Sermon – 01-22-23 – Epiphany 3 – Cycle A
Scripture: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
Sermon Title: “Being Called To The Light”
The people who have walked in darkness – who is that and how is it? Well, nations have walked in deep darkness. They have been exiled, captured by stronger nations. Often God has made other nations strong just to teach Israel a lesson.
Individuals walk in deep darkness – or maybe not deep darkness but just darkness. Maybe a family is just keeping their heads above water with finances. Along comes a big, unexpected bill. Darkness! They need to dip into money which was being saved for a new much-needed roof. Darkness!
But another family was already behind in paying rent and long ago needed to give up health insurance. When illness strikes, all hope for ever catching up escapes them. This is deep darkness!
When a young member of the family had been a pleasant, agreeable child, but is now captured by drugs and has become a definite liability to the family, they say “Where has our little Billy gone? We have lost our child, a person who lived in our hearts wrapped in love for him and from him! Our lives are turned upside down. We have each other but we are not complete because Billy has not only disappeared as a loving member of “us” but he has become a liability to us as a family and to the whole community! We grieve the loss of Billy when we still share the house with him sporadically. We never know what is happening in his life until the police knock on the door. School is long gone for Billy. Tell me – is this not deep, deep darkness?
Then there is illness. A member of the family has been physically in pain for years. Consider the political state of the world. Of the United States. Of the havoc that climate change is causing. And who is causing climate change? Is it God? Is it us? Deep darkness!
By now you are wanting to escape this sermon. Well the light is coming! Better still the light is all around us now despite my images of darkness. Even better, the light was with humans from the beginning – before the creation of the world, there was light, but only God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – knew the light and enjoyed the light.
In our Isaiah lesson today, we heard “There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.” Did you hear “will be” and “were in anguish?” When can we expect the light to shine in our lives, if gloom has been the controlling ambience? Is it up to us to create the light and the joy?
I have known families with a differently-abled person who say that baby and then child and then young person and then adult has brought so much joy into their families, they can’t imagine their family without this person.
Who will help us to look beyond the gloom in our lives? I know some of you are natured to live the joy amidst the gloom. It is our attitude that makes the difference. For some of us, this light and joy is natural. For others of us, the gloom is prevalent. We can’t seem to lift it from our minds and hearts and shoulders. How can we overcome?
How can we shine so that other people can see the light? Of course, it will only be a weak, short-lasting light if we try to do it ourselves. We can be temporary lights, like candles that are short and are situated in a breeze, or like a flashlight with a battery whose life has been used while providing much light. The real light of joy comes from God. But we need to accept this light.
On a bright, sunshiny, January day, people seem to be happier than on the gloomy days we seem to have frequently this year. Of course it is a bit easier to wake to sunshine than gloom. But there are two reasons that I do not care for the bright light. One is that all of the dust and dirt in my house is on display on a sunny day. The other reason that I have a problem with a sunny day is that my eyes, for whatever reason, do not adjust to the bright light of direct sun when I am driving. I have special sunglasses which help most of the time but the other day I was driving west slightly before noon and the sun was aimed precisely on my rear-view mirror, glancing off into my eyes. It was just for a moment so I did not have time to turn the mirror but it brings to mind the power of the sun. This bright light did not bring joy to me! I feel a bit like Saul when he is blinded by Jesus on the way to Damascus. How is that? Do I need to repent?
How will I connect to the joy that the light of God does bring to the world? I can repent. Our Matthew lesson has Jesus saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” “Repent?” I ask. “Turn around. Live life differently! Shed my sins.” the voice in my head is saying. My creative mind takes over. Look at the opportunities instead of the burdens. Look at things from a different angle. Open my heart. Open my ears. Is that Jesus calling? It is Jesus calling. I hear, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people instead of fish.” ‘Follow me and forget the dust. Follow me, Mary Etta, and I will make you full of joy that I have brought you to this place in your life to glorify me in a big way.”
I reply, “Oh, God, and oh my Jesus, I am eternally grateful for your call and for your provision for me to answer the call.” “But your light, God, shines on ALL of us gathered in this congregation. Your light bounces off each of us onto another of us. Your joy multiplies in that way. We each receive light from you and we share it. You have plans for each of us in your earthly kingdom. You call each of us. May each of us accept the talents and gifts you have brought to light. May we then fit like pieces of the puzzle to form a community in your earthly kingdom that multiplies light within and opens the doors and windows to let the light flow outside. We want no barrier to keep the light from calling to our neighbors near and far.”
People, we want no one left behind; no one who thinks the cross is foolishness. God wants us to accept the message of the cross as the shining light in our lives. The gloom of the cross is long gone. It is a bright light inviting us to a joy-filled life on earth and a glorious eternal life forever and ever. Amen