Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 1 year ago

Light into the Darkness


John 1:1-18

To be see, to be seated, but if you would like to stand for God's word, please stand. This is God's word. In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God, and he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him was not anything made. That was made in him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light that all might believe through him. He was not the light that came to bear witness about the light. The True Light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world and the world has was made through him. Yet the world did not know him. He came to his own in his own people did not receive him, but to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen as glory, glory as the only son from the father are full of grace and truth. The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. You may be seated. Have you been to pepper sauce cave? Of the any of you been to pepper sauce cave? I have one hand. Do you the anybody else know what pepper sauce cave is? Hey, good, more hands. So you should take a field trip as covenant press to Pepper Sauce Cave. Pepper Sauce Cave is this mild deep cave on the other side of Mount Lemon. Last Spring Jonah and penny and I took our jeep Cherokee over the top of Mount Lemon, which apparently you're supposed to go the other way because it's less bumpy, and parked on Mount Lemon highway, which is a dirt road, along with a bunch of other cars. Got Out of our car and went down into a ravine past a local film club for a Pima Community college finishing up a film shoot, and then scurried our way up the dirt and rock and bankment over some tree roots to the mouth of pepper sauce cave and we stepped into the mouth of pepper sauce cave, where it was dimly lit because the sunlight still filtered in to that opening Narthex of a room. But they're in front of US stood this hole that was about this big into a tunnel that was very dark, and so we got down are in our hands and knees and I got down onto my belly as well. We turned on our flashlights and headlamps and belly crawled into the first real room of the cave and I convinced my children, maybe as a grumpy adult, to turn off our flashlights. Jona remind me to me this morning that in that moment we prayed, because what felt like five minutes was actually probably only about five seconds. The darkness is overwhelming. It's simultaneously heightens our senses and it feels like we can hear sounds from far away, but it tricks our senses, making us feel like we're going to bump our heads on anything, even though likely it's somewhere far...

...away. A friend of mine who's in his mid twenties and super adventurous and recently moved out of Tucson when he found out that we went to pepper sauce cave. Said when you go into the darkness of a cave for the first time it's weirdly emotional and overwhelming. All of the darkness. You don't know what to do with it. You and I don't like to admit it, but we get overwhelmed, we get afraid and get emotional in the dark, and for many of us this is what it's been like for the last twenty months, even as we have become more public out of quarantine. That I think we're mostly fully out of quarantine, but the residual effects of all of that isolation, where we felt cut off. Even now still feel isolated or lonely, over overwhelmed in the darkness of anxiety, depression and loneliness and other ailments. For others of us, the holiday season feels this way as we remember loved ones that we've lost over the past year or in past years. Others of US come into this joyful season and watch other people celebrate and experience joy, but we've been experiencing depression or anxiety over the last four months and we feel even more alone. And then the dark because we can't experience we feel like we can't experience the joy that other people are experiencing. We feel overwhelmed. Others of US feel trapped in some addiction and we feel the shame weighing down on us, pushing US deeper into the darkness, afraid that if we show ourselves to other people, the darkness will overwhelm us. We feel like we cannot escape. It's in the midst of these overwhelming states that we struggle to feel a sense of hope, a sense of seeing clearly that we will be okay because God is with us and God will take care of us. We feel like we're in the dark, unable to see, lonely, isolated, overwhelmed. This is what the Bible describes as the human experience, people walking around in darkness, unable to see, not only because of their own sin, but because of the brokenness of the world and the brokenness of ourselves following post the fall. It's not just that our vision is cloudy or blurry and we just need to get into focus and see clearly and find the right thing. It's like being in the back of pepper sauce cave, which is a mile back, without any light. But according to the Bible as well. Human beings weren't made to walk in the darkness. We were made to know and understand things, to clearly make sense of the world. So we walk around with our whole lives looking for all sorts of things to help us see clearly and the world and make sense and make hope in our lives. Other voices promised to give us light and make sense of the darkness around us. For some of us we hear the promise of intellects that if only studied a little bit more new a little bit more in my field or in my topic or in this particular topic, then life would make more sense and the darkness would feel less overwhelming. Others of us it's a promise of relational connection or physical connection that if we only found the right person to marry or to date or to be friends with or to spend one night with, then we wouldn't feel so loneliness in the dark would not feel so overwhelming. Or...

...promise of careers success that if we could only meet a certain metric or produce certain numbers, then we would feel like we are worth something in the darkness wouldn't feel so overwhelming or people pleasing that if we could only do something to make that certain person of those certain people happy with us, then we could see clearly the world around us and would feel less overwhelmed in the darkness. Various voices make promises, so we try all these various voices so we can see clearly in the darkness. But all these things that we do, even in the holiday season, all they do is function like changing prescriptions on our glasses as we're standing in the back of pepper sauce cave. Even a good set of prescription lens as that fit our eyes perfectly cannot help us see in the darkness. John Proposes that the God who made the heavens and the earth, the God who made all the subject matters that inform every work field that you're in, every field of study that you're studying right now, that made all the relationships in this room and all the relationships that you have outside of this room, that made all of the joyful, delightful foods and sensory experiences that we enjoy in the holiday season. That God became a human being, the God who keeps the World Spinning and yours in my life intact, enter creation as a human being to bring light to the darkness. When we stop to think about it, and really stop to think about it, this is mind blowing. God looks like you and me. The second person of the Trinity looked like you and me. He wouldn't stand out in this room of seventy people. He was a human mammal who ate food, who breathe are, who gave hugs, who went to worship, who studied a trade, who had to learn the Bible, who had to learn to read, who learned to speak Aramaic, who also learned other languages as well, who breathes oxygen like the rest of us. He came because God wants a relationship with people. This is what you and I were made for, to live and relationship with the person who is light. This is what we long for. But according also to the Christian Understanding from the Bible is that human beings are born into darkness because our first parents rebelled against God and we're plunged into darkness, unable to see rightly the world were God and the world that the rest of us live in, and they brought the rest of US human beings into that same darkness. It says if our parents hikes into the back of pepper sauce cave, smashed their lights and gave birth to us. In the back of pepper sauce cave. We were born into darkness, unable to see, never able to see. But God didn't stop and let human beings hang out in the darkness. He promised to come, and then he came. Intentionally entered creation as a human bring to bring light into the darkness. God's plan and his action was to make rebels into daughters and sons. That's what verses twelve and thirteen speak to when John says to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who are born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God, the only thing that can give light to yours and my darkness and help you and me see our lives...

...and the world around us as receiving the true light. But also, according to this morning's passage, we don't easily receive the light. We don't only live in the darkness, we keep our eyes shut. Not only are we born in the back of a cave, we put our hands over closed eyes or put a blindfold on. John puts it this way. In verse eleven. He says he came to his own as own people did not receive them. But mysteriously, receiving this light becomes something that God does to us. He came into the back of the cave looking for us, to find us, and as soon as he gets to our part of the cave we can't help but see the light. Our eyes are drawn to it. John uses the metaphor of childbirth here. In what ways to baby's assists in their own birth? They don't write. There's no amount of saying I'm going to make sure, I'm going to help my mom out. There's no amount of pulling their selves up by their bare feet, there's no amount of self help, there's no amount that helps them be born. They are just born and mysteriously and graciously and weirdly, this is how God makes his children as well. He causes our hearts to open for us to receive him or, to use the light metaphor, he opens our eyes and shines the dark into the shines the light into our darkness. We can't help but receive him. And for those of us who are calvinists in the room, which is most of us in a Presbyterian setting, but probably not all of us. So when you're like I have no idea what that means, we believe this with our heads, but it's something to begin to believe it in our hearts that God is so gracious that he speaks into our darkness and pulls us out of the darkness into His light. So what do we do with this, this claim that the Bible by the Bible, that God entered creation as the light? I want to propose that we do three different things. We receive the lights, we rest in the lights and we begin to reflect the light as witnesses to the rest of the world. So first we receive the light. God's invitation to us this morning is to receive the reality that you are born and beloved by God. You were made to become God's daughter or son, or you already are God's daughter or son as a Christian, to be in loving relationship with him. Receive the truth that you are forgiven of the darkness that you have brought into the world, into your own life and into the lives of other people, because of sin that you have committed or sin that's in your heart. Some of US know this. We say that we received Christ when we were six, or sixteen or last year. Some of us say that we never knew a day that we didn't know Jesus, and these are all true. But just like we don't open our eyes once and peppersauce cave when we see the light and then look away, we continually look to Christ to see him shining through the scriptures of where God is at work in His grace for us. We start to follow after him and trust him, just like the person holding the flashed light in the cave who helps us locate ourselves, to see ourselves more clearly, to see the bumps that we want a dodge on the way out and to see that we are okay because he is with us with the lights. Some of US perhaps received Christ and became Christian years go, but we've put him on the back burner of our life and we have come to church today, or maybe come to church in the last several months, curious to engage again, but we feel this sense of shame that...

I should have had my life together, I should have kept coming, I should have been bringing my family all along. But just like a rescue worker who comes to the back of the cave looking for somebody who is lost. Doesn't shame the person who has lost. Neither does Christ say shame you. He comes to find you and welcome you and embrace you and say welcome home. Come expectant to worship for God to show up. When you read or seeing the scriptures, look for the light of God's truth in His grace for you, not just abstractly, but for you as well. When you're seeing Christmas lights as you drive by, I don't know what you think of them or not, let the Holy Spirit use that common grace of people being drawn to the light to stir in your heart this idea that Christ came to bring light to your darkness because he loves you. Some others of us in the room aren't Christians, but we know that we live in a dark world, but we haven't been able to figure out the light that shines and make sense of the world around us with a darkness inside of us. And might I invite you to believe, or at least consider, that Jesus is the light that you're longing for who helps you make sense of the darkness of the world? Or might a at least invite you into further conversations, to open your mind to that possibility, to continue the conversation with somebody else in this room. There's people in this room that would love to get commerce. They get coffee with you, pastor Chelpka or the elders, would love to read the Bible with you or be in a small group with you, to open God's scriptures together and wrestle towards the truth so that we together, as human beings made in God's image, might look to the light together. Not only do we receive the light, we also are called to rest in the light. Particularly those of us who are Christians in the room. I want to encourage you to rest in the light, take a deep breath, a deep breath of faith. According to this passage and the rest of the Christian scriptures, the darkness will not and cannot win. It cannot overwhelm you. You might be tempted to be afraid in the back of the cave, but Jesus, the light will never let you go. The darkness cannot overcome him. Your darkness cannot overcome him. The darkness of the world cannot over come him. Jesus will never leave you, nor abandon you in the darkness. We feel the anxiety and the loneliness in the depression, especially this time of year, as festivities are high and we feel torn between the two. But lean in, take a deep breath and know that, Jesus, the light will never leave you. If you're feeling pulled down and weighed down by the darkness, take a small step of courage, call a friend in the room or friends somewhere else and ask them to remind you of God's grace and truth. They not rest in the light. We need each other as you make mistakes and you do things that you're ashamed of. He promises to never abandon you. Those of you who are not Christians, this is what Christianity invites you to, the secure place, the secure, existential, true real place of being a daughter or son of the Living God who will never let you go. Take a deep breath of faith. Be reminded that you can rest in God's love and that nothing else will help you see more clearly in the world.

Reflect the light. John the Baptist, a John the disciple, talks about another John in this passage, John The baptist. John the Baptist was a witness to the light that says that he pointed people to Jesus. Later on, he admits personally, but it meets here, that he himself was not the light. He admitted that he could not rescue people out of the darkness. He took them by the hand and invited them to look for the true light who would rescue them and help them make sense of the world and put them into right relationship with God. And just like John The baptist, when we become daughters, are son of the Living God. When we become Christians, God invites us, as his children, to invite other people to know and receive the light so that others put can become children of God as well. We do this in tangilbill ways, through undeserved compassion and kindness. We also do it through conversation and listening and friendship with non Christian neighbors, inviting them to places where they can hear God's Truth and grace. We also reflect it to each other's Christians, because we need each other. This is why covenant prayers has a whole host of calendar events throughout the year, parties and picnics, filled TRIPS, game nights. This is why Pastor Chopka and the elders want you spending time together in discipleship and mentorship and friendship, reflecting Christ's light to each other, not to shame each other, not to outdo each other, but to remind each other of God's grace and truth, of his lights, helping us see each other in God's glory all the more clearly. So might I encourage you to text or text message or call someone this week who you know might be having a hard week as they face the holidays, to encourage them with friendship, to encourage them with the truth of God's grace, to perhaps even invite someone to your festivities who might be experiencing the darkness of loneliness. That way, the they might experience the light of God's love through your hospitality. Just like we share the light of our flashlight in a cave in the back with other people whose lights have burned out through whose lights are getting dim or feeling dim, we do this to other people in the world because we have light. We've seen the light. Last spring for maybe five seconds, my children and I sat in a real physical darkness and it was overwhelming, but we were able to turn on our flash lights and follow the lights out of the darkness. So often in Christianity, even as Christians and even at Christmas time, as we are getting consumed by the anxiety of the times, were tempted to think of Jesus as the light that guides us out of the darkness, whether it's in our behavior or in our ethics, or in our policies or in our theologies, that if we only can follow the light, that will be okay. The sisters and brothers, that's not the good news of Christianity. If we start to believe that Jesus lights our way out of the darkness, that we will cleickly despair and get overwhelmed by the darkness of our own efforts. The true good news and the hope of Christianity and Christmas is that the word came to dwell with us. He is not just some light that helps us see the way out. He is the...

...light who is with us, shining in the darkness. He is God who became flesh to be with us. And then this perfect light lived a perfect life and face the darkness of God's Wrath on the Cross. For us. He became overwhelmed in the darkness. For us, for our sin, he entered into the darkness of death for you and for me. But the arkness of death could not overcome him. He rose from the grave, destroying the darkness, the ultimate darkness forever. He then ascended to reign at God's right hand and sent his spirit to be with us. The fact that he is with us means that we are going to be okay. The spirit of Jesus helps us see that we're not in some claustrophobic cave constantly about to bump our head, but the we're in a wide open world where he is bringing the light of his truth. As he reigns over all things, you and I can have courage in the face of everything that we face. That's unknown, that's UN this scary because if you're a Christian, the darkness cannot overcome you. It might scare you, it might tempt you or even cause you to close your eyes for a time, but Jesus is with you and will never leave you and will never forsake you, and he has made you his daughter or his son of the Living God and the father, and one day he promises to come in all of his glory to bring light to all of our darkness and dwell with us. Forever and ever. Amen. Will you pray with me? Father, help us to believe this.

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