October 5, 2014
Matthew 21:33-46
Philippians 3:4b-14
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm 19

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Light Is As Light Does

Fourth Sunday in Lent

from the book
Sermons On The Second Reading
Series I, Cycle A


Richard W. Ferris



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If you saw the movie, Forrest Gump a few years back, you will remember how Forrest always had a quote from his mama to sum up just about any situation that a person might find himself or herself in. And if Forrest were to comment on this text from Ephesians, he might have this to say: "It's like my mama always used to say, 'Light is as light does.' "

Light is as light does. And what light does is shine out of the darkness. What light does is to make darkness disappear. Light and darkness cannot exist in the same space, because anytime light shows up, it pushes the darkness away. Darkness can exist on the edge of light, but it can never invade the space light has claimed.

Our lives seem to be filled with gray areas. Areas that are not fully illuminated nor are they fully darkened. Yet, while we try to convince ourselves that these gray areas exist to give us choices, we know deep down inside that the right choices always lead to the light, not the darkness. From inside those gray areas we can see that the right choices are not hidden from us, but are in plain view.

The Ephesians text tells us: "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Those gray areas are described as sleep from which we can awake, or even death, from which we can rise. And when we escape those gray areas, Christ will shine on us. Not only will he shine on us, he will shine out from us.

As Christians, we believe Jesus is the light of the world. He illuminates darkness so that in his light all secrets and hidden evils are revealed. If we choose to live in the light of Jesus, all that is dark within our lives is revealed and nothing is hidden from him, or from the rest of the world.

Light is as light does. What is it about light that makes it better than darkness? The obvious answer is that you can see light. Not only can you see light, but light also makes all things in its path visible so that you don't stumble into things. Light has a presence that makes it known to you. You can't miss light when it's around although you may not consciously think about it. But take it away, turn it off, cover it up, and you miss it immediately.

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Darkness, on the other hand, is the absence of light. Darkness is void of light.

When we think of it in those terms, and believe that Jesus is the Light of the world, it is then we can say that Jesus is something you can see, while evil is hidden. Jesus makes everything else visible, while evil blocks things out. Evil is the absence of Jesus. Evil is void of everything that Jesus has come to represent to people.

Light is as light does. Light promotes growth. Darkness leads to death.

A woman was working in her garden and came upon a large, green, healthy--looking squash plant, and she began to admire it. The stems appeared to be strong, and the leaves were large. She envisioned the beautiful squash that this plant would one day produce. Oh, that every plant in her garden could be as productive as this squash plant.

A few days later she noticed that the plant was terribly wilted. There were no signs of any damage, nor were any of the plants around it in this condition. She couldn't figure out what had happened and she tried to give it extra care to nurse it back to health. But in a couple more days, it was completely dead. She pulled the plant up and examined its roots. There she discovered that a bore worm, which could not be seen from the outside, had eaten the heart out of the stem of the plant.

That's how our dark, hidden sins work on us. Like the bore worm, hidden sins can eat away at the heart of our Christian experience and leave us spiritually dead. When left unexposed to the light, sin continues to do its dirty work: obstructing our lives, destroying the true joy of life, and separating us from a loving God.

Light is as light does. A lighted path is easy to follow. We stumble in the darkness.

A family had gone to the movies, and on the way in, the young man of the family stopped by the refreshment stand to pick up some popcorn. By the time he got into the theater, the lights were already dim. He scanned the theater and couldn't find his family. People watched him pace up and down the aisle, searching the crowd in the near--darkness. As the lights began to go down even further, he stopped and asked out loud, "Does anyone recognize me?"

Is the path to our church, to the Christian life, well lit so that people can recognize it? As people come into our church, and into our lives, they are looking for family and companionship. People want to recognize the aisle that leads to the altar of God and they want to be recognized. They want to know God and they want to be known by him. People need to fit in and have a place among others. Like a lighthouse on the shores of the ocean, light can lead people to safe harbor or it can warn them of dangerous waters.

Are you a light that others can see in the darkness? Are you easily identifiable as a follower of Jesus so that people recognize our church as a safe place to be? Are we, as a congregation, a string of lights that shine out of this building and into our community? Can we lead people to the safety of Jesus and away from the dangers of sin?

Light is as light does. When the power gets low, or the connection is faulty, a light might begin to grow dim. And when the power source is completely severed, the light goes out completely, and that is darkness.

Just before the beginning of the Sunday service at a large Episcopal church in New York City, a man wearing a large hat was discovered sitting in the front row. An usher moved to his pew, leaned in, and discreetly asked him to remove his hat. The man replied that he would not. The head usher then was summoned, made the same request, and received the same answer. About that time the president of the women of the parish arrived and was asked to assist. She had the same dismal result. Finally, with only two minutes remaining before the opening hymn, the senior warden of the parish was also asked to intercede. He tiptoed up beside the man and tried to seize the hat, but the man was able to dodge his attempts to grab the hat. By now, there was no time for further confrontation.

As the opening hymn began and the procession entered the church, the man stood, removed his hat, and did not put it on again.

At the conclusion of the service, the four frustrated people waited for the man at the rear of the church. The senior warden approached him and said, "Sir, about the hat: perhaps you don't understand, but in the Episcopal church men do not wear hats at worship."

The man replied, "Oh, but I do understand. I've been Episcopalian all my life. As a matter of fact, I've been coming to this church regularly for two years and I've never met a soul. But this morning I've met an usher, the head usher, the president of the church women, and the senior warden."

What does it take to get your light turned on? What does it take to get your attention? Do you run around with your lights on dim most of the time so that people won't notice you? God is our power source. The Holy Spirit living within us gives off a light that people cannot miss. Are we sometimes too busy going about with church work that we forget to do the work of the church? It doesn't matter how well we have down the routine of running a church, if we are not a running church. We can master the budget, the music, the worship, the fellowship groups, the Sunday school curriculum, and all sorts of committees, but if we are not running our light outside the church building, then it is all for nothing.

Light is as light does. And light cannot help but to shine outward. You cannot hide your light under a bushel basket and expect it to be seen by others and attract attention. A light that is hidden is darkness and does not do anyone any good.

Light is as light does. And ultimately light will show the flaws and imperfections of all those around us. Our heroes get brought down, our highest government officials have a dark side, our best friends surprise us, and our parents are really human after all. And, oh, how we love to jump on the sins of others.

There was a young priest who was going to the confessional booth for the first time. He went with another priest, his senior. After a day of hearing confessions he was approached by the older pastor who offered some advice: "You know, I think that when a person finishes with a confession, you should say something on the order of, 'I agree it is terrible what you have done, and I would encourage you to stay away from that kind of behavior from now on ...' instead of saying, 'WOW!' "

Saint Paul tells us, "For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light" (Ephesians 5:12--13). Sins are revealed not to be talked about or to become the basis for gossip, not to be pitted one against another to show that I am less of a sinner than you, but sins are revealed so that they might be forgiven and corrected. Sins are revealed so that what is done in the darkness might be overcome by what is done in the light. We are not to attack our brothers and sisters for their sinfulness, but are to admonish them concerning the dangers of being drawn to the darkness.

Light is as light does. We are children of light who walk in the light. And while this passage tells us more about what life in the light is not than what life in the light is, like a parent pleading to his children, Saint Paul challenges us to discover that for ourselves. "Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord," he says. We know that the light pleases God. So if we live in the light of Jesus, we will reveal all those things that are pleasing to the Lord. Conversely, we can avoid those things that are covered by darkness.

On that first Easter, God broke through the darkness once and for all. The darkness of the tomb of death was exposed when Jesus rolled away the stone. His light now shines throughout the world.

It's like my Father in heaven always says, "Light is as light does." You who are light ... be light. Do what light does. And you will no longer live in darkness.