges” of darkness could be temporarily neutralized by a campfire, the hearth’s flame, an oil lamp, a candle or torch, but between dusk and dawn darkness always finally won. When the last flame died out everyone knew they would have to deal with the difficulty, even the danger of darkness. Maybe that’s not something you think about as much living in a safe and well-lit neighborhood. But you can be sure that the fear and danger of darkness still hangs over soldiers at war, in the dark ghettoes and slums of the big cities, and over many a child who is frightened by a power outage during a heavy thunderstorm. Watchmen like those in the Old Testament (Ps. 130:6) weren’t the only ones who breathed easier when the dawn brushed the horizon with the first light. Everyone did.

The Biblical meaning of Christ’s words in John touch on more than literal light and darkness. Christ, and the prophets before Him, used darkness and light to refer to the darkness of sin and ignorance in which people were enveloped until He, the light of that world, came. By His birth, life, death, ascension and being seated at God’s right hand, Christ overwhelmed the darkness and offered the possibility of light and life to all. Those led by the Spirit to live under His redemptive light receive Him by faith, follow Him and reflect His brightness on all that sit in the darkness created by sin and Satan. Their desperate cry and only hope echoes the Word of creation, “Let there be light!” For where there is light there is life, hope, and security.

Light and darkness indeed serves as a metaphor that touches everyone’s life, even down to the smallest child. Think of how young children yearn for the comfort of a nightlight in the darkness. Surrounded by the blackness of night and the creeping shadows of their bedroom, the tiny nightlight gives surprising comfort and security. I remember when I was a young kid, how I was afraid of the dark. I would always send my little sister into the dark room or stairway or basement first, to go make sure it was safe and clear. I don’t know if she was braver than me or if she just was oblivious to the danger I was sure lurked in the darkness, under the bed or in the closet. She probably didn’t know she was the “sacrificial lamb” that I sent into the darkness. In Christ, we truly have a sacrificial lamb who has gone before us into the darkness, and He has shone forth His light and driven out all the powers of this dark world, conquering them in His death on the cross.

But light and darkness is not just a relevant metaphor for children who are afraid of the dark, this reality touches adults equally. I mentioned examples before, about wartime, life in a dangerous neighborhood, or a power outage. Police know that streetlights and floodlights near stores and parking lots can be a significant deterrent for crime. Jesus Himself said that the people of this world loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. When people are intent on doing wrong, they seek the darkness to commit their crime. And not only does the light serve to ward off evil, but it also brings that sense of welcome and rest. When you come home to an empty house after a scary movie, what’s the first thing most people want to do? Turn on a bunch of lights! Or when you’ve come home late to your spouse or parents, and seen the light in the window, how you were reassurred that they were watching or waiting for you.

And the light serves an important role in guiding us. Think of how big a role lighthouses once played in the navigation of ships. A dangerous shoal or hidden rocks could mean the difference between life and death, and profit or loss for a ship that sailed the ocean. The lighthouse warned of danger, and told sailors where the safe passage was. How much more is Christ, the Light of the World, the light that warns us of danger and guides us to safety? So on more than one account, from all avenues of daily experience, there is reason for us to cry “Let there be Light!” For light has power, and it grants comfort and safety.

It’s certainly not just physical darkness that we have to contend with each day. An even greater threat to our well being is the spiritual darkness of sin, as we confess that our nature is sinful and unclean. Each week in the liturgy we confess that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed. And this is not even to mention our private sins, that we don’t openly name!
Then when we look around us, it seems as if the national and international “deeds of darkness will never end! And the local news and TV stations don’t make the situation seem much better close to home. We can easily point to all kinds of spiritual darkness in society, whether it be drug or alcohol abuse, movements for euthanasia, abortion, school violence, corruption in government and scandals, unfair business practices, you name it. There are plenty of places we can point the finger, when searching out the spiritual darkness in our land. But the hardest place to point the finger, and to recognize that spiritual darkness for what it is, is in our own hearts and our own lives. Our own sin is often the hardest to see. We quickly find excuses or ways to deflect attention from the sin in our own lives. We imagine that if we aren’t concerned about it, or if those around us don’t seem to be concerned about it, then God probably isn’t concerned about it either! Or if we’ve just conveniently “forgotten” our sin, instead of actually repenting of it, then God must not remember either! The truth is, that our hearts truly are darkened by sin, and without Christ, the Light of the World, we’re “dead in our trespasses and sins.” We truly need some light shed on the subject! Not only do we need the light of God’s Word to show us how dark our hearts really are, by comparison to His Law—but we also need to have the Light of His Word to lead us by His Gospel to freedom from this darkness. So our cry shall be, “Let There Be Light!”

God, who first gave the physical lights of the universe—the sun, moon, and stars—to creation, also gave another light. This Light was spoken of in Isaiah 9, “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.” Here is the light that is needed for our dark and sinful lives! Here is the light that is needed by our dark and sinful world. A light for the nations! Jesus Christ, as we’ve already said, is that Light of the World. His light pierces the darkness to expose the lawless deeds of sin, but even moreso, shines a more glorious ray to illuminate the path of life! Jesus Christ is that path, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Here is a golden beam of light that brings life out of death, making us alive from sin just as the sun’s rays awaken the tiny seeds of a plant from their death in the soil. This is the light we need and that we want. “Let There Be Light!”

For all our sins, there is a cure. For the deeply ingrained darkness of our hearts, there is a stronger light that burns more brightly in Christ Jesus. Awakened by this light, we confess our sins to the One who is alone able to forgive them. His light not only illumines, but it actually cleanses. Imagine if the rays of the sun could wash your car. Now believe in the reality that the rays of the Son, S-O-N, wash away the dirt and darkness of your sin! Step into His light. How amazing that even before God had created physical light on that first day of creation, He already knew and planned for the greater light of His Son Jesus to come into the world to save us from our sin. There is never a point where we have “heard enough” about this truth. Just as a plant cannot continue to grow and to live if it’s taken out of the light, so also our faith will wither and die if we cut ourselves off from that pure source of light in Jesus Christ. “Let There Be Light!”
Having this light in our lives, we have been given a great privelege. That privelege is to carry and shine that Light of Christ before the world. A light is not meant to be hid under a bushel, as you used to sing in the Sunday school song “This little Gospel light of mine,” but rather it’s meant to be held up to cast light on others. Christians are like a multitude of little mirrors that reflect the light of Christ into all the world. Mirroring His love to others, by both words and deeds, we bring His light into the lives of others who still dwell in darkness. And Christ’s light is never exhausted! There is no limit to the supply of His grace and mercy. So shining your Gospel light before others is not just the right thing to do, it’s the “light-thing.”

There is no doubt that the LWML, has continually recognized their role as Lutheran Women, to be a light to the world. In Daniel 12:3 it says, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Throughout the history of the LWML, the women of the Lutheran Church have indeed modeled this passage. With tremendous support given to mission work all over the world, through their mite boxes and offerings, and in their own personal witnessing in their daily lives, they have been “Lutheran Women Missionary Lights” to those around them. For they recognize who it is that brings light into their lives. It’s Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Those who follow Him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of Life. And His Light is our Life!

The women of the LWML know what we also should know, that Christ is the Light that continues to beckon us home to God our Father. Like a lighthouse shining in a dark place, He guides us through the dark, rocky waters of life. Like a light shining in a window, He welcomes us home. Like the nightlight in the bedroom, He gives safety and comfort—more than just a feeling, but the real protection of His blood that cleanses us from all sin. His light overpowers the darkness.

I can’t pass up the opportunity to make a quick mention of our opening hymn today, and how beautifully it ties in with this theme of light. We sang “O Day of Rest and Gladness,” hymn ____. Look at it again if you can. Perhaps it didn’t occur to you right away what day this is singing about. It’s singing about Sunday! Look at verse two: “On you at earth’s creation, the Light first had it’s birth; on you for our salvation Christ rose from depths of earth; On you our Lord victorious the Spirit sent from heaven; and thus on you, most glorious, a threefold light was given.” Remember that Sunday was the first day of creation—the day God created light. And Sunday of course is the day of Resurrection, when Jesus the Son of God rose on Easter morn. And what happened on Pentecost Sunday? The Holy Spirit was sent! So on Sunday a threefold, Trinitarian light is given, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Truly every Sunday is a day of Light and a day of blessing for us, as we gather to worship the 3 in 1, the God who is Light, and brings us light through His Word and Sacraments each Sunday. So let our cry be, “Let there be Light!”

Now the peace which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting, Amen.

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