“Children of the Light”
First John 1:1-7, & 2:29, & 3:1-3
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Our reading this morning comes from the First Epistle of John. The writer is believed to be the same author as the Gospel of John, tradition believes this was the Apostle John. Listen now to the reading of this ancient writing with an open heart.”
1 John 1:1-7
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us – we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 2:29
If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who does right has been born of him.
1 John 3:1-3
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
“Let us pray that this writing has opened your heart to the love and the word of God, as seen through the Apostles eyes.”
“Children of the Light”
When you were a child… were you afraid of the dark? Many children are, as-well-as some adults. This is why ‘night lights’ were invented. Surely, you are familiar with those little lights which you can plug in the outlets in strategic places around your home. They put out enough light so that you can navigate safely around your house with the main lighting system shut off. Most of us, when asked, say they are for safety when we stumble to the kitchen and such in the middle of the night. They do that for sure. But, let’s face it, the house is no longer in utter darkness after the lights are shut off. Makes a big difference doesn’t it? Somehow, I believe there are a great many of you whom fully understand what I am saying. Children, needless to say, are given permission to ask for a light to be left on at night. They are children and of course they might be a little timid in the pitch blackness of night without a light. Yet, I still contend, a lot of us adults are OK with a night light here and there at night. I won’t say that adults are afraid of the dark, only you can admit to that for yourself. It’s OK too, this is why they were invented!
The metaphor of light is used in our scripture to contrast the darkness of evil and sin with the light of God, the Light of Christ coming into the world, into our lives. We are the children of God; therefore, we are children of the Light. Consequently, we need not go back into the darkness. The metaphor is easy to explain. The reality by which it affects the lives of humankind is a bit more difficult. If we want to fully understand our scripture lesson we need to look a little deeper into our own lives. Let us begin with the obvious, if Jesus represents the light, the living word of God; then darkness must represent the opposite; evil, sin and a lack of the Divine presence of God completely. I say this in this manner to be sure we all get it! Without the light, as my grandfather, The Reverend Herbert Dixon would have said: “Without the light of Christ, life would be absolute ‘hell’”.
I was sixteen going on seventeen when my grandfather Dixon died of a heart attack on the front steps of the church he served for most of his career. It was a tragedy for the folks that had gathered to hear him that day. From here, I see a man who, with his last breath strived to bring the word of God, the light and love of Christ into the lives of others. He did everything he could to dispel the darkness in people’s lives. And he called things as he saw them. He didn’t hold back. I know that he took his ministry into homes and places where the difficulties of life had overshadowed the love of God. In these clouded homes he strived to bring the peace and the joy of God’s abundant love to those who were oppressed and marginalized. The challenge for us, is to continue our efforts to do likewise. Visitations, phone calls, cards and prayers are vital for those whom are unable to be with us each week. The meals we help serve each month, at the Daily Bread, brings in the love of God to the hungry. The cold night shelter’s efforts save lives in those infrequent yet dangerously cold nights in the winter. Our gifts of blankets, via their work with the homeless, is a true outreach of Christian love.
Our reading this morning is a simple back to basics commentary by, we believe, the Apostle John. He was writing to the community that followed the teachings of Christ as taught through the ministry of those whom followed the apostle John’s community of faith. Our writer is perhaps striving to reinforce the basic principles of Christianity, in hopes of keeping the community following his teachings in proper step with the fundementals of the faith. It is believed the writing from Ephesus is around the year 90 A.D. People would have been anxious to hear the words of John as he was one of the first group of disciples that in fact were there with Jesus. Therefore, his words had authority in their eyes. John was clearly concerned that people needed reassurance about the flesh and blood man Jesus and his teachings, as he had been gone a long time.
Christian leaders whom lead their faith communities to believe only in the myths of Christianity; prompted by the commercialization of Christian events such as Christmas and Easter, do a disservice to their congregations. These types of activities are ok for the purposes they were conceived from, to bring joy and excitement into the observances of Jesus’ birth and resurrection, but some go too far and because of this send a mixed message to people; especially, the folks that are already struggling to believe in the difficult teachings of Jesus. The difference between a myth and reality need to be clearly stated within the teaching moments of a faith community. In this it is part of my responsibility as your pastor and that of other pastors in our roles as spiritual leaders. In this ‘we too’ may need to seek forgiveness and strive to keep our teachings in line with our humanness and our understanding of Christ’s journey with us in human form.
We have just celebrated Easter, and the excitement surrounding a God whom comes to us in the flesh. This brings new hope to an oppressed people. We worship a God, in the essence of Jesus, whom is crucified, yet overcomes that hurtle through the resurrection. Having just renewed our faith by remembering the witnesses to the Risen Christ, via the disciples and the women like Mary and Mary Magdalen. Having just done this in real time, and just roughly 40 plus years after these events occurred, there are certain things the Apostles like John could have hoped for. One theologian says it like this: “Certainly, it would have been an exciting period full of fresh revelation, miracles, and the rapid growth of the church. However, texts like First John bear witness to the first century of Christianity also as a time of strife and the splitting of some Christian communities over differences.” /Nijay Gupta/ This is what our writer was concerned about. This is why he takes his conversation back to basics; back to the fundementals of faith.
Dr. Kenneth J. Collins, professor of Historical Theology puts one of the basics of Christianity into simple terms. “Confessing sins is also like taking out the garbage. It is a stinky affair, but if you don’t get rid of that stuff, the problem only gets worse.” No one truly wants to keep this in their day-to-day prayers, yet, John the Baptist, then Jesus and now the writer of First John are ever reminding us, we must repent, apologize, and be remorseful to be in the light of God! “If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true;” /First John 1:1-7/ If we are not willing to atone for our wrong doings, if we are not ready to ask for forgiveness nor even have some regret for the wrongs we have committed, then we are not in the light, we are not walking hand in hand with Christ. Conversely, if we are in the light, then we have repented, and we have basked in the light of God’s forgiveness! Today’s writing is saying we can not have it both ways!
Reverend Stan Mast has worked in many churches and even taught at a seminary. He stresses the human aspect of being a follower of Jesus. “Christianity is what the apostles proclaimed – not what they carefully thought out, but what they shouted out.” Rev Mast wants us to know this is emotional. If you are in the Light of God’s love you ought to be excited and sometimes you will shout things out without even forming a plan. This pastor thinks it is good when the salvation of one’s very soul gets you excited! So, do I! Unfortunately, there are a lot of Christians that are still wringing their hands looking for an easier softer way to get to heaven.
An Executive Research Director of New Testament Studies, Daniel B. Wallace, tells us the harsh truth about Christianity. “The Christian life is not difficult to understand; it’s just impossible to accomplish – that is, apart from the work of the Spirit in our lives. At bottom, God wants us to be honest with him about what we are and who he is.” Director Wallace has said it loud and clear, now all we need do is take his advice. This again, is easy to speak of, yet challenging to live up to.
We as a church community need to hold ourselves accountable as well. We often use our lack of volunteers, our lack of financial abundance, to excuse our inactions. If we as a church, if we wait until everything lines up and we are financially secure to move forward with new opportunities to minister to one another, we may never get strong enough to reach out to others around us. Others whom desperately seek a faith community that is willing to address their human needs, as well as their spiritual needs. Yes, people have needs for spirituality in their homes and in their places of work. Many of us here and out there need spirituality in our roles as parents or grandparents, and as aunts and uncles. It may be difficult, yet real human ministry is what we are called to! People need a connection to the Divine, they need spiritual nourishment in all areas of their lives.
The metaphor of the light verses darkness can be put into many different and various contexts. This morning, we have focused on that of the Divine Light contrasting the darkness of life without the presence of God’s illuminating Spirit and love! The Spirit of Christ, the teachings of Christ have opened up a whole new pathway for our human existence, helping us to overcome the darkness. In responding to the word of God, we must open ourselves to receive the abundant love of God! Remembering always, we are not alone. Through prayer and a devotion to God we shall strengthen our faith. In doing so, we will avail ourselves to the Light of God; the very Spirit of the Risen Christ. Praise be to God! Amen