Shining In The Shadows
April 29, 2017 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross
Verse: Psalm 36:9
Easter 3 (Misericordias domini)
SHINING IN THE SHADOWS
What color is something when the lights are out? It isn't any color at all. Color has no meaning without light. It is a visual distinction. But mankind is so perverse that it thinks it knows. Yes, mankind is so perverse that it thinks the deepest pit of gloom is a shining tower. Call it foolishness -- that is putting the best construction on it. You see, our species doesn't want to learn any better. Human reason, instinct, and emotion can teach us nothing about morality, or about eternity. Yet the deeper mankind plunges into the darkness, the more enlightened it fancies itself to be. When reason asserts itself against God's Law, when people try to determine their own destiny, when people place perverted human values over what God has revealed, such arrogance is storing up for them the fullest measure of divine wrath. They accuse us of imposing our values on them. All they're doing is shooting the messenger. We're not trying to impose; we're trying to warn them. Some day, probably some day soon, Jesus will return. He will impose His values on them, but it will be too late.
Neither the world nor humanity have any light to offer. If they turn to God, He has light to spare, light that puts everything into perspective, light that illuminates the deepest shadows. How frustrating it is for us, whose souls are enlightened with wisdom from on high, to see planning institutions, government bureaus, and small groups of experts trying to solve problems. When they refuse to be guided by the light of divine revelation, all they succeed in doing is re-arranging the darkness. When schools fail to educate, experts say give them more money, which is like saying if your mechanic doesn't fix your car properly you should pay him a higher wage. When produce prices fall because the supply is abundant, the experts tell us to pay the farmers for not producing. Then they wonder why the poor can't get food. When children don't behave, the experts tell us to raise their self-esteem. But they give the children no incentive to earn it. Self-esteem that is not earned is nothing but empty calories for the soul. Inflated self-esteem has now produced two generations who cannot think critically, cannot defer gratification, have no aesthetic standards, and whose heroes are burnouts. No light can be found in fallen humanity.
People, however, are not stupid. Sooner or later they can see that there is no light in human wisdom, so they seek it elsewhere, groping about in other parts of the darkness, seeking the occult, the weird, the demonic. They try to probe the dark parts of the soul, or escape with drink and drugs. Where does all of this lead? One of two places. It can lead to a wrecked loser who can do little more than complain, who sees the injustice and pain of life, which he dare not call a "cross" because that would be religious. Or it could lead to suicide. No light can be found in fallen humanity.
Where is the light? Right where it has always been shining. Look to the Word of God. You would think this would be good news, right? You would think everyone would be happy to come to the light so they could find their way. But there is a catch. As long as we're in the dark we can keep on pretending. That light takes that option away. If we have enough light to see, then we can also be seen, be visible as self-willed, deceitful, unchaste, envious creatures that are not pleasant to look upon. The light shines even to our hearts, exposing our innermost souls. How intolerable is that! So when Jesus says, "I am the Light of the world," we may be attracted, but we are also repelled.
The good news is that the light is a merciful light. Jesus shines Himself upon us to help, to save us from the guilt of sin and the power of sin. The Light came with a burning heat, but Jesus let Himself be the candle that was melted by it. This Light not only illumines, but warms our frozen souls. So have the courage to come to the Light, even though you will be seen. You don't need the misery of trying to guess the path of life. Count yourself among those who can say with David, The Lord is my light and my salvation. Let the murky days of distress lead to the confidence of faith. Let the cross of Jesus and His empty tomb brighten the way where you must step.
In the light you can see what the real issues of life are. The environment that counts is not the surface or resources of this passing planet, but the lasting environment of righteousness, the eco-system of heaven. The social concern that counts is not equality among humans, but subordination to the True King. The personal concern is not how to be popular among your peers, but how to be faithful to your Savior. The best thing you can give another person is not a body organ, but the message of regeneration, the Gospel of the cross that quickens the soul. The drink that quickens and sustains comes from the Fountain of Life, which flows from the cross by way of the empty tomb.
One comment I frequently hear is: I know I need the Light, but I treasure my freedom. If I come out of the dark, will I have to obey? When your eyes are used to the darkness, it takes some time for them to adjust to the conditions of light. What you think is freedom while you're in the dark is really ignorance. St. Paul was like that before Jesus focused on him what he later called "a light from heaven brighter than the sun." That convinced him to stop pretending and face the Lord. Sooner or later, so must we all. Once we are His, the divine light shines through us as well, which is why He tells us, "You are the light of the world."
What greater comfort than to stand in that perfect Light! Fortune may not smile; disease, poverty, weakness of character may assail us, but we can say with the Psalm: My heart and my flesh fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. So when the evening of earthly existence appears, when we look forward to the end of our pilgrimage, the Light of the world shines brightly into the valley of the shadow of death. Even when we look no more upon the worldly light of day, we find ourselves in the shining brightness of the New Jerusalem. There we will be enrolled as subjects of the Messiah Himself. He came to be for us the Fountain of Life. He invites us to drink, and in His light to see light forever. AMEN.