Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“Children of the Light!” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6)

S-1277 22SAP/3C 11/13/11 Hymns: (O) #8; S#20; LS. #451; #497; #498; (C) #52

Text: Zephaniah 1:7-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Theme: “Children of the Light!” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6)

Question: “How much do you appreciate the light?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost is the Epistle lesson: “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Oh my beloved and His, what a joy to be among you again and bring to you the glorious and precious life-giving Word of truth and light and life. Having just returned from Israel, my mind is still in a whirlwind at what I had seen and discussed with fellow travelers, friends and family.

While there, we visited the Shrine of the Book Museum just outside of Jerusalem. This museum was built after 7 years of planning and finished in 1965. The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered 1947–56 in 11 caves in and around the Wadi Qumran. The shrine is built as a white dome, covering a structure placed two-thirds below the ground that is reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it. Across from the white dome is a huge black (basalt) wall. The colors and shapes of the building are based on the imagery of the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness; the white dome symbolizes the Sons of Light and the black wall symbolizes the Sons of Darkness.

That war is still going on not only by the Jewish sect, the Essenes who wrote and hid the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves in first century Palestine, but in every heart of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve till today. It is a war that rages between the light and darkness; light that gives life and hope and darkness that brings about hopelessness and despair.

I saw that firsthand while in Israel. One of the nights in Bethlehem I was invited over to my friends George’s house. We had a great time around the meal and began to visit afterwards about the differences between Catholics and Lutherans.

I explained in a most simple way that the differences among many is that we don’t worship Mary the mother of the Lord, nor do we consider her to be a co-redeemer, but she is a vessel used by God to bring about the everlasting light of salvation.

At that my friends took offense. They began to bombard me with all sorts of questions about Mary, if she remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus; if she had other sons besides Jesus; if she married an older widower Joseph? I explained that we adhere to Scripture for it is the light that shines in the darkness. That the Scriptures alone are the truth of God’s work and words of our salvation. The more I explained the more adamant they became with me that I don’t know what I am talking about. Finally, I asked do you have a Bible that I can show you what it states!? Do you believe that there was no Bible in the house! I then asked, have you ever read the Bible? Again, I was amazed at their response of “NO!” I wonder how many people in the USA would find themselves in the very same position. They THINK they know what the Bible says, but really they confess a faith of their own creation.

How tragic that answer was to me personally. Here are the Christians in the Middle East—in the Holy Land of all places, and yet they are in darkness because they don’t have the Word and neither know the rich treasures of the Word of the Living God and the light it sheds on the people who read it.

This was sad enough for me. But then, I went home to my father’s house. While there, I noticed a book called “The Virgin Mary” written by Charlie Casta a Baptist minister who declared that he had come to some revelation that Mary was, is and remains a virgin.

In the book, Casta states that according to the apocryphal Gospel of James (a second century document) Mary was the daughter of Joachim and Anna. Before Mary’s conception Anna had been barren. Mary was given to service as a consecrated virgin in the Temple in Jerusalem when she was three years old, and was married to a widower at age 14 to Joseph, but she had no other children with him. PAUSE.

I share this information with you, not to make us proud and arrogant that we Lutheran Christians are better than our Catholic Christians, but rather because many people are still children of darkness and not children of the light.

Indeed, Paul, the great preacher of truth tells us today But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”

You and I are not in darkness and for that we thank Him who is the Light of the World, Jesus Christ who shines on our darkened hearts. Our light comes from His light. It is He who gave us the light that removed us out of the darkness of death and despair. He, through the working of the miracle of Baptism has given us the light by which we become Children of Light. Thus this is the place of our witness—as Children of the Light we live in this light and grow in this light and mature by this light. This is not a light that originates inside of us. Rather, it is a light placed in us by the Holy Spirit—a light then that we reflect to the world. As Paul says: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15).

By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit has revealed to us the truth of Scripture which testifies about Jesus who came into the world as the light bearer. According to Saint John we read these blessed truth: “In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-4). This is the absolute truth confirmed by Scripture alone and not by a 2nd century legend. The truth that you and are Children of the Light.

How important therefore, it is for us Children of the Light to read and learn of Holy Scriptures and know its teachings firsthand. How valuable is the Word of God to be placed in your hearts and heads to read and study it—because this Word leads to life and light. The light that can’t be extinguished by the darkness, but shines ever brightly on the darkness of Good Friday and shows us the True Light that came from heaven to die for us and win our salvation. Jesus the Christ is that Light that was extinguished for few hours so long ago on Golgotha’s Hill, but burned brightly on that First Easter morn and still does in the hearts of those who trust and believe His Word. PAUSE.

For this reason, Paul, the minister of light exhorts us to encourage one another in our witness to the Christ our Savior and Lord. This is the fruit of the Spirit at work in us as it was in the life of Mary. Indeed, we rejoice in Mary’s great confession when she sang the Great Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…,” (Luke 1:46-47). Likewise, we too, rejoice in her great confession and praise God our Savior who sheds upon us His light of Grace and Mercy.

By the shedding of this light we know the truth of Scriptures that we are saved solely by God’s work of redemption on the cross. We see this even clearly today in the Gospel lesson of the parable of the talents: Now if we make this text about making money, we have missed Christ and will leave our hearts bankrupt. So, this is not an economics lesson. And yet it is! The economy of God’s Grace. This parable sheds the light and mark my words about it; “It is all about the Word of God in our lives and not about us.” IF THE PARABLE FOCUS IS NOT ON GOD’S WORK, YOU’RE READING IT WRONG. Let me repeat that. IF THE PARABLE FOCUS IS NOT ON GOD’S WORK, YOU’RE READING IT WRONG.

Therefore, remember this: You and I and all Christians are Children of the Light. Yes, we are. As Children of the Light we know our fallen state and sinful condition but we also know the grace of God that is revealed to us in His Holy Word. There we behold Him as the Light of the World. There we see Him as the Savior of the World. There, we worship Him as the ONLY true God. And by the working of the Holy Spirit we confess Him as Mary and others have throughout all generations.

Oh my beloved and His beloved. Today, I’m thankful that the gracious God has brought us back together not to sleep, but to grow in wisdom and knowledge of the truth of His light and having basked in that light, we go forth as little lights to the world and sharing the hope of glory with one and all.

God bless our labors of teaching and pointing others to the ONLY source of light, love and life—Jesus the Christ, our ONLY Savior and Lord, Amen.

Now the peace…


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