What happens if you enter a room that you know has a cockroach (or 2) in it and you turn on the light? (they scatter) When you watch a movie with a “criminal overtone” to it, where or when do the bad guys usually do their work? (in the dark) And yet not all darkness is bad and not all light is good. Though we hear probably one of the most familiar pieces of scripture today (which is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”) what I want to focus on today is versus 19-21. So let me read those again “‘And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’”
I think that we often separate the world into definites that leave us no room to wiggle and we end up painting ourselves into corners. We seem to be either yes or no; either black or white; either up or down; either right or wrong; either left or right. I think you get the point. The challenging part of being a Lutheran, and moreover, being a Christian, is that we sometimes live in the gray. And the gray can be muddy, unclear, and at times, frustrating. I’ve heard people, almost aggravated say “but how can we be both a sinner and a saint? And how can we be 100% both? Isn’t it more like 50/50? No. We are 100% saint and 100% sinner, 100% of the time. It’s a fantastic, muddy, gray life to lead. And it’s our life.
At the same time, we often say that we are people of the light, we are people of the resurrection, we are Easter people. So it may be easy to think that we are people of the light and those people are people of the dark. But, of course, we know that’s not always the case. Again, like I said, the darkness isn’t always a bad thing. When I go to the movies, I want to watch the movie in the dark. When a migraine hits, get me my medicine, a dark room, and silence. I enjoy my sleep, so of course we have room darkening shades and curtains in our bedroom and Ellen’s as well. Find me a dark night with just a sprinkling of stars and a campfire and I am a happy girl. There are times when the darkness can be good.
The light is also a good thing. Most likely, one of the first things you may do when you enter a room is turn on the light. When we are baptized, we are given a light and told “let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” And now that we are getting closer to summer and our days are getting longer, I know many of you are anxious (like me) to get outside and soak up some vitamin D instead of having to take it in pill form. Most of us probably associate the idea of Jesus with light and brightness. In fact, I am guessing that most of us envision heaven as a place of amazing light and glory and hell as a place that is very dark. We even sometimes talk about emotions using light and dark. I’ve heard people say “I’m just in a dark place right now” or I’ve heard people say to other people “you’re glowing” or “you just seem so full of light.” There are plenty of examples in our culture of how we use light and dark.
I want to make it clear that I am not making a judgement as to whether or not being in light or dark is a good or bad thing. If you are having a “dark” day or week, I am not judging you. I feel its also important, as we continue to struggle with race relations in this country, that being dark or light is not a negative trait. We should continue to look at one another’s character and not physical attributes.
But the truth is that more times than not, evil lives in the darkness. And we can describe evil however we like. Some of you may describe evil as the actual Devil. Some of you may describe evil as sin. Some of you may describe evil as the demons that you battle on a daily or semi-daily basis. Whatever and however you describe it, I think we all have a picture in our minds when I say that evil usually lives in the darkness.
I once either heard a story or saw a movie (or something) that talked about getting bitten by a snake. And the idea was that if you got bitten by a snake that you would need to suck the venom out yourself in order to live…or something like that. When we allow the light of Christ to be shown in us, shown to us, and shown through us, we are allowing the venom to disappear. Cockroaches scatter in the light, right? When we have those forces that oppose Christ, no matter what they may look like in our lives, in our homes, or even in this church, the best thing we can do is to shine a light on what is going on. Evil cannot survive in the light; it’s like a Gremlin.
And when I speak of light and dark, I’m not just talking about the actual physical light we shine on things. We can portray lightness and darkness with our actions and our voices as well. If you’ve ever been somewhere (not just church) and you’ve said “well, I really shouldn’t tell you this, but…” and you’re speaking of another person, you’ve dimmed the light of Christ than shines through you. If you have the means (monetarily, physically, spiritually, or emotionally) to assist someone in some way but don’t because you believe the lie that “God only helps those who help themselves” then you diminish Christ’s light that shines through you. Even well intentioned phrases or actions can dim the light of Christ. We never set out to dim that light, but it happens because sin always gets in the way.
I think it’s often tempting to let the darkness win. Darkness, as I said, isn’t all bad. But, it’s easy to get comfortable there. It’s not easy to use the light that Christ gave us to shine it on things like injustice, poverty, hunger, homelessness, hate, discrimination, and the list could go on and on and on. But, it’s not enough to sit idle with our light and just keep it to ourselves. Christ, the ultimate light, gave himself for us so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Christ faced the ultimate darkness: death, and then rose again in triumphant glory. His light forever shines. We are freed from our sin and we are freed for service to one another. Service to one another means shining our light onto others and into those dark places so that darkness does not get the last word.
Everytime you eat and drink bread and wine, every time you remind yourself of your baptism, every time you turn from sin and turn towards Christ to hear forgiveness, every time you humble yourself and realize you can’t do this alone, every single time you find yourself at the foot of the cross, the darkness loses its power and the light of Christ is allowed to shine a bit more.
I pray for a time when darkness and evil no longer have power. I pray that Christ’s reign on earth, as we pray, your kingdom come, will be known to all. I pray that every tongue and nation will declare that Jesus is Lord and will do so without ceasing. I pray that even at the grave we will cry out for all to hear that there is a light in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. But until then, “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”