4th Sunday in Lent (A)
March 26, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle, which was read a few minutes ago.
On Friday I received a call from a group that wanted to take a poll about our church. It started with the usual demographic questions, but then some of the questions, in my opinion, became silly. “How often do you teach the members of your congregation to be kind to other Christians?” “How often do you teach the members of your congregation to be kind to the unchurched?” As I repeatedly told the young lady, I couldn’t answer those types of questions. I generally don’t preach specific sermons on being kind to each other or the unchurched because it’s what we do as faithful Christians. That’s not to say we don’t need reminders to be kind, sometimes we do. But one goal of every sermon I preach is to remind you that you’re different than the unbelievers around you and this encompasses your entire life. Once you were like unbelievers; you were darkness, but no longer. Now you’ve been called by God and this means that you are a child of light.
In a series of lectures back in 1884, C.F.W. Walther, president of the Missouri Synod said that it is a fundamental error to treat Christians as if they were still complete unbelievers. Walther was a brilliant man who knew the Bible well, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he found an example for this in the work of Saint Paul, because this is what Paul does in the Epistle for today. A few verses before our reading, Paul had listed what the Ephesian Christians used to be; immoral, covetous, impure, crude jokers, and filthy minded. He brings this up because what they were was a problem. Those who live in this way aren’t saved. Paul says that they have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” This sounds harsh, and it is, but it’s also true. Those who do not believe are, as Paul describes, Darkness. They’re not in the dark, but they’re actually darkness because they’re lacking the light of Christ. The Ephesian Christians were like the others before but now they’re different.
Paul says, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” When they were brought to faith, they were enlightened by Christ. He dispelled the darkness of their hearts and minds and souls. He shone into their lives and He showed them a new way of life, a life centered on Him. The verse that the sermon hymn is based on, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” was probably a portion of a baptism hymn which describes how Christ awakens people with His light and gives them life.
One of the questions that the lady asked was “How often do you ask people to make a commitment to Christ?” I told her, “Never”. I explained, maybe more than she wanted to hear, that we don’t make a commitment to Jesus, He makes one to us. That’s why we’re changed, not because we decided to but because He changed us. He is the light of the world—God’s one and only Son, our Savior. He came to a dark, dark world preaching the Gospel, bringing light to darkened souls. In the Gospel, He opened the eyes of the blind man and gave him sight, but He did so much more than that. Did you catch what happened when he met Jesus the second time? He fell down and worshipped Jesus. This is the result of a shining light piercing the darkness of sin and unbelief. This man would never again be the same.
All of this would’ve been for nothing had Jesus not continued His ministry of light be dying on the cross and plunging the world into darkness. The light of the world was extinguished, ever so briefly, to show the extent of God’s wrath on sin and unbelief. The darkness was thick and impenetrable for three hours and then the sun came out. This sunlight though paled in comparison to the light of the risen Christ three days later. That light will never again be extinguished or darkened and it is the light that shines in you.
Paul’s words were written a very long time ago and Walther’s a long time ago, but the truth of their message hasn’t changed and this is what I want you to know today. You were destined to be shut out of Heaven. You were darkness, you had no right to the inheritance waiting in Heaven, but that’s not true anymore. You’ve been brought to faith so you are no longer darkness, you are light. The light of Christ has been shined on your dark lives and He has opened your eyes to His light, which gives life and which gives you the inheritance of the Kingdom of God. This is yours! No if, and’s or buts. His light gives you forgiveness and a new existence.
Paul puts it this way, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Once upon a time you were unaware of your sin. Once upon a time you were oblivious of God’s desires. Those days are gone! You can see your sin, you know when you’ve sinned, but that’s not the end of it! You can also see that you are forgiven and now you know what is well-pleasing to Him. The devil wants you to walk in darkness and to embrace what you once were, just like he was tempting the Ephesians to do. Christ though enables you to walk in light, and He walks with you. He walks with you because He is the perfect goodness, righteousness, and truth that Paul talks about. His death and resurrection has changed you, and He has done it all and now you demonstrate the fruit of the light in the way that you live.
To be the light means that our walk in this life is different. If you live in the dark you will stumble and fall. Imagine for a minute what it would be like to be blind in a new city but not have a cane, dog, or companion? It would be a terrible experience, but when you can see, when you walk in the light, you’re going to be safe. This is why Paul says, “Walk as children of light…and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.” We Christians must remember that there is no Christian “twilight” where dark and light coexist. We can’t walk in light and dark. We walk only as children of light as we seek what is good, right, and true. It’s not easy, but the Holy Spirit leads us to God’s Word where we can discern how God wants us to live. We no longer embrace the activities of the dark, rather we expose them for what they are; death and destruction.
We shine the light of Christ as we speak out against the practice of abortion, the abuse of innocent, and the mistreatment of vulnerable. We expose the evil of this world for what it is, and the damage it is doing to our children and to future generations. We live as children of the light really for two reasons. First, so that our light would chastise those still in the dark and convert them. We want them to see the darkness of their lives and come to know Jesus as the one who offers them the same light that shines in us. We also walk as children of the light that we would support and encourage other Christians in their walk. We want our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to know that they are not alone, that not only are we with them, but Jesus continues to shine His light on them. By His grace, we walk in the light and by His grace we will never again live in the dark.
I guess I owe the pollster an apology, because I did just, sort of, tell you to be nice to others. There’s more to it than that though, and you know it. Jesus has shone the light of forgiveness on you and now you are children of light. This means, yes, we are nice to others, but more than that, our entire lives are different. We show our light not to display how wonderful we are, but to show how wonderful God is. As Saint Peter said in his epistle, shine your light so “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This is what we do, and may God grant us His grace to always shine the light He has given to us.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen