“Walk in the Light” Isaiah 2:2-5 from the New Year Sermon Series: Where Do We Go From Here?”   Pastor Leonard · JANUARY 1, 2017

January 5, 2017
As I contemplate the coming year and I don’t think I am alone – once again Charles Dickens classic line from Tale of Two Cities is quite on point: “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times”. Without exception, daily we wake to news of devastation.
  • war, rumor of wars and violence and a culture of death pervades parts of places such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Palestine/Israel along with the violence that is alive in our own cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago where 700 plus were murdered in 2016.
  • The divisive vitriol associated with our most recent political process and its outcome has now rendered us both in and outside the church divided, distraught and depressed.
  • Many of our nation’s migrants and immigrants, religious minorities now live in fear of being profiled, deported and separated

Indeed – “it is the worst of times”

And yet, this news of devastation arrives to most of us conveniently download onto our smartphones or a personal MacBook Air, sleek and lightweight, and in the comfort of our warm homes still twinkling with Christmas lights, vanilla scented candles alit, kitchens stocked with food, family pet at our feet and prayerfully healthy children playing peacefully nearby all the while on a 3 month Sabbatical…. Oh that’s me! But my point is that in so many ways:

“It is also – the best of times”

In times such as these: How do you, how do I, how do we together hold in tension these parallel worlds? How and what do we teach our children about the reality of a hurting world often beyond their experience – mercifully shielded more than others without immobilizing them in fear. Because eventually difficulty touches even the most protected life – be it through divorce, being under or unemployment, a tragic accident, abuse or death of a loved one. What are the practices/spiritual disciplines in our lives, what is shaping and forming us, thereby creating space for a legacy to pass onto our children whereby we are acknowledging that the seasons of darkness will come to us all? Yet have them know for themselves the depth of wisdom/comfort found in scripture that indeed –

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”

(Central theme) This is the central focus of our text this morning from Isaiah 2 & Matthew 2. That when the season of darkness is upon us, do not remain in despair because we are NOT alone. And friends if you didn’t know already God’s light is shining especially when it’s the darkness – the question as we enter into 2017 can you/can we perceive it? Can you and I as a people trust that if we:
  • lift up our heads,
  • open our eyes, and open up our hearts,
  • lift up our voices and holy hands in the midst of the darkness that we will see – see with your spiritual eyes – what the prophet Isaiah is saying to us this morning in Isaiah 2 :

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. Out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

In the text there is a promise of a future where the mountain of the Lord’s house, the temple mount, will be established as the highest of the mountains. It is not a literal prophecy because that particular mountain is not the highest in physical terms, but in the nation’s consciousness it was the highest in terms of significance. So this idea of lifting up one’s countenance (head, heart, hands and voice ) is evident. And the significance of this mountain isn’t the location but because God is present here – so the nations and peoples will stream to it to seek God there. And according to the prophecy a day is coming where our God from this high place will act and will bring about a lasting peace to this world and our season of darkness will give way to the True Light – of Jesus! And when this occurs we will know because – check this out:
  • weapons of war causing death and destruction will be transformed to bring about life and liberty! What we have in Isaiah 2 is a vision of God’s preferred future, a vision of health and wholeness not just for God’s people but for the entire world.
But this particular prophecy isn’t finished. In verse 5 we find that there is an urgent call to action even while it is still dark:

“Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

“Come, O Come OCMC, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord together in 2017!”

Take note that in the text:
  • having a previous history of seeing the light of God in the past is inadequate…
  • having a vision or vision statement about wanting God’s light isn’t enough,
  • praying about receiving/experiencing God’s light is needed yet apparently incomplete.
  • even hearing/singing/reading about the light in our Scripture is not enough…..
The prophet Isaiah shows us there is a corresponding action/equipping/movement required of every generation/including ours in 2017 to experience/be a reflection of God’s light in the world. Such action will require of us to be awoke, get up off the couch, put away our devices, and

“walk in the light of the Lord”

There are other options:
  • We can continue “to busy ourselves” with being busy choosing to isolate ourselves in a “safe bubble” distancing ourselves from those that don’t think/look/act/pray like us (flee).
  • We can join in the escalation of stone throwing (social media, etc.) that occurs and will only intensify between those who disagree (fight).
  • Or we make a move towards the “True Light” of Jesus choosing to daily “Walk in the Light” of the Lord together. Recognizing Walking in the Light of Christ is a supernatural gift/act of grace by the Holy Spirit that will require of us to love and pray for our enemies, be discipled and disciple others and to passionately seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
Today God’s word is speaking this morning into our darkness of death and destruction, of hate and apathy – telling us what we are seeing/hearing with our natural eyes/ears isn’t permanent, it isn’t the final chapter. Because a day is coming and in fact has already begun when our Lord Jesus first came into this world remember that Jesus birth wasn’t one of “royal pomp and circumstance”. Not at all – Jesus came into our world during a very dark time in Jewish history – it was the worse of times..
When properly read the Christmas narrative tells us that: there was no drummer boy, no comfort inn or valet parking, no paved roads to travel on or 1st class seating for our Lord Jesus to upgrade too. Rather the world Jesus was born into was not unlike our own – consisting of overwhelming darkness:
  • A corrupt political system and unjust leader
  • The Genocide of innocent male babies.
  • A broken people – occupied violently by the Romans.
  • An inconvenient birth. It was inconvenient enough that Jesus was conceived by Mary and Joseph out of wedlock- but their wasn’t even a place available to house them and he would spend his early years as a migrant crossing back and forth across the borders of Fertile Crescent.
Jörg Zink echo’s this understanding – saying:

There’s nothing romantic about the Christmas story. If anything, it offers a slice of a brutal world in which a child is born on the street, so to speak, with next to nothing in the way of rights and security, and not even a home. He whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas said, even as a grown man, “…..I have no place to rest or lay my head”.…But now this man from Nazareth comes to us and invites us to mirror God’s image, and shows us how. He says: you too can become light, as God is light. Because what is all around you is not hell, but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith.” Doors to the Feast

This is why John frames Jesus as he does when he writes in John 1:

“4 In him/Jesus was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

I’ll say it again:

“5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Yet sadly in Jesus day far too many individuals, communities missed seeing/experiencing this light, the Light of Christ in their day because the darkness had become too dark for them. In essence the darkness of the day overcame them, overcame their hearts, their souls, their homes and communities… How do I know this? Well think with me just about the Christmas narrative – initially who saw the “true light” from the star emanating from the sky in the midst of the darkness- was it the wise and religious folk/church folk like you and I? No. Rather It was those who dared to look up and walk into the darkness. It was when they looked, when they walked, searched for God in the darkness that the Light of Christ was revealed boldly unto them. Most notably in the Christmas narrative it was the:
  • The so called Pagan wise men from the east – who surprisingly became the key witnesses of the True Light of Jesus.
We are told by scholars that it was a 1-2 year journey for the wise men to find Jesus. My point isn’t accuracy of time rather that we take note at the crucial time in our history the Magi didn’t get distracted from “walking in the light” even though the journey was long, each and every day they kept unpacking, setting up tents, feeding the livestock, cooking out, going to bed, waking up in the night, looking up, walking together, walking in the light of the Lord towards Jesus. I am reminded of the familiar African quote:

“if you want to walk fast walk alone… if you want to walk far walk together”

Friends:
  • King Herod didn’t have the heart to look for the light.
  • The religious (church folk like us) leaders didn’t have time to look for the light.
  • And apparently the masses were blinded by the darkness of their own difficult existence.
But Friends I don’t want us, I don’t want you to make the same mistake. Because the provider of this “light” is available to us today and already dwells in many of us. Amen? Jesus said:

“I am the Light of the world; he/she who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”John 8:12

And it is important to note that this light of Christ isn’t meant to be kept hidden – Jesus beckons us to:

“let (y)our light shine (in the darkness!) before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (So that people will come to church? So that people will give us a plague?) NO not at all – to lead them to the light which is Christ!” Matthew 5:16

And when we do this the prophet Isaiah tells us in Chapter 2 that by God grace it will be noticeable because:
  • swords (weapons of destruction) will be turned into plowshares (prosperity)
  • spears (weapons of death) will be turned into pruning hooks (life)
  • Learning of war will be outdated!
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a modern day prophet when he said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” “The chain reaction of hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

And my friends now is the time to walk in the Light of God and into the darkness. Because until Jesus returns my friends we, the church, is that light that God will use/empower/call to expose what darkness tends to conceal so well:
  • Apathy and isolation hides well in the dark.
  • Suspicion and hate hides well in the darkness.
  • Anger and despair hides well in the dark
  • Death & Destruction hides well in the darkness
And the promise is God will come into our darkest circumstance and usher us into the light. Amen? This is why at the beginning of Ephesians chapter 5, Paul exhorts each believer to walk in a way that is consistent with his high calling as a Christian:

“8 For you (and I) were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)10 and find out what pleases the Lord.”

Paul likens our former nature and conduct as “darkness,” contrasting our new nature and conduct as Christians by likening it to “light.” And a quick word study of Paul ‘s letters you will find at least 16 times he mentions light overcoming darkness. Why is this? I believe Paul’s infatuation with the contrast of “light/darkness” comes from his personal encounter with the Light of Christ on the Damascus Road – it was here where Saul a weapon of “mass destruction” towards the emerging church was literally turned around and later discipled into a (pruning) tool to serve the Prince of Peace:

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.

  • Remember Saul was very religious but his heart had become hardened from the darkness
  • In fact his hardened religious heart led to him to hate specifically hate Christians
  • His hardened heart – led him to hate – his hate – led him to want to hurt somebody instead of help somebody – in fact truth be told he sought to fight & kill Christians. We would call him a terrorist today.
  • BUT when the light of Christ came upon him – Saul became Paul and a new man in Christ – the old was gone and the new had come! Paul
Looked up (received the light of Christ)
Got up (something like scales fell)
And began his Walk in the light Christ!
  • For you it may not be as dramatic as the Damascus Road but it maybe closer to the Emmaus Road experience…where unlike Paul whose fear led him to fight these 2 disciples fear led them to try to Flee from the darkness (hide).. And on the slow winding Emmaus road Jesus opened the eyes of his disciples to see him clearly in the scriptures

“30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him,and he disappeared from their sight… 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.”

In other words:
  • they got back up,
  • walked in the light – right back into the darkness where death, destruction,
To the question “Where do we go from here OCMC” – we are going to:
Walk in the light of Lord together….
  • We are going to walk in the light by being awoke in God’s word together – not just reading for education but transformation.
  • We are going to walk in the light by praying together here on Sunday mornings prior to the service in our homes, in our workplace, and in the OC community.
  • We are going to walk in the light of Christ by caring for one another – bearing one another’s burdens, discipleship, inviting a brother or sister to join us on our journey
  • We are going to walk in the light in wisdom toward those who are outside (these walls), redeeming (and healing) this time.”~ Colossians 4: 5
So Don’t walk alone my friend – find someone to walk with you this year, find someone that is in need of the light of Christ and walk with them in 2017. Come, join commit to OCMC this year to walk in the Light of Christ – like the wise men we need a community to go far. Let us
  • Look up – eyes, hands and heart
  • Get up – putting down devices and distractions
  • And began to walk together in 2)17 in the Light of the Lord
(I closed with a story about one of my Nana’s favorite song)

“Walk in the light, beautiful light, come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright. Oh shine all around us by day and by night, Jesus is, Jesus is the light of the world;”

Amen.