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Living as Children of Light

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.

Ephesians 5:8-14

I have this hunch that Paul and the early Christians would have enjoyed many of the movies and stories we enjoy.  I think they would have especially enjoyed and understood the Star War saga… the Harry Potter series. Written into those stories and movies are themes as old as time itself. At least as old as the early church.

In Harry Potter the great theme that runs throughout the series of course is that of good versus evil and, specifically, in the form of power versus love.  There are instruments and positions of power; if any of them are sought for themselves alone, for the good of the holder alone, they will corrupt.  The old adage, ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is explored throughout the series.

Lord Voldermort, has completely corrupted his soul in his pursuit of power.  He has no interest in anyone around him, well not in their friendship, only in their service—their complete subjection to himself. The good guy,  the headmaster Albus Dumbledore, is only too aware of his weakness.  He knows that, given half a chance, he would be no different from Voldermort.  Power appeals to him and he knows how easy it is to succumb to its seduction; as a result he avoids positions (like the Minister of Magic) where the temptation would be too great, and he remains a teacher.

In Star Wars, you have another epic battle between for forces of good and evil as well.  Light and Darkness. Darth Vader even dresses in darkness: black helmet, black facemask, black armor, black cape. The moment you first see him, you may think to yourself, “If the universe is split between good and evil, light and darkness—I know which one he is on.” One of the best movies in the series is the one where we are asked to contemplate how a good person can become bad; how a gentle person can become violent, how a virtuous person can become evil.”

Good and evil play out not only on the battlefield but in the heart of an individual, Anakin Skywalker.  As a youth, Anakin was warned that he must resist the temptation to be seduced by the dark side of the force. He is told he is in danger of going over to the dark side whenever he gives in to feelings of anger, hatred and a desire for revenge. This is the dilemma for young Anakin Skywalker… who gives in to the forces of darkness and becomes Darth Vader.

Paul would recognize that struggle of the soul. The struggle between good and evil, dark and light.  Not “out there” but “in here” [point to heart].

To another church, Paul wrote of this personal struggle:

19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.

You know what he is talking about, don’t you?  Paul knows we are all caught up in that struggle of the soul. In this letter he would encourage us to live as children of Light who reveal in their living that they are disciples and followers of Jesus Christ…

"For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them…”

Live as children of light.

There is a new hymn, I think Paul would have enjoyed:

I want to walk as a child of the Light
I want to follow Jesus
God set the stars To give light to the world
The Star of my life is Jesus.

Chorus:

In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

Paul and other early leaders would encourage the early Christians in this way. Because they know Harry Potter and Darth Vader… that the forces of darkness are strong indeed. Strong forces to be reckoned with.

[PAUSE]

Paul is fairly clear what those forces of darkness look like earlier in this letter.  He knows it when he sees it. It looks like this. I bet you recognize it too. It looks like greed, indecency, bad habits, lying, angry, stealing, vulgar talk, bitterness and anger, cursing, being rude, immoral, foolish and filthy. Those are Paul’s words to describe those who live in darkness. You know you are living in darkness when your life heads in that direction.

You see those forces at work, don’t you? You see how hard it is to face the darkness? My hunch is that you know people close to you who are often controlled by the dark forces.  People who live in darkness.  It happens to nice people sometimes. To Christian people.

A friend of mine told me about a couple in his church. The man, Paul, was addicted to pornography. His wife caught him through email and it revealed that he entered into this dark world. Paul was a nice guy… but living in a dark world. I’m not surprised. I’ve been told that 40% of downloads are on pornography. The force of darkness is seductively strong indeed.

It may be hard to define the darkness, but you know it when you see it.

I see it in the ruthless greed of our society… at every level… individuals, government and business… no one is innocent as I see it. We have even celebrated it in the movies such as Wall Street.  Michael Douglas’s character speaks for many when he said,  “Greed is good.”

I have seen it in emails even between Christians with hateful and hurtful language…vulgar language… also on facebook.

I may not be able to define the darkness, but I know it when I see it. Don’t you?

A pastor in Florida burns the Quran, an act of darkness… leads to other works of darkness and killing in Afghanistan. Darkness begets darkness.

I may not be able to define the darkness, but I know it when I see it. Don’t you? Don’t you know when you see something done or said that is not pleasing to our Lord? I do.

Of course, this is true for the light as well. It may be hard to define what it means to live as children of light, as people who are pleasing our Lord… … but I know it when I see it. Paul says they look like this: They are humble, gentle, they put up with each other, they  love each other, they live at peace with each other, love makes them tell the truth, they will make it their goal to grow to be more and more like Jesus Christ, they will be kind and merciful, forgiving one another as God has forgiven us….

I wonder who you know in your life who lives as a child of the light—who even as they battle with the darkness we all fight, whose prime goal and hope is to live a life that pleases Jesus Christ.

Who do you know who lives as a child of the light? If you are like me, you are tempted to name the brightest lights that shine in the world for Jesus. Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr, Bishop Tutu—name your spiritual giant or celebrity. And they inspire me too.

But I want you to know that I am far more inspired by you when the I see the light shining in your life. At the church the lights were burning bright this week at the Kirk… Did you see them? Right downstairs with WIHN… everyone caring for the homeless families… I saw Sandra Clark here Wednesday night for a moment… and she was smiling! That is a bright light.

Every week I see the lights at the church: KOALA tutors—adults sitting with children, teaching them … helping them along

Last night someone sent me an email asking if we had someone who could visit a young woman in jail. She is living in darkness to be sure. So I am wondering, is there someone who will be a light for her in this world? What an opportunity!

On Sunday, I see the light shine in hospitality: greeters welcoming visitors as friends… even more, when I see you talking to a visitor…

Every day, I hear expressions of care and concern … You should read Bob Adams emails as he lovingly talks about Jean as she seeks to recover. Light breaks through every one of them.

I see them out in the world too. I’ve been especially attuned to looking for them. I look and listen for every act of forgiveness… and kindness and grace. It really doesn’t take much to be a light for someone. That’s sort of the sad thing.  But it doesn’t take much to brighten a person’s life with the light of Christ.

Just apply a little love, kindness and humility to your workplace, your school, your home and everyday life… and you’ll be surprised how different you will be from so many others. Those places can often use a little light if you ask me.

Do you ever notice at the check out line in a store how dull and monotonous it feels in that simple exchange? Or with a waiter or waitress at a restaurant?

How about calling them by name? How about giving them a smile? You might be surprised to see their face light up. It may be just what they need. On my better days I try to remember this saying I learned long ago:

“Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”

Be kind. Be a child of the light wherever you see people living in darkness. Be a child of the light that reflects the loving light and life of Jesus Christ.

It’s not easy, I know. Believe me I know. The forces of darkness are strong and seductive. So often I want to slip into that darkness. It can feel so good for the moment. But only for a moment.

Maybe you’ve heard of the story that was reported in the New York Times years ago.

A homeless person was standing outside Goldman Sachs in Wall Street with a tin cup, uttering the mantra, “Change! Change! Change!” and the bright young stockbroker rushing out of Goldman Sachs saying,

“I’m trying! I’m trying! I’m Trying!”[1]

It seems to me that children of light are always trying to change and live into the ways of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. You work on giving up things of the dark and take on the way of the light. That is what sets us apart from so many others… at least we are trying! At least we seek to resist the forces of darkness and let our lives life be guided by the light of Christ.

So you try to give up envy, greed, jealousy, lying, anger… all those things and seek to take on love, patience, peace, humility—those kind of things. 

Every one of us can be a child of the light a positive force for our Lord. Every one of us can put on those things for which we long and for which our life in Christ calls and which will make a difference in the next hour in the way we live our lives.

The call of the disciple is a call to live as children of the light… followers of the one who brought light into this world.

We are invited as children of the light to live in a new way… the way of compassion, humility, loveliness, kindness and mercy.

The greatest gift we can give God (and the world for that matter)… and the best way to show we are followers of Jesus Christ is very simple.

Live.

Live as Children of the Light.

Live in a way that the light of Christ shines through your life.

Live in a way that is pleasing to our Lord.

And we will bring honor to God and be a wonderful witness for our Lord in the world. Amen.

 

CLOSING PRAYER from Day by Day devotion

O God:

Give me strength to live another day;

Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties;

Let me not lose faith in other people;

Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness;

Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them;

Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity;

Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things;

Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth;

Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness;

and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls;

in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 



[1]
Story and ideas for this move come from Peter Gomes, p 271,  Sermons for the Liturgical Seasons

Written by Jody Welker.