“Loving the Light”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 3: 14-21
March 11, 2018
“…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.” – John 3:21i
It travels at 186,000 mi/s. As a phenomenon it has the nature of being both a particle and a wave. We arise in the morning and we behold its presence. We rest at night and the stars and Moon abide. It is with us at the dawn of day and in the contrasting darkness of night. It sustains life on earth. It illuminates our way. The psalmist would have us sing:
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139)
God leads by the light of God’s grace. We journey in life often indifferent towards the light God provides. We lament the darkness because when it befalls us we stumble and lose our way. In the season of Lent, as we move towards Calvary, we are reminded of the works of evil and our own hand in treason. We often live in the midst of darkness. We read the morning paper. Turn on CNN. Hear of a tragedy that befell a neighbor. And still we come to this place and affirm the reality of God’s goodness and the enduring presence of light. I do this not out of some Pollyannaish view of reality. I have known darkness. But so, too, have I known the light.
Each week I travel to and from Bradford. To arrive home I take rout 25 to 302. I travel under 55 m/p/h often in the dark of night. I travel in faith. They say a car’s headlights can illuminate an object in the road only 165 feet ahead. So I travel, as do we all, around curves that obscure the road ahead trusting the road will still be there, that there will be nothing in the road, no person that I might strike. I am not breading the law. I am risking my life on a few yards of visible light.
And so we travel through Lent. The reality of evil, deceit, denial and betrayal cannot be denied. But I ask us all to remember how John began his gospel: What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:3b-5) Bear witness to its presence that God’s grace might guide you on your way. Let us pray…
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 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. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 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. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 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.”