Apr. 22 Easter 3 John’s Second Big Idea: Light

There is an alternative version of the story I have already told you of the apostle John that Fr. Peay mentioned to me at the clergy retreat I attended this past week. In this version, each week John’s disciples would carry the very, very old apostle into the church gathering and he would always say “Little children, love one another” and nothing more. When the disciples grew weary of him saying the same thing repeatedly, they finally asked him, “Master, why do you always only say this one thing?” John replied, “When we get this one right, then I will go on to something more.” Certainly this is something that is the most important thing of all to get right.

As we go on in this sermon series on the great ideas in I John, we will now look at the second of the great ideas: Light and Darkness. In the North Country there is a medical condition appropriately called SAD, which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is the depressed state that some people grow into during our long winters when the days are so short and the nights are so long. It highlights the fact that we cannot live without light.  In Genesis 1:1-4 we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” Now this is a picture for us, woven into the fabric of the creation, like a golden thread. It shows us how God works and who He is.

The first thing created in the universe was light, but the Fall plunged the world into Darkness. I John 2:11 says, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” And so we see immediately after Adam’s sin, Cain hated Abel and murdered him, and Lamech killed a man and then boasted about it, and so things went until the time of Noah when the world had become full of violence, and had separated itself from God. God’s people had become like little children who rebel by shutting themselves into a dark closet, hiding from the one who loves them. I John 1:5-6 says, “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 we have fellowship with Him while we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

I had an aunt who used to punish her children by shutting them in a  closet.  It was a cruel punishment, because they were terrified, shut up in the dark. But God our Father never left the world alone in total darkness. Though man shut himself into the darkness of his sin after the  Fall, there was always a bit of light slipping in under the door and along its edge. Again and again, God pierced the darkness through His prophets, from Moses at the burning bush on.

The good news is that even though there is no darkness in God, nothing can stop the light from piercing the darkness. And that is what happened when Jesus came. In the gospel of John, chapter one, verse 5 we read: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” If you were in a little dark cramped room and outside the day was blazing with sunlight, would you ever wonder what was going to happen when you opened the door? The light of the sun would flood in, of course. Is there any possibility that the darkness in the room would flood out?

I John 2:8b says, “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” The victory of light over darkness is sure, as sure as the fact that the dark will not flood out of the room when the door is opened. When Jesus established the church he promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against it. But sometimes the darkness is so deep and has lasted so long that we are tempted to despair. I remember once sitting up with a sick child all night. It felt like the morning would never come, and as long as it was dark, the illness seemed to cling about her. But there came a point when I noticed that the room was not quite so dark, when I noticed that I could just begin to see a few objects in the room. Then I knew that dawn was coming, and just that little bit of light, just the knowledge that the night was almost over, that the worst had passed, that the dawn was surely coming, gave me hope.

In Psalm 30:4-5, David says, “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Amen.

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