Sunday 22 March 2020: Lent 4
Have you seen the light?
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Context: a small, well-educated congregation in a prosperous area just outside London
Aim: to think about seeing the light of Jesus’ message about God’s love for us
We’ve all seen the cartoon of a perplexed-looking man with question marks circling his head and the next picture showing the same man, smiling, with a bright light bulb flashing over his head. You could call it his Archimedes – Eureka! – moment. The problem that he had been seeking a solution to has been solved. He has found the answer to whatever was troubling him and all is well! Hurrah! And, in Archimedes’ case, it has meant that he has come down through history as a very famous mathematician and scientist – a man to be applauded and admired. Of course, all that fame didn’t save Archimedes from being killed by a lowly Roman soldier who felt that Archimedes was being disrespectful to the Emperor. In this complex world of ours nothing ever seems quite so simple or straightforward. A person can achieve great fame and adulation and still come to a sticky end.
A sticky end? Many people in the Near East, observing the path of Jesus and his followers, could easily comment that they had come to a sticky end. Jesus and many of his disciples were crucified. Stephen was stoned and many were persecuted for their belief in Jesus and his teachings. By the time of their deaths, one assumes that they had seen the light. But what actually does that mean? We know Peter was a keen supporter of Christ and yet he denied Him three times. Thomas was called the doubter and I am sure that many others felt unsure from time to time. It is a huge jump to accept that the teacher you have been happily following is actually the son of God. Doubts, questions, and after Jesus’ crucifixion despair, a sense of helplessness and loss – all of these very human emotions must have overwhelmed so many of those early Christians. So, what happened to give them the inner certainty that Jesus’ teachings were the way forward? Jesus’ miracles would have encouraged many in their belief that Jesus was special. And many of Jesus’ parables laid the foundation for the followers to accept that they and their behaviour would have to change radically if they were truly to become part of God’s great family. Jesus’ message was repeated over and over – humans would have to alter their way of acting and thinking, indeed, ‘see the light’ if they were to receive God’s grace.
Seeing the light – many on the day of Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit and, one presumes, were filled with the light if they hadn’t been before. But what about all the other people in different places and throughout the ages who have come to know Jesus? For most of them it wouldn’t be a big public event such as Pentecost, though some people used to say that the Billy Graham evangelism gatherings did affect many people in the same way. For most of us though, I suspect ‘the light’ comes upon us in quieter ways. Some of us were born into the Church and as we’ve grown, God’s light has grown within us, taking us over as the meaning and purpose of our lives. Others may have started out in the Church, wandered away and then had something happen that brought them back to face Jesus’ message in a way that they just couldn’t ignore. Others may just have stumbled into Christianity and found their lives changed forever. Of course, there are huge sways of the population who have never known Jesus or having gone away from Him, don’t want to return. God’s closed off from them, no matter how much it pains Him. It’s that old ‘free will’ thing – God gave us all the power of choice – to be His or not.
Now many people in our world don’t know or want to know God. Call them agnostics, atheists or just followers of Richard Dawkins. In their own minds, they may well be leading happy, productive and ‘good’ lives. They may well be working to help the needy in their communities or making positive contributions to their world – and that is to be applauded. Some might say that they are ‘Christian’ in their outlook and deeds. They may well be happy with their outward lives in a way that many persecuted Christians aren’t. However, the point is that they haven’t seen the light of Jesus’ message about God’s love and without that, no matter what they think, they are doomed to missing the life and joy that loving God brings. In this increasingly secular world, we must all of us carefully reflect on our lives and ask the question – ‘Have we truly seen the light?’ and then, how can we help others to see it too? Just a thought.
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