People of God, are you sure you want to do this?
We’ve come to follow the Resurrected One.
You know he welcomes you just as you are.
Christ welcomes us, all of us, just as we are.
You know he welcomes, and he transforms.
You won’t be the same if you follow this Christ.
We’ve come to follow the Resurrected One.
You sure you want to do this?
Are you ready to experience the Resurrection?
Rise, Christ, within us.
Transform our hearts until we love like you.
Renew our minds so we may see the Kingdom.
Heal our souls and make us whole.
Alright! You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Let’s follow the Resurrected One!
Let’s worship Jesus Christ!
from Isaiah 60:1-6
Harry was terrified of the light. It wasn’t the light itself, but rather what if the lamp went out. Harry worked in an old lighthouse, the kind that ran on oil. The great light came from an Argand Lamp. The oil was put in the reservoir at the top, and then it came down through a sleeve to the wick in the glass cylinder. That meant to light it you had to lift up the glass. All the fumes from the oil mixed with the air. When you lit it, “WHOSH,” it came alive with light reflected through the lens and out to sea.
Harry’s job was to keep the light lit. To keep the light lit, you had to refill the reservoir every four to five hours. Harry rarely missed a refill, in fact, he was usually early. He hated relighting the lamp. The whosh always scared him. Harry was scared of the light.
A lot of us are scared of the light. We don’t mind basking in it, feeling the warmth and the comfort. But don’t ask us to reflect it into the world. Don’t ask us to allow the light to shine in the dark places in our lives. Don’t ask us to have the light shine bright enough that we stand out. And many of us are afraid of sharing the light with friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
In our passage from Isaiah, that was the issue with the city of Jerusalem. She had been so long in the darkness that she was now afraid of the light. She had seen good times. Remember back in King David’s and Solomon’s day the city had been a jewel for all Judah. The temple had been built alongside the palace. Trade was booming, everyone was filled with good feelings
She had seen bad times. She had seen times without gold and frankincense. Times that were as dark as they had ever been. Exiled from their land, the temple had been destroyed, and the dynasty of King David had come to a disastrous end.
She had seen ugly times of darkness. It felt as though God’s light no longer shined. Adrift at sea. Alone. I don’t have to tell you, in today’s world, the darkness is real. In the midst of all of this, God commands Jerusalem to reflect his light, his glory, his grace.
God created us to reflect God’s light into the world of darkness. That means we feel the warmth and the comfort of Emmanuel. But that also means we have to “Arise or Get Up and Shine.” It means we have to allow the darkness within our own lives to be found out by the light. It means we have to be brave enough to stand out in our spirituality. It means we shine the light for others.
Harry was terrified of the light. One night during a storm, Harry found himself snuggled so deep in sleep that he slept through the time to refuel the lamp. He awoke with a start to the sound of a ship’s bell. Over the waves, the wind carried it’s clanging sound. As Harry ran up the spiral staircase, he could almost hear the worried yelling of the captain to his men on board the ship. “Find the light! Search the horizon! The shore must be near!”
Harry shook and quivered as he quickly refilled the reservoir. He took the glass cylinder off of the wick. The smell of oil mixed into the air. Harry looked beyond the lens out into the darkness. There was a world of darkness counting on him to share his light. Counting on him to be brave, to have courage. What was it the preacher had told him when he confessed of his fear. “There is a world of darkness out there, arise and shine! You will see and you will be radiant, filled with joy!”
Harry lit the light. Whosh! He carefully put the cylinder back onto the wick. He bravely walked out onto the catwalk from where he could see the light piercing the darkness and reaching out to warn the ship of the shore rocks. In spite of the cold rain and chill of the wind, Harry found himself warm and comforted. The light was shining. The boat was safe.
Arise and Shine is God’s call on us. God shines light upon us all, just as the Star of Bethlehem shined upon all humanity. Bringing together the multitudes, bringing together the diversity that is our nation and people. It would be so easy to bask in the warmth of that light and continue about our business as usual.
The Wisemen did no such thing. They saw the light. They reflected it back into the world through their actions. They couldn’t remain where they were (they had to find the Christ child). The light caused them to worship and the light caused them to share (they brought gifts, offerings, generosity).
Church, it is too easy to be a dim wit Christian or a low watt disciple. When we lay down on the beach of our spirituality and simply absorb all the rays of sunshine God is sending us, we are not fulfilling our calling. God called us to be mirrors: to reflect his love, to reflect his grace, to reflect God’s light to the world in darkness.
For a mirror to do what it’s intended to do… it has to let the light shine on all of it – no dark hiding places. It has to let the light be reflected – it doesn’t keep it for itself. The mirror has to be willing to be a bright spot in a crowd of dark spaces.
For us as Disciples of Jesus Christ, it is very much the same. We have to be willing for the light to shine on our own darkness. We have to be willing to let the light be reflected. We have to be willing to stand out in the crowd. We have to be willing to welcome the multitudes.
We’re called to be like the Wise Men… to see God’s light, to be changed by God’s light (we can’t stay where we are), to worship and share God’s light. Don’t be afraid of the light. “Arise, Shine!” Isaiah says. “God’s light is on you. See it and be radiant!” Amen.
“Remember from dust you came and to dust you will return.”
– Traditional phrase used on Ash Wednesday
In our faith, we often use earthy elements as a means of God’s grace upon our lives. In Baptism, the water reminds us that a free flowing grace has marked us as loved by God, called to be a part of the church, and a force of salvation in the world. Ash Wednesday places a different mark – a reminder of our mortality and a call to change our ways as disciples. What is a disciple? Here are four possible answers this Lent.
A disciple is faithful. This means our “yes” means “yes,” and our “no” means “no.” We show up. We promised God we would serve, and as followers of Jesus, we intend to live out this promise in the power of the Spirit. We don’t let petty arguments, worldly priorities, or even theological disagreements cause us to abandon God and one another. In our consumer society, we are told the lie that life should be filled with effortless happiness and products and services of pleasure. People stop coming to this church or that church because they know they can find a church that scratches their itchy ears. The Bible teaches us that to truly be disciples; we have to faithful to one another and to God in showing up. “The one who claims to be in the light while hating a brother or sister is in the darkness even now.” 1 John 2:9.
A disciple is loving. At both worship services recently we’ve sung, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” This is a quote from Jesus from the Gospel of John. The love of a disciple is a love that is selfless and self-giving. We don’t mind giving up something that we enjoy so that we can provide for the needs of others. When we see poverty, we look for opportunity and ways to change the system. When we see hunger, we share our food. When we hear that someone is sick or dying, we give hugs and prayers of hope. What is most amazing about this love? It is given freely – without price or membership.
A disciple is holy. 1 Peter 1:15 says, “you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy.” Holy is one of those words that has been smeared and overused to the point that it has no meaning. Holy is Other. We are called to be other, just as God is other than this world. We are not citizens of this world. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God that is here and is coming. Are there things that we need to avoid in our pursuit of being other? Yes. We probably should avoid hate, apathy, and abuse of anyone or anything. Are there things we need attend that will help us on our journey? Yes. We should often pray, read the Bible, study, take communion, sing the songs of our faith, and give of ourselves in charity.
A disciple is disciplined. In the Gospels, Jesus would say “be stricter than the Pharisees in your faith” at the same time he put his arm around a prostitute welcoming her to forgiveness. Following Jesus isn’t easy. We have to fail, fall down, and get back up each and every time. We are called to be comforted. God loves us. We are called to be challenged. God wants us to change our behavior and the world. Discipline means training like a weight-lifter, going to the gym and aching the next day. Pray for ten minutes each day. Try to give more time and money to the God through the church. Give up that bad habit and take on a good one. Discipline means no more milk and cereal because it’s time for meat and potatoes. Read the Bible and let it change your opinion about politics, economics, and how you behave. Bring Christ into the relationships you have with people so that they know you are a follower of the Savior. Discipline means no more giving up.
This Lent, God doesn’t want you to give up. God wants you to take up this cross, the cross of being a Disciple of Jesus. More than anything the life of a disciple is the life of discipline. During this season of Lent and for the rest of your lives: be a disciple.
“Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”
– Mark 1:15