In The Light
1 John 2:7-11
My sisters and brothers. I am so very excited to be with you, here in the sanctuary and out on Facebook this morning. Welcome home. In some ways we are very much like the Israelites who returned from exile to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and build a new temple to the Lord. As we look around the room we can empathize with those elder members of the returning exiles who first looked at the foundation for the new temple and wept. They wept because the new temple was much smaller than the first temple. They wept because it was a reminder of how much they had lost (Ezra 3:12). When we look around the room today there are not nearly so many in worship today as there were before we had to shut the doors for the Covid-19 pandemic. Many are at home. Many are too afraid to return. We have this in common with those who returned from the exile and those who did not. To our local church members sitting at home, please do not allow comfort to keep you from returning to this place for worship. If you are afraid or feel the need for an abundance of caution please know that we are here for God. We are here this Sunday morning and I pray we are able to continue worshipping here in this sanctuary.
In many ways it is comforting being back in this space. It is comforting to be able to look on these four familiar walls again. It is comforting to be able to worship in this room again; to hear the organ being played, to see the paraments and actually be able to see the Christ candle lit. It is comforting to be able to see all of your faces when I stand up here to preach. I have missed all of you as I am sure you have missed one another. However, our circumstances are different. There is tape on the pews dictating where you can and cannot sit. We are wearing masks. This message is going to be a little shorter than normal. There are no cushions on the pews. Our worship of God in this place is familiar and yet different.
John the Revelator wrote about something similar in 1 John 2:7-8;
“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have hard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.”
The restrictions, regulations and protocols surrounding Covid-19 are fading; not fast enough for some and too fast for others. Things are beginning to return to the way they used to be. We are returning to the building and yet things are not the same. There is still a great deal of work for the Church to be doing here in Denton. Make no mistake our church has been doing a lot of work for the Kingdom of God during the pandemic. We have been feeding the poor and working poor. We have adjusted to new methods for worship. We have continued to baptize and confirm new believers. We have supported teachers in our local elementary school and reached out to the children in our church. The old command remains. We are to go therefore and make disciples in the name of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:19). However, the ways we go out and make disciples changed during the Covid lock down. I have to say I have seen the way God has blessed those efforts. I have seen the way the workers and volunteers have grown in their faith when they see the way God is working through the people whom we have served food. I have seen those who have been waiting quietly in the wings step up and offer to help. I have seen new ministries started. I know I am blessed to be appointed to this congregation.
However, there has been right much frustration and consternation during the pandemic. Many have been angry over the sanctuary being closed and the insistence of masks being worn even while we are worshipping outside. There are many who have voiced their frustration and concern over the marches, protests and in some cases riots because of the injustices committed against African American people and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. We live at a time in history when it appears our country is more polarized over politics than ever have been before. And yet the old commandment stands. Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself (Deut 6:5 & Lev 19:18).
During the Covid-19 pandemic the old commandments have become like new. While the Covid restrictions are starting to fade so to is some of the dark cloud we have been living under. As such the light of Christ shines on us, and the sins of hate, and racism cannot be tolerated. God does not care what political party you belong to or for whom you voted. God does not care whether you like your neighbor or not. God does not care if your neighbor is black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, or Native American.
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1John 2:9-11).
I know we have a Presidential election this week. From the pulpit I encourage everyone of you to vote. However, once the voting is done let the hurtful feelings pass. Once the ballot is returned, the die is cast, and it cannot be taken back. Whatever happens on election day Tuesday, bear no hatred or ill will against those who may have voted differently than you. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Make the choice to walk in the light. After all, we have real work to do. We are to love God, and serve God by going out and making disciples. I tell you now, the restrictions and protocols we have about wearing masks and socially distancing in the sanctuary are no where near as big a barrier to people coming to church, as those who would use hateful speech to speak about their neighbors, brothers and sisters in Christ. Nobody ever wants to go to that church. So today, let us choose what we will do. Let’s choose to walk in the light of Christ; to love our neighbor as ourselves and to be beacons of goodness for the Gospel in our community.
So to close the sermon I would like to ask you to listen to a song. The song is by a band called DC Talk and the song is called, “In the Light.”
In the name of Jesus Christ,