Sunday Service 26/01/2020

You can listen to the Sunday service message by Ryan Vicar in the following audio link

Date: 26/01/2020: 08:30

Message: Ryan Vicar

Scroll down for the written script of the message

No Darkness in Christ

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

When the day draws down and the sun sets, we kick our shoes off, or boots.  Dinner is making us sleepy and we finish up our routine for the day.  Tucking the kids in, making phone calls to our loved ones around the world as their day is just starting, brushing our teeth, and well – just getting ready for bed.  Darkness fills the sky and we rest.  It is good and natural so that our bodies are ready to take on the next day.  I guess this does not apply to those of us who work night shift, of course.  But for most of the world, nighttime and darkness mean sleep and restoration.

And as you sleep, I’ll bet you don’t dream about Old Testament stories.  But I’ll bet the prophet Isaiah did.  You see his reality was that a new and ruthless power, called Assyria, was on the rise in the North. It had already taken control of the land belonging to the Israelite tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, the land called Galilee.  And the prophet Isaiah had been told by God that this was only a foretaste of what was to come.  After centuries of shifting between obedience and disobedience, justice and oppression, faithful service and faithless idolatry; judgment would soon visit the rest of the Northern ten tribes.  God’s righteous judgement allowed for their destruction, and anyone who survived would be scattered.  And while a remnant, or a small group, remained, many wouldn’t be heard from again.

As the northern tribes fell to the enemy, darkness fell on the kingdom of Israel.  And despite Isaiah’s warnings of the same danger, of that same Assyrian Army, the southern kingdom of Judah would not listen.  The people of both kingdoms were living without knowledge of, hope from, and obedience to the one, true God.  The Jewish people were living in a type of darkness, a darkness which meant they were distant from God and His message.  Instead, they relied on their own ways, even seeking out mediums and people who claimed they could raise and speak to the dead, for answers.  But they were stubborn and would not turn back to the God of their fathers for help.

Darkness can have positive and meaningful effects as I talked about to start.  But nothing good happens after midnight, as they say.  Unfortunately, darkness is often used to cover and conceal the evil and wickedness of the world.  Unlawful organizations and operations function under the cover of darkness, obsessive partying and abhorrent behavior rarely take place during the day, the illegal part of the internet is called the “dark-web”, and I mean come on, even the losing force of Star wars is called the “dark side”.  Darkness is no longer used for what God intended: sleep, rest, recovery.  Instead, it has been used for unnatural pleasures since sin entered the world.

Looking back to the prophet Isaiah, we usually find truths that applied directly to the kings and people of his time.  But in the same text, it contains future prophecies.  So while it was true that both nations of Israel and Judah were living in darkness, we find that this was also true for the people living in that same land 700 years later at the time of Jesus.  And as we heard in the Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 4, Isaiah’s words are told once again.  The people living in this region during Jesus’ time did not know God.

But once John the Baptist had been arrested and Jesus withdrew to this area, something unusual happened.  When Jesus walked the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan river, the people who lived in darkness, saw a great light; those who lived in the shadow of death, now had the light of the world shining on them.  These people who did not know the one, true living God were now suddenly in His presence.  And Jesus did not only walk among them, He spoke directly to them.

Jesus Christ, this true man, but also true God had broken the barrier.  He broke the fabric of time and space once he entered human history.  Not only does He fulfill prophecies going from Isaiah to Matthew, but we also hear that Jesus reacted after John’s arrest, He preached God’s eternal message, He is relational and calls people to be fishers of men, He heals diseases and afflictions.  And most importantly, he carries the burden of the world on His back.  Look to the fourth verse of our Isaiah text: “For the yoke of His burden, and the staff for His shoulder, the rod of His oppressor.”  These three items are used as tools: one for hard labor, one for protection, and the other for oppression; but for Christ, they are the tools of His mission to the Cross.  Because in Matthew chapter 11 Jesus tells us, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.  In John 10 He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  So no wonder why the people who were in darkness now had reason to rejoice; 1st) a harvest of the Good News had come to them. 2nd) that the light of the world had drove out their darkness, and finally) Christ was willing to lift the heavy burden from their shoulders and placed it on His own.

We have had only a handful of days with uninterrupted sunshine this month here in Kaiserslautern; a time when the light was uninterrupted by clouds or fog.  And as someone who is not fully educated on the matter, it seems there is something to this Season Affective Disorder.  Life without light is dull, depressing even, it makes for a difficult day when you get out of bed and the sun is far from rising, and returning home from work or chores, the sun has already set.  And we have lived through dark seasons in our life too, many of us who have even prepared ourselves knowing that more will come.  We’re not talking about a spring or summer that was not hot or sunny enough, but rather times of figurative darkness in life.  Times when we felt out of touch, disconnected, hurt or maybe guilty because we were the offender; pick your choice.

But as Christians, who live in this region of literal, physical darkness during this time of the year, we still have reason to rejoice.  We are people who live with the knowledge of, people who receive hope from, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, are obedient to the one, true God.  And this knowledge, hope, and help all flows from Christ.  Jesus has done the work, and He has carried each one of our burdens to the foot of the cross.  As the yoke of His burden was once heavy, Jesus continued to perfectly hold the shepherd’s staff.  And by the rod of the oppressor, he suffered on the cross in our place.  And when He hung there, the land became really, really dark.  There seemed to be no hope, it looked like Jesus was defeated.

But Jesus is the light of the world, we know, He is the pure, perfect light.  And even the deepest darkness cannot overcome Him.  In fact, In Him there is no darkness at all.  So as the stone was rolled away from the tomb on Easter morning, the light burst forth and shone as brightly as it ever had, this time proving Jesus Christ is victorious forever.

When we hear the sweet words of the Bible, we find that His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light shining on our paths.  With our faith in Christ, even in our worst days, when the sky is a bit darker than usual, we know that the light of Christ shines brightly within us.  The Light of Christ drives out all darkness.  So when we walk, no matter where we go, we walk as children of the light.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”, said Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.  And the Reverend got it right, but I will clarify that it is only the light of the world, Jesus Christ, who drives out the darkness of this world.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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