Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 30, 2014, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:8-14
Sermon Theme: “Living in the Light”
(Sources: Emphasis online Illustrations; original ideas and examples; Anderson’s Preaching Workbook, Cycle A; Believer’s Commentary)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Living in the light took on a whole new dimension for my grandparents in 1942 or 1943, when electricity finally came to their farm home. The REA (Rural Electric Association) had come to Lee County in 1939, but at that point in time, my grandparents could not afford the $8 per month it would cost them. That was not a good year for most farmers in the area, but four years later, cotton prices were better, so Grandpa signed up for electricity. This was a time in their lives they had been looking forward to for a long time with great excitement.
This wonderfully bright lighting was especially good for my grandmother, as doing the intricate needlework she did by the light of a kerosene lamp was a struggle. In town, my parents had had electricity for some time, and the contrast between electric light bulbs and kerosene lamp light was almost the difference between light and darkness itself.
The joy, anticipation, and excitement of the farmers in Dime Box were dampered somewhat by fear and apprehension. Old timers like my grandfather were afraid of electricity. What if it leaked out of the power lines coming into the house? Will it kill us in our sleep?
One of my neighbors in East Bernard said that his grandparents got electricity on their farm about the same time as in Dime Box. He said his grandparents were afraid to turn off the electric light bulb at night when they went to bed, for fear that the electricity would leak out into the bedroom, so they kept the light on all day and all night. Finally, one night they turned it off, but his grandpa stayed up all night lest the bulb leak and he would need to evacuate himself and his wife.
Just as there was anticipation and expectancy awaiting the arrival of light on the farm, and eventually accepting the fact that electricity was safe, there can be anticipation as we open our hearts to the indwelling presence of our Savior, the Lord Jesus. No longer did my grandmother need to ruin her eyes trying to do needlework by lamp light, a new light had come to make it easy to see. And just as the old farmers had fears and anxieties about electricity coming into their homes, many new Christians no doubt have fear and apprehension about the light of Jesus coming into their lives. Some people fear the light because they actually like the darkness.
Before we started getting ready to have new floors laid for the part of our house that flooded, the front bedroom was so messy and piled high with clutter that if anyone came to see us, we’d say, “Don’t turn the light on in that room.”
One reason we may be afraid of God’s light is then we will see all the cleaning we have to do, but we forget that God is our cleaning “lady.” Jesus will clean us if we only ask Him. We just have to be humble enough to admit and confess our failings and ask Him to forgive us and only then will we be happy to live in the light.
You see, most people resent it when someone points up their sins! They want to keep them hidden, because their sins could destroy their dignity and pride. You know, when we are in darkness, we may feel pretty good about ourselves. So naturally we fear a bright light that might expose us. And yet, at the same time, we are miserable living in the darkness of our sins. At the same time, because there is an emptiness in the darkness, we yearn for a light that brings hope, peace, love, and an escape.
Once we “plug in” to Christ, we find that He is that light which provides the spiritual energy to light up our life, and, what is more, His light, reflected in us, provides light for others to find the way. “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,” says our sermon text. The fruit of the light is not only what happens inside of us, but also our effect on others.
I love the story about a little girl who walked around her house singing a song she had learned in Vacation Bible School: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, shine, shine.” Her parents enjoyed hearing her sing. One evening she got into a terrible fight with her brother and she was sent to her room. The next morning she was in a bad mood. Seeing this, her mother said to her, “What happened to my happy, singing girl? What happened to that shining light?”
To this the young girl replied, “My brother blew it out!”
In our sermon text, Paul informs the Ephesian Christians that they were once darkness but are now light, because of their relationship with the Lord. To be sure, the darkness produces fruitless works, while the light yields life-giving fruits such as goodness, righteousness and truth. We constantly have to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of fruit is my life producing?’ In order for a tree or plant to produce fruit, there must be light; likewise with us.
Essentially then, what our sermon text is saying to us is this: Both science and faith tell us there is no life without light. The Book of Genesis describes the pre-created world as a dark, formless void. God’s first creative act was to speak light into existence: “Let there be light,” He said. Light produces life; that is true whether it is physical light or spiritual light. The person without God is a dark, formless void. The Christian not only receives the light of Christ, but also he radiates the light of Christ. Enlightened Christians produce the fruits of righteousness – love, joy, peace, truth, goodness, faithfulness, etc.
The life of a believing Christian should always preach a sermon, should always expose the surrounding darkness, and should always be extending this invitation to unbelievers:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
This is the voice of light speaking to those who are sleeping in darkness and lying in spiritual death. The light calls them to life and illumination. If they answer the invitation, Christ will shine on them and give them light. Amen.