"Christ is God's Light"
(A sermon by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, based on Gen.1:3-5; I Jn. 1:5-7). ______________________________________________________________________
Many of you may experienced, without warning, the lights going out while cooking a meal in the kitchen or fixing on something in the garage. If it's evening, and dark outside, there's very little you can do to finish your work, unless, of course, you have some sort of back-up lighting system. But even then, there's little you can do because you need the power to finish your work. When the lights go out, darkness has a way of incapacitating us. We're prevented from seeing what we're doing. Often the best thing to do is simply wait for the lights and power to come back on again.
In today's first lesson, we learn that one of the first acts of God was to create light and separate the light from the darkness. We notice also that God did this on the first day of creation. Already, at the beginning of creation; by separating light from darkness; God is showing us that light is the exact opposite of darkness; light is not to be confused with darkness. It's also very revealing and no accident that light is what God created on the first day of creation. Today we know that without light; creation as we have it on planet earth could not exist. Therefore, God calls the light good. Why? Well, because light itself is life-giving. Without light, we can see nothing and do nothing. We could not survive for very long without light.
In today's second lesson, the writer also emphasizes the importance of light. He tells us that: "God is light and in him is no darkness at all." John speaks of light as good, life-giving, guiding, revealing and truthful. The light is also symbolic of God's holiness over against human sinfulness. The darkness is described as being exactly opposite of these things, it is: a lie, deceitful, sinful, chaotic, evil, life-destroying. The darkness is the enemy of God, the truth, Jesus Christ and his church. John is using this language of light and darkness for a very good reason. The people who originally received this letter from John were being led astray by false teachers. These false teachers were giving many people the impression that they had the truth, when they really didn't. They were telling lies about God, about Jesus Christ and about sin. Some of them said they were so pure and holy that even if they did sin; it didn't really matter; because it didn't amount to anything serious. They also seem to be teaching that Jesus was not fully human and that his death on the cross was not a sacrifice for sin. These false teachers made themselves out to be so religious that it was almost as if they had made themselves God. Unfortunately, the Christian church today is still plagued with and sometimes even led astray by the darkness of false teachers. Once I read a column written by religious writer and broadcaster, Tom Harpur in the "Toronto Star." In it, Harpur told how a Pentecostal pastor had attacked Harpur in a letter. The letter had the pastor's name at the top, along with all of his degrees. The pastor's signature was also prefixed with the title Dr. Harpur apparently wrote a response to the pastor's letter asking him where he had studied to obtain a Ph.D. He never did receive a reply from the pastor. This sparked further thought and curiosity for Harpur. So, he looked in several newspapers and magazines for adds about degrees. He found several mail order degrees and sent away for them. Most of them were only a few dollars, and, in a few weeks he had all kinds of degrees.
This goes to show that there are a lot of fly-by-night charlatans out there who claim to have the truth and represent the light, but, in reality, they are liars and represent the darkness. The light, who is Jesus Christ himself, exposes the darkness so that people will not be led astray by it. Moreover, John says, the litmus test as-it-were of those living in the light of Christ were people living an active faith by loving one another.
If we live in the light, if "we walk in the light," then we will not hide or resist the truth. In Ibsen's play "Ghosts," Pastor Manders and Mrs. Alving are reminiscing about the past and the deceased Mr. Alving. Pastor Manders spoke highly of Mrs. Alving's husband, who had been regarded as a respectable man in the community.
Then, suddenly, Mrs. Alving opened up to the pastor and revealed the truth about her dead husband--which she had kept to herself for many years. She told the pastor that her husband had been a drunkard and a womanizer. The marriage, which the pastor had officiated at, and which he had believed was a happy one, had, in actual fact, been in trouble from the very beginning. Mrs. Alving had lived with her husband in hell and misery for all those years. Why? All for the sake of appearances. The couple's social status and approval in the community was more important than the truth.
John tells us that to live and walk in the light we will be in fellowship with God and one another--we will love one another. Christ our light must be our guide. If we, like Mrs. Alving hide the truth, then we miss out on fellowship with God and with one another. In real life situations, quite often it is those people who stay away from the church who are also hiding or resisting the truth. They avoid God and as many people as they can because the truth is too threatening for them.
One of the most important aspects about God our Light is that: it shines in the darkness, it lights the whole world, and it is more powerful than the darkness. Someone tells the following story: After World War II, some lighthouse keepers off the coast of Scotland spied a huge mine drifting toward their shore. They watched with fatal fascination as each wave brought it a little closer. They could do nothing to prevent it from being washed onto their beach, but they took what precautions they could to protect the light. Shortly afterward, people in a nearby village heard a great explosion. Some venturesome fisherfolk sailed out toward the lighthouse to find out what had happened. They found one of the keepers severely injured and a gaping hole where the mine had struck against rocks and exploded. But the light? It shone on undamaged to guide mariners safely to port.
Jesus Christ is our light and the Light of the whole world. Amid the storms of this life, he continues to shine brightly. The powers of darkness no matter how threatening cannot destroy the light. May we be guided by Christ our Light always and strive to walk in his light, and by doing so, may the whole world be transformed by the Light's beauty, love, splendour and glory. Amen.