3 Epiphany, Year A

3 Epiphany, Year A

Psalm 27: 1a

Sermon by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson


There is one common word found in today’s psalm, first lesson and gospel. This word refers to Someone and something that we cannot live without. Do you know what it is? Well, if you guessed the word light, you are correct. Light… We all need light. We cannot live or survive without light. In Psalm 27, we hear these words of rock-solid confidence and trust, spoken by the psalmist: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” In our first lesson, the prophet Isaiah encourages his people by giving them a message full of a hope-filled future when he tells them: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” Then, in today’s gospel, Matthew quoting this prophecy from Isaiah, believes it has now been fulfilled in the person of Jesus; as he begins to reveal himself through his thoughts, words, and actions; during his public ministry.


Light… We cannot live or survive without light. God is light. Christ is the light of the world. We as baptized Christians are given the following ministry and mission: “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” This is our work, our vocation, our calling as baptized Christians. How do we let our light shine?


What good are spotlights if they do not reach the stage? What good are runway lights if the pilot of the plane cannot see them? What good are stop lights if they cannot be seen by motorists? These and all other lights which don’t accomplish their intended purpose are useless.


What good is a spotlight if the audience cannot see the actors on a stage? If the lights don’t serve the purpose they are supposed to, they may even be dangerous. The aircraft may crash because the pilot cannot see the runway properly. Motorists may be involved in an accident because no one is certain who must stop and who must go.


The light of God has been given to us in Jesus Christ. Can others see that light, or do we hide it? There is a saying: “If they accused you of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” If our answer is “no” then we are probably guilty of hiding the light that has been given to us.


When I was a child in Sunday School, I remember singing the song: “This little light of mine.” With loud voices we all proclaimed, “I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!” Let’s keep this resolve (during this new year, shall we?!) 1


Some of you may have heard the old Chinese proverb: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” It is interesting that the symbol of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation, Amnesty International, is a lit candle, which is surrounded by barbed wire. The barbed wire is symbolic of injustice and evil forces. In a lot of cases, the injustice and evil is related to tyrannical nations, which arrest, imprison and torture innocent citizens—usually based on false, trumped-up charges and lies. The candle’s flame is symbolic of hope and truth as forces within each person who speaks out; serving as an advocate, by writing letters and contacting the powers-that-be—by defending human rights around the world. In this way, we as Christians can be a light; can let our light shine in the darkness of the world. Our letters and appeals to leaders can and do make a difference. Many innocent people have been freed from prison and were given a new hope-filled beginning in life because of the letters and appeals of others letting their lights shine.


One of the important functions of the light is to show us; to reveal the truth. Recently, I watched a television program on VisionTV, which criticized the mass media for telling lies that served politicians in persuading public opinion enough to support going to war. In both cases, the media and politicians used false propaganda to deceive the public. The one case was an emotional testimony of a Saudi Arabian princess—who falsely accused the Iraqi soldiers of destroying babies in incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital. The media and the American politicians, along with the Saudi princess knowingly spread this lie, which swayed public opinion enough to give the American government the approval of going to war with Iraq. Only years later has this lie been exposed and come out into the light of day. It may take a while, but in the end, the light always prevails; always shines in the darkness.


God our light always reveals the truth about God’s Own Self, about the world, and about each one of us. This is indeed the nature of God’s light, which reveals and gives that light to each one of us. Light that helps us and guides us into the truth. In this season of Epiphany, we recall how the light of God’s heavenly body, the star, led the magi from foreign lands to visit the Christ-child. Then when they arrived, they saw Jesus with their own eyes and responded to him as God’s Light of the world by offering him their gifts and worshipping him. In our lives too, God’s Light in Jesus has shined upon us. He too leads us out of our various forms of darkness—whatever they may be. Whether it is fears of what might happen right now today or in the unknown future; whether it’s some great suffering or illness; whether it’s a crisis of one kind or another; whether it’s a feeling of wandering about aimlessly without a clear destination; whatever it may be, we, like the psalmist, can place all of our confidence in God and say: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” We can remember the promise of Isaiah and Matthew that: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” We can claim this promise as our very own, by virtue of our baptism into Christ. No matter how great or threatening our personal darkness is; no matter what darkness we may be facing as a church in this community, and this world—always remember and trust that The LORD is my light, the light shines in the darkness, Christ is the Light of the world, and no darkness is ever going to overpower or snuff out the True Light. As baptized children of The Light and of the day; we are given The Light, not to hide or snuff out, but to shine. We, like the psalmist, have nothing to fear, God is our light and that light can shine in and through us—guiding and leading others to Christ. The True Light, who reveals himself so that all may know and come to the truth. The True Light who banishes all fears; so that all people might live the abundant life and be saved from all darkness.


Sir Harry Lauder used to tell how, one evening, he sat watching the evening shadows gather. Under his window passed the lamplighter, inserting his long pole within the glass cover of lamp after lamp. Soon the man was invisible in the distance, but one could follow his advance by the trail of lights he left behind him. After all, thought Sir Harry, it does not matter who the lamplighter is, or even if he is not seen at all, so long as the lamps are lit.


We too, are travelling through a world which contains much gloom and darkness. What matters most is not who we are, from what stock we come, nor whether we are seen, known, or famous. What matters most is whether we leave behind us rows of twinkling lights to guide others (to Christ). 2 


So may we go out from here with the confidence of the psalmist, Isaiah and Matthew—knowing and trusting that God is with us; Christ is The Light of the world; and his light is shining in and through us; so that others who live in darkness may also come into God’s Saving Light.


1 Cited from: Robert Byhre, “The Guiding Light,” in Eternity For Today Vol. 27, No. 4, October/November/December 1993, p. 49.

2 Cited from: F. Gay, The Friendship Book, 1977, meditation for June 7.


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