Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2020
“Live As Children Of Light”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
It has been a week of bad news. This past Monday I was watching the “NBC Evening News with Lester Holt.” 6 different reporters were giving their accounts of what the Coronavirus was doing to the world. One miserable report after another. It was dismal. I can see why people say that they are giving up watching the news for Lent!!
There are quite a few things that have made life more difficult in these last number of weeks and one of them is that life has lost its rhythm. Everything that was part of normal life has been cancelled or postponed. The things that were routine are not routine right now. Those things that made up the regular fabric of who were are, has been torn, leaving us wondering what is next.
Paul in this passage from Ephesians gives us the picture of darkness and light. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8) He starts out with bad news before he gets to the good news. He does not say, “You were in the dark”, implying that they lived in a very dark and evil place; but he tells them how they once were – “You were darkness.”
Jesus spoke about the darkness of our soul when He said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)
We often, Biblically, speak about darkness as being our rebellion against God, living by ungodly ways, doing that which does not honor Him. We know about darkness – all too well.
But darkness is more than simply actions against God and His people. Darkness is also discouragement, defeat, despair. It is being filled with every anxious thought and looking for hope and finding none. It is looking at all that is front of us and not believing that anything good can still be ahead. For the first 20 minutes of the “NBC Evening News with Lester Holt”, my responses were, “Oh, no; Oh, no; and then an “Oh, My.” It all seemed dark. And that was early in the week, more was in store for us. You know, other than hearing that Tom Brady is no longer the quarterback of the despised New England Patriots, I don’t think there has been a bunch of good news out there recently.
Have you ever been on a cave tour? You descend to the lowest level of the cave and marvel at all the different rock formations. But then the tour guide tells you that they are going to turn off all the lights and in an instant you can see nothing at all. You can take your hand and put it an inch in front of your eyes and still you can’t see it. Total darkness. Scary.
I was on one of those tours. It seemed like forever until they turned back on the lights. While it was dark the heart moved a little faster and there was some anxiety. Darkness does that. And it still does. When it is our sin that brings that darkness, it doesn’t feel good. We’re in the wrong place. And when the darkness comes because of life’s catastrophes, it doesn’t feel good either.
Here’s the word, “Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” You know the words in Genesis 1 about the creation of the world, right? Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Then in verse 3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’” But did you know that there was no source of light until day 4? The sun and the moon were not created until the fourth day. In Genesis 1:16 we read, “And God made the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night…and there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:19)
How can that be? How can you have light for the first three days of creation without a source of light – the sun? How? God was the light. God, the Light, overcame darkness and chaos and was the brilliant light in the world.
It is the same way today. God and His Word, Jesus and His light, comes into darkness and is greater than that bleakness. When I was in the cave one small light was all that was needed to break the darkness. When that light began to shine hearts slowed down, anxiety and worry were calmed and a giant sigh of relief from everyone was heard. In John 1 it says of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)
“Once you were darkness, now you are light in the Lord.” Though you didn’t get to hear the Gospel lesson for today, (John 9:1-41) it is the account of the man that was born blind. There was the thought then, and now, that if bad happens to you it is because you did something wrong. Tit for tat. Karma, of the bad kind. But Jesus rejects such ignorant thought. This is how that account went, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned’, said Jesus, ‘but this happened that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’” (John 9:1-5)
Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” He’s right. Initially, we’ll try to find this solution about darkness – this sin and the problems that are bigger than us – on our own. We’ll try to put life together by our self. But that doesn’t work.
We’re in tough straits now. Now is the time to seek Someone greater than ourselves. Now is the time to turn to our great God who can bring the light of His hope and the brilliance of His presence into the darkness of all these difficulties we face, and will face, for some time to come.
Though she is not as famous as Winston Churchill, I spoke to Bernice Arsenault on Wednesday. Bernice, 98 years young, and I were talking about this craziness that is all around us, and this was her word to me, “We’re not in charge anyway.” She’s right. God, the bringer of light into the darkness of creation, into the darkness of sin, into the darkness of our world that is upside down, is in charge. Isn’t that good? I can live with that.
One of the great words in the Old Testament comes from the little book of Habakkuk. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
What is God going to do in you during this crisis? Arvin Michel, the Chairmen of Ascension, reminded me of his Confirmation verse: Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even in this darkness that we face, even in the questions we have about what is going to come from this, Jesus is the light of the world. He saved us, forgave us, threw away all darkness and gives us the brilliant light of His love and grace. Today is the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Did you know that Lent doesn’t end until Easter arrives? And it will arrive. Jesus, the light of the world, is not dead. He lives. He shines.
In the time when we are apart please open your Bible more. Read the Scriptures daily. Read St. John. Read Ephesians. Read the Psalms. Treasure the words in Genesis. And become a person of prayer. There are so many needs around us, we must spend time daily, morning and evening, with God in prayer. When Paul says, “Live as children of light” we are illumined by God’s truth and then we get to live among our neighbors with a life of service.
One of the hard things about life in the middle of March in 2020 is all the restrictions placed upon us. After about a week, or so, of this, some are wondering, “When is this going to be over?” This is going to be with us for a while. So in the midst of this darkness, this discouragement, this time of much bad news, live as children of God’s light, His hope and love.
One of our folks sent me this, reminding us of all we still have:
Going outdoors is not cancelled;
Listening to music is not cancelled;
Quality time with our families is not cancelled;
Reading a book is not cancelled;
Sharing with friends is not cancelled;
Singing out loud is not cancelled;
Laughing has not been cancelled;
Sharing HOPE with others has not been cancelled.
Let’s EMBRACE what we have.
What we have is Jesus, the light of the world. His light allows our light to be brilliant in this world. “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Amen!!