The Light of the world

Good morning, Friends!

I don’t know if you realize it, but this summer I’ve been taking us on a trip, through some of the most famous sayings in the gospel of John.

There’s all kinds of good stuff in John – “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have the life that never ends. . .”

There’s the line about “God is a spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth. . .”

Of course, there’s the famous saying of Jesus: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . .”

But our focus here in worship, for the past several weeks, has been the great collection of I AM sayings in the gospel of John.

Last week we looked at “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger; whoever believes in me shall never be thirsty. . .” A few weeks ago, we looked at
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. . .”

Each one of these sayings is really powerful. They help us to understand Jesus. They also help to draw us closer to Jesus.

The one I want to focus on this morning is another one of the great “I AM” sayings. Jesus talks about light. And he says, “I am the light of the world. . .”

Before we get going, though, I want to point out that the Bible talks a lot about light! As people were arriving this morning, I passed out a bunch of little cards with different Bible verses on them. Should be almost enough that most people have one.

I’d like to ask you to stand up, one by one, and read those verses. Read good and loud, so that everybody can hear them. These are all different things that the Bible says about God and light, and they all tie together with what I want to say this morning.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Genesis 1:3

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. – Isaiah 60:1

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Psalm 119:105

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
– John 8:12

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it.
John 1:5

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops.
Luke 12:3

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
– Psalm 19:8

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Matthew 4:16

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
Psalm 18:28

Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”
John 12:35-36

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will bring you light.
Ephesians 5:14

Do some of those sound familiar to you?

See, if I had just read all those aloud to you, it would have gone in one ear, and out the other. But by asking you to read them, there’s at least a chance that you might remember the one you read, and maybe one or two that someone else read.

I’m actually going to ask you to take those Scriptures home with you. Keep them in your purse or your pocket, and read them every day this week. I’d like to see you make some of these your own, and be able to remember them, so that you’ll have them in your memory when you need them.

It’s a really simple exercise I’m asking of you. But it’ll make you stronger. It’s not as bad as asking you to do 50 sit-ups or 50 chin-ups or run ten laps around the cemetery. Maybe we should to that some Sunday! I wonder how many of us would survive?

I just want you to read and try to remember one verse this week that talks about the light of God. Because each one of these will make you stronger and help you and build your faith.

The Bible teaches us that God is the one who created everything. And it all started with light. Light was the very first thing that God made. Before the trees and birds, before human beings, before there was even solid ground, God made light.

Light is the most basic thing there is. God filled the entire universe with light. And God’s light is still shining, everywhere. There is no place the light can’t reach. There is no corner in creation, where God’s light can’t shine brightly.

Just hang onto that, and the world and your life won’t seem dark, ever again. It’s a life-changing thing to understand.

Down through the ages, through uncountable years, God’s light has been shining. The darkness has never put it out.

Sometimes the light seems pretty small and pretty dim. We all know that. But it has never been extinguished. There is always light. There is always hope. There is always the love and power of God, shining somewhere, if we just open our eyes to see it.

Now along comes Jesus, and he adds to that understanding. Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life. . .”

That same power, the power of creation, the power of life, has come to us in Jesus. When we hear Jesus words, speaking in our hearts, it’s like God saying, “Let there be light!”, and suddenly there’s this explosion of light there.

Jesus is the power of mercy. Jesus is the power of healing and forgiveness. Jesus is the power of reconciling ancient enemies, making peace where there’s been nothing but war and suffering. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is the light in darkness. He is the lamp at our feet, the guiding light, the light of life.

I don’t know if Jesus has a specific answer to every question and problem. I think sometimes he expects us to figure things out for ourselves. But I do think that Jesus wants us to study his words, and try to do the same things that he did. He wants us to follow in his footsteps, the best way we can.

The reason we get together for worship all the time, is to let the light of Jesus into our minds and into our hearts. It’s not a social club. Church isn’t an amusement park. It’s a place where we learn about God, and try and let the light come into the life of each and every person here.

Jesus is the light of the world. But then Jesus turns around, and he says, “You are the light of the world. You are like a city built on a hill. You’re like a lamp set on a high place in a dark room. Let your light shine, so that people will see what you do, and give thanks and praise to your heavenly Father.”

You see, we’ve moved, from God made the light, to Jesus is the light, and now to you are the light. Our job is to be light to someone, every day we live.

One time when I talked with you about this before, I said that we’re meant to be like stars in the heavens. We’re supposed to be mirrors and reflect the light and love of God.

We’re called to be lights of safety and refuge in a dangerous and violent world. We’re called to be lights of learning and lights of understanding in a world that doesn’t care about these things.

We’re called to be lights of reconciliation. Lights of God’s promises. Lights of healing. Lights of welcome and acceptance.

So often, the world sees Christians as judgmental, boring, exclusive, and hypocritical. The world often sees Christians as keeping silent when people are suffering.

What if we could turn that around? What if we truly became children of light? What if we really tried to be the light of the world again?

Quakers have always been really into all this “light language”. This is the way we really understand God.

Quakers have often gotten into a world of trouble, because we have insisted that there’s a piece of God’s light in every human soul, no matter where it is.

We believed that there is light in the hearts of African slaves and Native Americans. We believed that there is light in the hearts of prisoners and people with mental illness. We believe that the light of the Holy Spirit makes every person a potential minister.

Yes, some people do a really good job of shutting down the light of God in their hearts. Yes, some people seem to be totally deaf, dumb and blind to God speaking to them.

But we believe that light is still there. Because it isn’t a light of our own making. It’s not something we create. The light is there someplace in every heart, because God makes all the light, and God is the one who shines in every human heart.

It’s our job to reach out to that place, and fan that spark of light into something bigger. That’s what we do.

We don’t condemn anyone, because that’s not our job. We’re the light bringers. We’re the light bearers. We look for God’s light in other people, and that light responds to the light in our own hearts.

If we can light up just one lonely person this week, we did our job. If we can reach out to the light struggling in one other heart, we’ve done great.

If we help one person understand that they’re not condemned and past all hope, that they are loved and wanted by God, then we’ve done exactly what Jesus wants us to do.

God is the light. Jesus is the light. The Holy Spirit is the power of the light. We are called to be the light, wherever we can. That’s what it’s all about.

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