6-25-17 ~ From darkness to light

This will be one of those rare Sundays when I will not be preaching on one of our weekly Bible readings.  I was moved to instead speak from this Scripture-- 1 Peter 2, selected verses:  Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Thus far our text.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

I was drawn to this text because of that last phrase, “that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  This has been one of those periods in my life when I have encountered a very real darkness, from within and without.  Maybe you have experienced similar things in your life journey.

I’ve been made aware of the darkness within my own heart and mind—caused by those common enemies of ours that we call “sin and Satan.”  At times I get frustrated with myself, with my weaknesses and frailties.  There are things I struggle with that I feel I ought to have moved beyond by now.  I have shared some of those weaknesses with you before.  Thank God for infinite grace.

I have also been impacted by the darkness experienced by people around me.  There are so many people dealing with so much brokenness.  As I have heard the stories of people who have suffered from abusive relationships, the darkness hits home and breaks my heart. 

When I attend the memorial service of a young man I knew from Wellington whose life was so dark and hopeless that he was led to take his own life, that darkness breaks my heart.  When I encounter another even younger person I’ve coached and taught who is dealing with depression and self-destructive thoughts, that darkness breaks my heart.  When I hear the stories and see the brokenness of Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Reservation, it breaks my heart.  When I visit with a man whose life has been horribly darkened by an addiction, it breaks my heart.

As I read and watch the news and see the permeating darkness leading to a land and a world horribly divided, it breaks my heart.  As I hear people express dark thoughts and pessimism regarding the moral chaos that seems to be increasing in our land and in our world, it breaks my heart.  As I try to figure out how best to serve as pastor of this wonderful congregation as we consider ways to continue and to grow our mission and ministry without having differences in perspective and opinions cause conflict and division, and yet fall short of doing so, it breaks my heart.  Ah, the darkness is real, and sometimes it threatens to overwhelm. 

But along comes the Holy Spirit of God, who speaks through the written word of God to remind me that the “living Word,” Jesus the Christ, the very Son of God, has won the ultimate victory over the forces of darkness.  Indeed, He has “called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I tried to capture this experiencing of darkness and light in this poem I wrote many years ago:

                                                                      SIGHT

You’ve closed your eyes...

How can you see?

There’s nothing to be found,

Darkness all around.

Only loneliness.  Only strife.

Not knowing the way you lost your life.

 

You’ve closed your heart...

How can you feel?

All has been lost, all is in vain.

All is the cost, nothing the gain.

We all must pay.  We all must die.

With nothing left, we break down and cry.

 

But now dawns a Light, now breaks a new day.

Be done with the fight and follow the Way.

The end of the night is within your sight,

And “grace” is all you need say.

 

The

Light

is the

One

Who lived after death

Who fought for us all

to

His

Final

b

r

e

a

t

h

 

Now open your eyes...

What do you see?

A much better way for your life to be.

The battle’s not over, but the victory is won,

Because of the life of God’s only Son,

Because of the death of the innocent One!

 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is at the very heart of our mission and ministry, to call sin sin, to acknowledge the darkness of sin and its horrible impact on lives, our relationships, and on this world, in order to serve as the means through which God leads ourselves and others to see that we’ve all been “called out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  By God’s goodness and grace we are now “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that [we] may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, we are to speak the light of grace into the darkness of sin and Satan within us.  You know what, we can tell Satan just where he can go!  In spite of our own personal sin and brokenness, God comes to us and says—using words from Brennan Manning— “I have a word for you: I know your whole life story.  I know every skeleton in your closet.  I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past.  Right now, I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship.  And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are and not as you should be, because you’re never gonna be as you should be.”  We have been called by grace out of the darkness and into God’s marvelous light.

And in that very same Spirit, we proclaim to the darkness of those around us, to the darkness that divides our world and our nation, and threatens to divide God’s people here and everywhere, we are to proclaim together “the mighty acts of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light,” the light of God’s grace and goodness.  We are the children of God.  We are the Body of Christ.  We are covered by His grace, healed by His love, and empowered by His Spirit.

We are chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones” we are being continually “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [We] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people”, and we have been charged to proclaim loudly and clearly the mighty acts of God, who has called us—and continues to call all of His children—out of the darkness and into the marvelous light of His kingdom.  Spirit of God, enlighten us, call us, heal us, inspire us, and empower us by the light of goodness and grace.  Amen.

   November 2018   
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