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Sermon for Sunday 26 March 2017

FIRST READING Isaiah 42:14-21

14For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant. 15I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools. 16And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. 17They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images, “You are our gods.” 18Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see! 19Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord? 20He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. 21The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.


PSALM Psalm 142

1I cry to the Lord with my voice; to the Lord I make loud supplication. 2I pour out my complaint before him and tell him all my trouble. 3When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path; in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me. 4I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me; I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me. 5I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” 6Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low; save me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. 7Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name; when you have dealt bountifully with me, the righteous will gather around me.


SECOND READING Ephesians 5:8-14

8At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”


GOSPEL John 9:1-41

1As {Jesus} passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. 35Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”



How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb? I know it’s an old joke, but I ran across an interesting answer the other day and thought I’d share what I found. If you consider yourself to be Charismatic for example, then it only takes 1 since their hands are already in the air. If you happen to worship with the Pentecostals it takes 10. One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness. For the Presbyterian folks, it’s none. The believe that the lights will go on and off at predestined times. Now for in the Roman Catholic tradition it doesn’t require any either. As far as they’re concerned, light bulbs don’t need changing, they only use candles. For our Baptist brethren, it’ll take least 15. One to change the light bulb, and three committees to approve the change and then decide who brings the potato salad and the fried chicken.
Now for those who align themselves with the fundamentalist Mormons, it takes 5. One man to change the bulb, and four sister wives to tell him how to do it. For the Jehovah’s Witnesses crowd, none are needed. They’re too busy knocking on doors telling everyone they have the wrong lights. If you happen to see yourself as a Unitarian: They would choose not to make a statement either in favor of, or against the need for a light bulb. However, they will encourage you to examine your own journey and if you’ve found that light bulbs work for you, then you’re invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday’s service. At that time, they will explore several light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life, LED and tinted, and acknowledge that all are equally valid paths to luminescence.
For those in the Methodist tradition the number required to change a light bulb is undetermined – They feel that whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or a dim bulb or any bulb you choose to be. But please bring a bulb of your choice to the Sunday lighting service. For the Nazarenes, it’ll take 6 – One woman to replace the bulb while five men review the church’s lighting policy. For the Amish folks: None, what’s a light bulb? For those of the Jewish faith: Their question is simple, where’s Jacob’s ladder when you need it?
And not to leave anyone out. How many Lutheran’s does it take to change a light bulb? None are required. We don’t like change. And finally, for the unbelievers: again, none are required, they’d rather sit in the dark. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells the followers of Jesus that, “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” These three verses from our epistle reading are important because they get to the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. The Christian walk is about living a life of honesty and integrity. Paul puts it boldly, “Walk as children of light for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
The first thing we need to recognize this morning is that Paul isn’t alone in this image of walking in the light. Although he probably wasn’t around to hear Jesus say it, there’s strong evidence that long before the teaching we now have in the Gospels were written down, they were shared orally. These words of Paul are reminiscent of, if not taken directly from, Jesus’ teachings in John’s Gospel.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, He’s fully aware of His impending death. The shadow of the cross is on His path. And with that future in mind, He’s conscious of the mission His Father sent Him to do. Listen to verses 31 and 32 of John chapter 12: “Now is this judgment of this world, now will the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This of course puzzled the crowd for they responded in verse 34, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”
Jesus gives us the answer in verses 35 and 36: “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” Paul, here in Ephesians is saying almost the same thing as Jesus: “For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light.”
The message here in both John’s gospel and Paul’s letter is the same; to be in Christ is to be a child of light, and to believe in Christ is to be in Him — to be in Him is to walk in the light. We’re called to “walk as children of light.” We’re expected to live like those who are at home in daylight. For us to walk as Children of the light we need to recognize that there are three calls upon our lives as Christians. First, we’re called to be true to our deepest self.
It was Shakespeare who said, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Oftentimes, it’s helpful for us to better understand the deeper meaning of a truth, by looking at a very practical application of it. To be true to our deepest self, we can’t forever hide our feelings. Writer and speaker Leo Buscaglia tells of viewing “Man of La Mancha”, the musical based upon Cervantes’ novel, “Don Quixote.”
“Buscaglia found himself caught up in the trials of the poor, misunderstood, ill-treated knight. It was quite easy to relate to Don Quixote’s vision of the beautiful, the romantic and the good in a world where these were no longer considered of value. “During Don Quixote’s death scene, surrounded by those he cared for the most, the relentless and lovable knight rose up, grabbed his lance, and was again ready to charge windmills for the sake of his beloved Dulcinea. This is how Leo Buscaglia described his own response to what he saw.
Buscaglia said, the scene affected me greatly and tears flowed freely down my cheeks. A woman seated next to me poked her husband and whispered in wonder: “Look, Honey, that man’s crying!” Hearing this, I took out my handkerchief and loudly blew my nose as I continued to sob. She was so full of disbelief that a grown man could cry that I feel certain, to this day, she has no idea how the show ended. People don’t know how to respond when a grown man cries, or a grown woman for that matter.” To be true to ourselves, we need to be able to express our feelings. This can be further illustrated by the following anonymous writer.
In part the writer penned; there isn’t much that I can do, but I can share my bread with you, and sometimes a sorrow too — as on our way we go. There isn’t much that I can do, but I can sit an hour with you, and I can share a joke with you, and sometimes share reverses, too — as on our way we go. There isn’t much that I can do, but I can share my friends with you, and I can share my life with you, and I can share my Lord with you and oftentimes a prayer or two — as on our way we go. The point is, if we’re going to live as those who are at home in the daylight, we must be true to our deepest self, and one very practical way we can do that, is by sharing our true feelings. Second, we need to manifest what we are.
The difference between this and the previous exhortation is that the first has to do with our integrity — our own wholeness. Manifesting who we are, has the added dimension of witness. Not only do we need to be true to your deepest self, but we also need to manifest what we are. We need to make sure that what we are inside is reflected in our ordinary conduct…every thought and deed needs to be a reflection of the light of Christ.
Bill Schwein, a Methodist minister, tells of a young woman who was a music major and an accomplished violinist at the University of Indiana. She grew up in a Jewish family but hadn’t claimed her heritage of faith. One day she presented herself for membership and she shared with Pastor Schwein her journey of faith that led her to that decision. She had recorded her experiences in a journal and she gave permission to Pastor Schwein to read and quote from it.
This is what she wrote, in part: Something very strange happened to me tonight. If I were to explain it to someone, I know I couldn’t, so I’ll try to write it out on these pages. Perhaps it will pass, but it seems too emotionally exciting that I don’t really want to lose it. Right after dinner I came upstairs to my room to study music history for my exam tomorrow, but I never quite made it. A girl from down the hall, Nancy, passed my door, and I was determined to finally find out what it is that seems like a light around her.
The journal entry goes on to describe how she approached Nancy and asked her the secret of her inner glow. In the process, this neighbor down the hall told her about her faith in Jesus Christ and this was her reaction as recorded in the journal: As Nancy spoke, I was filled with a strange feeling. I can’t really describe it, but it was sort of like the anticipation I feel when something great is about to happen to me musically, only this was greater. Shortly after this encounter, this brilliant student and musician accepted Christ and joined the church.
All this happened because another student let the light of Christ shine in her life and by that quiet witness, another person found the joy of believing and the assurance of salvation through God’s love in Christ. If we’re going to live as those who are at home in the daylight, we must be true to our deepest self, and we must manifest what we are. Third, to live at home in the daylight, we need to test all things by Christ’s approval of them.
I’d like to approach this point from the negative and the positive perspective. First, from the negative angle. Too often I hear quoted Jesus’ admonishment in Matthew, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Too often this passage is used as an excuse for not saying anything to someone who’s living in sin. However, that’s all that is, an excuse. We need to learn to be honest, when witnessing to others, about the sin and shortcomings in their life.
In verse 11 of our epistle reading, Paul wrote, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” We need to recognize the difference between judging and exposing. Passing judgement or to judge someone is to condemn them. Judging focuses on punishment. Exposing, on the other hand, is identifying behavior that is either unacceptable or even harmful. No, we’re not supposed to judge, but we are called to expose unfruitful works. There is a big difference and we, as Christians, need to understand this. Many of us here today, are either parents or grandparents. We know the burdens and responsibilities of raising children.
If a child is reaching up to a hot stove we will stop them and explain what could happen if they touch the stove. Or, if we see our teenage child driving in a manner that’s careless or reckless, we talk with them about the results of such behavior. At times, we may even need to punish them to reinforce what the appropriate behavior is. We do this because it’s our responsibility and we love them and want to keep them safe. Exposing has to do with the behavior and the results of that behavior. So, how is this any different when dealing with those around us.
As Christians, we’re concerned with another’s eternal soul and where they will spend eternity. We don’t condemn the individual, that’s God’s job. However, we are called to recognize and point out that sinful behavior has consequences. We’re not only called to stay away from unfruitful works, ourselves, we’re also told to expose them as works of the devil that lead to destruction. Paul gives us a good list of these unfruitful works Galatians chapter 5.
Starting in verse 16 we read, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Paul is warning us against things that not only have consequences in this life but also in the next and he’s telling us we need to help others understand. But Paul didn’t leave us with the negative, he also gave us a list of things that are fruitful. The things that are “pleasing to the Lord.” Starting at verse 22 we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Therefore, by incorporating these things into our lives and manifesting these behaviors before others, we’ll not only please the Father, but we’ll also be letting the light of Christ shine through us.
It’s not simply a matter of not doing what is displeasing, but of doing what is pleasing to God. Paul didn’t say, be quiet, be passive, wait on the Lord as children of the light, and the light will grow in you. Instead he said, “Walk as children of the light.” In so doing he binds two things together: the divine working of the Holy Spirit within us, and the human effort at reception, retention, and application of that divine work. It’s the sort of thing he was talking about when he said, “Work out your salvation, for it is God that works in you.”
You see, God’s light is within us — the living Christ indwells us — and we have a responsibility. We must walk as children of the light. So, it’s not a matter of not doing what is displeasing, but of doing what is pleasing to the Lord. Some of you may remember Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager? They were the pilots who completed a 26,000-mile globe- circling, non-stop flight without refueling. People said it couldn’t be done, but they did it.
More than 50,000 people greeted them at Edwards Air Force Base when they returned. During their trip they faced some anxious moments when an electrical pump, used to draw fuel from the tank, failed. Jeana also suffered from bruises when she was tossed into the cabin wall and ceiling from unexpected turbulence. But they made it ahead of schedule. Mobile Corporation provided the synthetic oil for what they described as the toughest test in history. The company bought a full-page ad in USA Today congratulating Yeager and Rutan and promoting their product. The ad closed with these words: “We believed it could be done, but you, Dick and Jeana, proved it. And doing beats talking every time.”
All my life I’ve been told that actions speak louder than words, and it’s true. If I tell someone I love and care about them, but I don’t do anything to substantiate my statement, then do I really love and care about them, or am I simply using empty words. If I say I’m a Christian, but nothing in my life and actions back that up, am I really a follower of Jesus and do I really love and serve God? You see, until we’re willing to act, our words aren’t going to mean very much. Until we’re willing to express the light that is within us– it doesn’t mean that the light is there — it certainly doesn’t mean much to people around us. To live at home in the daylight, we need test all things by Christ’s approval of them.
In our epistle reading for today we see that to be at home in the daylight, we must do three things. First, we need to be true to our deepest selves; two, we must manifest what we are as children of the light. And, three, we need to be willing to shun the unfruitful works of darkness and expose them. Then choosing those things that are pleasing to God, the fruit of the Spirit, we need to incorporate those things into our lives so fully that they become second nature and that’s all others see. These are the requirements for the Christian walk of being at home in the daylight. The bottom line is, if we’re going to be at home in the daylight, we can’t do those things in the night that would embarrass us in the light.

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