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Posts Tagged ‘light of the world’

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Translation of the Text, St. John 3:30, behind John the Baptist, pointing to the crucified Christ; detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald)

He was not the light, but came to bear witness about             the light. (St. John 1: 8)

 Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week.  In the first day of creation, God created light.  Darkness and light are fundamental realities of life.  God created light in the midst of the darkness of no life.  He created out of His divine being.  

For with You is the fountain of life;
    in Your light do we see light. (Psalm 36: 9)

 and

 This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  (1 John 1: 5)

 The fundamental scientific reality of light, that even a pin prick of light, can lighten a totally dark room, but physically one can not box up darkness and let it loose in a room with light to darken the room. We can only block the light or turn it off.  There are two types of darkness and light:  physical and spiritual.  Physically men and women cannot bring darkness into the light, but spiritually, this is possible.  But when right light of God’s Law shines on that spiritual darkness, it is frightening to the Old Adam: 

 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (St. John 3)

 Everyone who has  not believed in the Lord our Savior Who came into the darkness is still in the dark.  They have not believed in God’s just judgment of the darkness of wickedness.  They have not believed in His utter forgiveness of sinners in the light of His Word.

 The Lord sent John as witness about the light coming into the world, the light of salvation. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation. (Psalm 27)  He preached God’s Law, repentance so that through the Light of world, Jesus Christ, “…that all might believe through Him” (John 1).  The Lord’s Word of Law, making straight the Lord’s way, prepares  for our Savior’s inestimable mercy for sinners, the light of the world.  “Thy Word O Lord is lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119: 105).  The Lord showed us by His Law the way we are lost and by His promises fulfilled shows us the Way, Jesus Christ, the very light OF the world, love’s pure light,  in our darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  

Fill with the radiance of Thy grace
The souls now lost in error’s maze
And all whom in their secret minds
Some dark delusion haunts and blinds.

 It is frightening to be lost in the darkness, physical and spiritual. Years ago, friends of our family,  the Johnsons, a family of 6 told this story.  Pastor Johnson’s mother had died and his father later moved to a small rural town in Mississippi, out in the country.  The Johnson family went to find Grandpa’s new home. They were driving and driving and unable to find the town.  The sun had set and darkness descended. Dark country roads with no moon nor any street lights are ominous when one is lost. When it was pitch black, unable to find any town, they  were scared.  In the dark, lost, even for a short time can seem like an eternity. Finally, off in the horizon they saw a light and they were encouraged.  As they drove closer and closer, they realized it was a fire and they were drawing closer to it, not turning around, maybe curious, or at least it was light and there might be someone there. Well, there were people there.   Then came to that fire and they saw what it was:  a KKK meeting and a cross burning.  They sped away.

 They found in the middle of the country darkness worse than any physical darkness: the darkness of racial hatred, which is wickedness masquerading as light in the darkness.  In the fear of the dark on life’s journey, there are many tempting lights on the horizon, which beckon with their siren call.    Jesus warned: 

“The eye is the lamp of the body.  So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.”(St. Matthew 6)

 We look for light in enormous wealth, in celebrity and popularity, in celebrities, in more and more stuff, in what’s under the tree not Him who hung upon the Tree, in sexual encounters, in political  movements, in our own intelligence and reason to save, in our nation…how we look at life matters.  All of those things are good gifts from God but when bad eyes seek them for themselves as light, how great is the darkness. It is idolatry.

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11)

John came to clear the vision as witness about the Light.  He could say I am not the light. He said I am not the Christ.  Christ said,  beware of those who say, I am the Christ. They are not the light.  Even the Church is not the light in the sense that the Church is not Christ. We are Christ’s body.  We are called to do as John:  bear witness regarding the Light.  Light shines into the darkness.  Light comes from the outside.  Darkness, of the heart separated from the Lord, comes from within.  Upon whom who has lighted shined?  The light has shone upon those walking in the dark, then all those lesser lights are like Christmas lights left on in the morning and the sun shines and they look small and ineffectual. They are when the real light of the Lord’s grace shines.

  The light has shone, the good news, as Isaiah said upon:    

the poor   

the faint  of spirit    

the captives

those who are bound 

all who mourn  

the brokenhearted 

Not upon those who think they are the light. The brightest and the best bathe in their own light, as the religious muckity mucks from headquarters who came to investigate John. The prophet Isaiah’s list, the poor, the faint in spirit, captives, those who mourn sure sounds like another passage, Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn…the Beatitudes. He comes to find the lost.  He has.  He will. He comes to bless in worst distresses, in the light of His forgiveness, for,

a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21     and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”(Isaiah 42) 

 Don’t quench the Spirit, encouraged the Apostle.  Don’t put out the fire, the light of the Holy Spirit teaching Christ into your ears and into your heart, the light of the Word made flesh. But how does the fire and light of the Holy Spirit stay close to us?  Just before Paul’s encouragement not to quench the Spirit, he shows how:  Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances. When the power goes out, what’s one of the first things you go looking for?  A flashlight.   This trinity of unity is, “…the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Pray anytime…in need, in sorrow, in hope, for others, in rejoicing and thanksgiving. Your body is His Temple.  In prayer, in a flash, reach for His light as He has reached you. When the lights of this world go out, it makes no sense not to pick up a flashlight.  In this dark world, it makes no sense that by God’s grace we know where His light is in His Word, so to serve and help others.   John was not worthy to do a slave’s work to stoop down and untie the sandals of Christ Jesus, and Christ Himself, in the night in which He was betrayed stooped down and untied the disciples’ sandals to wash their feet.  He has untied us from the bounds of sin and death tied to His own life. 

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

In the 70s, symphony conductor and composer, Leonard Bernstein wrote a kind of an opera/musical called “Mass” which the story of the celebrant of a Roman Catholic Mass and his faith and loss of it, and restoration, told within the parts of the Christian Liturgy. .  The opening is “Simple Song”. Part of the song’s lyric has stuck with me now for years, “Sing like you like to sing; God loves all simple things. For God is the simplest of all” A simple man is a humble man.  Jesus said, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(St. Matthew 11).  God is the humblest of all, compared to the preening of his creation, man.  Man, wanting to be like God, will only say I am humble to impress someone.  Someone wrote, How odd of God to choose the Jews.  Only odd to man who thinks he’s god. He chose a people needing choosing, despite themselves, Israel.  He chose as His first disciples 3 fishermen. He began the Sermon on the Mount with beatitudes with the first Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  His blessing is simple. For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,     but the haughty he knows from afar. Psalm 138: 8 And before Sermon on the Mount,  the Lord simply called His first disciples.

One day Carl asked Jesus:
 

He called, the fishermen followed but it is in the Lord’s calling they followed, by His Word.   He baptized, we follow, all His Words from love your enemies to seek ye first the kingdom of God, coming to realize only by staying close to Him as He is to us, we are not straying. Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  His last beatitude before today’s Gospel, Blessed are you when you are persecuted.  The message of His forgiveness will not be received well in self-sufficient, self-made, self-invented world that is Olympic in it’s ambitions. 

You are and you are, the salt of the earth, the light of the world. The Lord loves simple things, after all He created them.  We take salt and light for granted yet without salt and light there would be no life on the earth.  The first thing the Lord created was light.  He created salt to sustain life.   Salt and light are so simple.  You are the salt of the earth, the light the word:  these are plain declarative sentences.  They are not imperatives, You must be the salt of the earth, you must be the light of world.  There is nothing to achieve in our Lord’s declarative statements but everything to receive by faith in His call to us all.  It is you He redeemed to be salt and light and they are meant to be in the earth, here and now. It makes not sense to light a candle and put it under a basket!  Maybe we, as a mission, should not be hidden away here in the Piovano room here in the library. 

 Jesus is describing His Church, His own Body.  Salt is bitter and is so different from that which it preserves, seasons and yes, saves.  Light is so different from darkness so that we can see the way and yes, be saved.  The Apostle Paul really only had one mission strategy:  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, so good that He died alone, shamed, bloody and naked on the cross to save us from even our selves.  So good, He rose again from the dead and gives us His Body and blood, taste and see the Lord is good, His mercy endures forever, as the psalmist prayed. The Cross is so different from the tasteless and dark world. If any pastor or minister in his preaching and sermons does not lead always to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he’s not doing his job.  The apostle Paul said we preach Christ and Him crucified, present tense.  Jesus Christ is the present tense Savior for present tense sinners.   His Word pierces the darkness as to who He saves us to be:  the salt of the earth, the light of the world.  Our righteousness is to exceed that of the Pharisees. And, as Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented on this lesson:  “…the disciple had the advantage over the Pharisee in that his doing of the law is in fact perfect. How is such a thing possible? Because between the disciples and the law stands one who has perfectly fulfilled it, one with whom they live in communion. They are faced not with a law which has never yet been fulfilled, but with one whose demands have already been satisfied.” The righteousness it demands is already there, the righteousness of Jesus which submits to the cross because that is what the law demands.  Jesus Christ was born under it that in Him we have the righteousness that comes by faith, exceeding the law.  He deepens our righteousness into our very hearts and will as we will see next week. 

A few years back I saw an ad for this kind of hand-held olive wood cross with this ad copy, ““Shaped to comfortably fit into the palm of your hand as you pray and meditate, crafted to inspire you with its deep meaning in your faith.” The cross is no talisman. His Cross is not about fitting comfortably into the world but that we be comforted and fit into His hand, forgiven, loved before the foundations of the world. Pastors, congregations, have tried so many ways to make the church tasty to attract new members, or maybe consumers.  A comedian once quipped that when he came back to church, in addition to communion, they now have a salad bar.  Trying to be tasty, we become tasteless.  Our calling is not to use the salt but not to lose the savor of His grace, mercy and peace in our lives.  Our good works in our Monday through Saturday life will point not to our selves but to Him, which we won’t even know we are doing pointing to Him who is our beatitude, our righteousness and peace. His Cross is not fitting comfortably into the world but that we be comforted and fit into His hand, forgiven, loved before the foundations of the world and we will look different than the world, in Him we point to him, who bore the Cross, we preach Christ and Him crucified, a present-tense Savior for present tense sinners, forgiven.  I conclude with a portion of a sermon preached by Pr. Johann Gerhard:

The Lord  the Master,  dies instead of the servants

In place of the debtors, the Faithful One; 

The Physician dies for the good of the patient;

The Shepherd rescues His sheep,

The King dies for the sins of His subjects;

The Peace-maker for the warriors;

The Creator dies for His creation;

God Himself wins man’s salvation!

What now should the servant, the debtor,

the sick one, the sheep, the nation, the multitude do? What should the creatures, mankind, do?

In love extol his Redeemer!

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

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