Sunday, April 7th, 2024

God is Light

Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. Grace, mercy and peace are yours from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Let us pray. O Lord, send forth your word into our ears that it may bear fruit in our lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen. So how many of you have some kind of night lights set up in your home, even if not in your bedroom, maybe in the hallway? In our house we have some Christmas garland that we hung down the stairway for Christmas time, and actually it’s been up ever since because I realized that having just that little bit of extra light was very helpful in the middle of the night, when it’s time to take the dog downstairs and let her out. Our house in Houston was right across the street from one of those big street lamps, and so the light from the street lamp would always come through the window, right above the front door, made it fairly easy to navigate the stairs at night there. However, our place here is dark even when the sun is out, and so in the middle of the night it’s pitch black. I almost fell down the stairs last fall, and so we decided once the Christmas lights were up it might be a good idea to leave them. But the thing about night lights is that they’re really only good at night. You can see we often forget to turn our Christmas lights off in the morning because as soon as we turn on the hallway light, you can barely even tell that they’re on anymore. What appears light and bright in the darkness of the night, is actually completely absorbed in the presence of something brighter. Just think about the daytime running lamps that are on your car. At night, your headlights illumine the road in front of you, but when those same lights are on during the day, you can’t tell. You see them on other cars, but they don’t make the road in front of you any brighter. No their light pales in comparison to the light of the sun. Lutheran theologian, Johann Gerhard, once wrote in his Sacred Meditations that a lamp that gleams in the darkness is obscured in the light of the sun. This point is actually quite simple. The brightness of a light depends on the relative brightness or darkness of where that light is trying to shine. In a pitch-dark room, even the dimmest of lights can be helpful and illuminating. But in the blinding sunlight of an Albuquerque afternoon, even the brightest of lamps often appears dim. So here again this morning’s epistle from I John. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Did John put before us the truth that God is light? Pure light. Total light. The true light. The light that obscures any other light that would try to shine in his presence. The light of God reveals the truth for what it is. There are no shadows to hide in when God’s light is shining upon you. There are no dim spots or dark areas in which you can hide. It is total and true and complete light. Totally and completely true. Total reality that shows us who we truly are. And see, what John is talking about here is the way we tend to evaluate ourselves as Christians. We like to deny reality for what it truly is. We like to look at our lives and compare them to the sinfulness of the world around us. We ask the question, am I righteous? Let me try to answer it by comparing ourselves to the worst of the world. Well, I’ve never murdered, we say. I’ve never built an idol. I’ve never robbed a bank. I’ve never raped and pillaged and plundered. Doesn’t that make me righteous? I come to church. I try to do the right thing. I don’t cheat on my taxes. Doesn’t that make me righteous? Are my actions righteous? Well, maybe, compared to the darkness of a sinful world. But when the light of God’s truth shines in, It exposes me for the night light that I truly am. My dim righteousness pales in comparison to the true light, the true righteousness. The light of my deeds pales in comparison to true light. In the words of John, if I make my works and my righteousness out to be brighter than they actually are, I’m doing nothing other than making God into a liar. When I’m evaluating my own righteousness, I must not compare myself with the sinful world, but with the righteousness of my Lord. Yes, I may be a Christian, and I may not have worshipped or had any statues or had any idols set up in my basement, but have I actually kept the first commandment? Do I only ever look to God for all love and for all good and for all joy, or do I ever make decisions simply based on what pleases me? What I feel like doing. I may not swear and take the Lord’s name in vain, but have I kept the second commandment? Do I use God’s name always as he intends it to be used? Do I always call upon him in every trouble and pray and praise and give thanks? What about the third commandment? Am I ever bored or lazy with my Lord’s word? Do I ever neglect his scriptures, the gifts of his house? Do I always pray for the leaders that God has put over me? Do I mostly grumble about them, the policies that I disagree with? You can go through all the 10 commandments. Or maybe supposedly doing better than the people in the big bad world around us. The truth is that our so-called righteousness, compared to God’s righteousness, we are really nothing at all. So, what if our light shines in comparison to a dark world? A lamp that gleams in the darkness is lost in the light of the sun. But if we walk in his light, then the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our unrighteousness. Because that’s the thing about God’s light. Yes, it exposes us for who we truly are. It exposes our sin and wretchedness and leaves us nowhere to hide. Leaves us no room to fool ourselves. It shows our sin so clearly that if we say we have no sin, we’re simply deceiving ourselves. That’s not all it does. It also shows us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”. The light of God not only shows us who we are, it shows us who He is. It reveals the depth of his love for us, that he took on human flesh, that he lived in our place, suffered in our place, died in our place, that he rose again. But he really won for us forgiveness, life and salvation, and has promised us a share in his resurrection too. All of this is just as real as our sin is. If we insist on hiding in the shadows of self-delusion, if we don’t acknowledge sin for what it is, we’re ultimately just rejecting God’s forgiveness for what it truly is, and thus rejecting God for who he truly is. If we insist on hiding in the shadows, comparing our light to the darkness of the world around us, we’re deceiving ourselves. If we say we have not sinned, if we treat our sin lightly, we make God into a liar. The light of God exposes this to us. But remember that John says not only is God the light, but he himself is in the light. And so, when we walk in the light, we walk with our Lord. The light is where he is found. Not only does the light expose us for who we truly are as sinners, it exposes God for who he truly is as a God of mercy. And so, the highest worship we could ever hope to give our Lord, is simply to receive the gift of forgiveness from Him. That’s why he took on human flesh in the first place. As one pastor put it, the forgiveness of sins must never become the great, of course, in the Christian life. Well, of course my sins are forgiven, now let’s get on to something more important. No, the forgiveness of sins is what God is all about. It’s the reason for his incarnation. It was the motivation for his death. And it’s the hope of his resurrection. And when we walk in his light, this truth becomes abundantly clear to us. The light exposes things for what they are. The Light of God exposes us for the sinners we are. It exposes Him for the Savior he is. And when we walk in that light rather than trying to slither into the shadows, we have fellowship, John says, with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. This may be the last point for this morning. It’s no accident that living in the light, leads us to live together, not only in fellowship with God, but also in fellowship with each other. After all, when we see God for who he truly is in his light, we see the people around us for who they truly are. In the darkness of self-delusion, we might expect perfection from other people, especially from those who are of the household of faith. But when we see, when we recognize that those around us are by nature sinful and unclean, we kneel together and confess our sins. We don’t grow indignant when someone lets us down. Even more than that, we forgive them for the times that they may have wronged us, and we ask forgiveness for the times we have wronged them, because in God’s light we understand the depths of forgiveness that each one of us has been shown. And so, we show it to each other. In the light of God, we see the depths of forgiveness that he has shown the people around us, and armed with that knowledge, we treat that person, every person, as someone who is precious enough that Jesus would die for them. Because that’s exactly what he did. In the light of God, we see our brothers and sisters in Christ as fellow members of the one body, and so we defend them. We speak well of them. We explain everything in the kindest way. We help and support them in every physical need. We help them to improve and protect their possessions and income. In short, we live in fellowship with each other as the true body of Christ on earth, and by living in this fellowship, by living in the light, our joy is truly complete. Joined together as the body of Christ and the fellowship of this altar, we walked together toward the new creation where we will need no light or lamp or sun. We will simply live together in the light of God’s presence. And until that day. We live together here in the light of Christ, confessing our sin, forgiving each other, rejoicing in the fellowship that we share as the people of God. May God got grant it to us for Jesus’ sake. Amen.