April 19, 2015: Second Sunday After Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we desperately need the light of Your grace in our lives. We crave the warmth of Your face, the glow of Your love. Through Your glorious resurrection You offer it to us once more today. Give us the power to take it, grasp it, believe it, and bask in it! Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LIGHT OF GOD’S LOVE!

TEXT: I John 1:1—2:2

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Were you afflicted by SAD this past winter? I don’t just mean the emotional state of being sad, I mean: Seasonal Affective Disorder. I looked at the Mayo Clinic web site on the subject. This disorder stems from a lack of sunlight which stimulates the brain via glandular secretions. When you don’t have sun, your serotonin levels go down and you feel lethargic and often depressed. No wonder we crave the light of Spring!

Let’s go back to Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday. Recall the supernatural darkness that descended upon Jerusalem from noon til 3 p.m. when Jesus died. It wasn’t an eclipse. With the full Passover moon and its position, that would have been impossible, scientifically speaking. No, it was a supernatural Divine act, foretold in Amos 8:9 where we read: “In that day, declares the Lord, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.”

Already by 52 AD Roman historians mark this event as truly happening. Tacitus has a brief mention of it in his history. Another Roman who tried to disprove Christianity at about the same time, mentions it as well. In his case, he chalks it up to an eclipse. But then, he didn’t know the scientific mechanics of an eclipse and so his rationale is faulty. Various other early church fathers also mention it. And although the skeptic might say they were simply spouting the party line, the darkness is well documented from sources outside the Bible. The point is: even the unbelieving Romans admitted Jesus was real, His crucifixion was real, and the events surrounding it actually happened—including the darkness.

Throughout the Bible and secular literature darkness always conveys negativity whereas light conveys positivity. In our lesson, St. John picks up on that truth when he writes: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifies us from all sin.”

I

Elsewhere we’re told to: “walk as children of the light.” That stands in opposition to: “avoid the deeds of darkness.” Darkness and sin always seem to go hand-in-hand. I didn’t look it up, but I know that more murders, thefts, break-ins, rapes, and other assorted crimes occur at night than during daylight hours. Evil likes to hide behind darkness. Likewise, night brings on depression and an increase in the suicide rate. We have an innate fear of darkness for these reasons. And it all goes back to a spiritual issue: God isn’t darkness, He’s light. God is goodness itself whereas Satan is evil. Goodness, or light, promotes peace and happiness within, whereas darkness can bring on fear and confusion. Yes, our physical side and our spiritual side are intertwined. We’re made to need and desire the truth of light, the truth of God.

I’m not afraid of the darkness—that is the physical kind. Why? Physiologically I should be. But, I’m not. In fact, I kind of like the dark, quiet hum of a starlit night. On a summer’s night it envelopes me like a warm blanket. Well, I know the reason why I’m not scared of the dark. St. John says why right here: “the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin.” Yes, the force-field of God’s Light is always with me no matter the time of day. And how do I know this? Because Jesus lives! He’s resurrected. The darkness of the grave could not hold Him, or us, because He is the Eternal Light and we’re His progeny by faith!

II

Of course, none of this means we won’t experience scary times, dark times in our lives. Even St. John went through such downer moments. And now John addresses this point: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins (come out into God’s light), he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” That pretty well sums up our lives each week, doesn’t it? Whenever you play with sin or hold onto inner evil, you’re at war with God and with yourself. In short, you’re living in darkness. And it’s an upsetting place to be stuck! But God wants you to come into His light! He wants you to shed light on your inner evil through repentance or confessing your sins to Him and once you do, Christ’s blood washes all that yuckyness away! Yes, every church service should have a confession of sins and an absolution in it. And when the voice of Christ’s forgiveness is pronounced it’s like a warm Spring breeze wafts upon us. How can it be otherwise? For “God is light and in Him dwells no darkness at all!”

I’m preaching on this text today for this very reason. It’s the same reason John wrote it to begin with: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, (and we all do), we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

One last thought about sunlight—it’s a disinfectant. The sun’s radiation will kill germs. Remember when people hung their laundry out in the sun? It wasn’t just to dry, but also to kill germs and keep them healthy. Well, the sunshine of God’s grace in Christ is what keeps all of us healthy too. Amen

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