Sunday, January 18, 2009

Images of Light

With a little warm spell (the weather was above zero) and the sun sparkling off the new fallen snow, we gathered together for worship without Pastor Brad, who was speaking at Covenant Pines this morning. Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us to begin the service.

A number of announcements preceded a time of worship led by the Trio (Chuck, Dale, Ken) with Darlene on the keyboards. These announcements included:
1. Women's Bible Study begins Friday at 6:30 here at the church.
2. Though still many months off, we're planning a June rummage sale to raise funds and awareness for "Breaking the Chains," a program intended to help end human trafficking.
3. The Women's Circle is encouraging all women to participate in the "Secret Sister" program.
4. Paula also shared that the Women's Circle is making blankets for children in need.
5. Before starting his sermon, Leonard reminded us that the Valentine's Banquet will be held again this year on Feb. 14. As Scripture, and especially the Song of Solomon, declares, "the love between a man and a woman is to be celebrated."

Several sign up sheets were also presented for volunteers to help with coffee hour and for women interested in receiving the e-newsletter.

Today's Scripture readings:
I Samuel 3:1-10
John 1:43-51

After an offering and hymn, Leonard Armstrong delivered today's message.

Images of Light
Leonard began by telling how he'd discovered an interesting book by Anthony Flew, a renowned atheist who in 2004 wrote a book stating his beliefs had been altered and he was now a theist. Leonard returned to Barnes & Noble with the aim of buying Flew's book but it was no longer on the shelves. Flew, he said, felt that the discoveries of modern science seemed to leave an earnest inquirer with a single conclusion: the world was created by a Creator and did not just happen.

Leonard then shared an insight about Bertrand Russell, the 20th century's other most famous atheist. Russell's daughter had affirmed that her father's life was a continuous search for God.

The passages from which the message was drawn were as follows:
Isaiah 50:10-11
10 Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God.
11 But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.

John 1:1-9
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

And John 8:12
12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

The Bible talks a lot about light. In Bible times, the world was darker. In contrast, today we have light pollution, almost too much light.

Even when there is no light at all, in the military we have night vision goggles so people can see when there is limited light, or none at all.

The point Isaiah makes in the passage cited is that we don't make our own light. We are to seek God's light. The false light which we create will burn out. God's light is eternal.

On the cross, why did Jesus cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It is because he was in darkness. It is in that moment of darkness that we're tempted to make our own light.

Having, creating your own light can seem good at first. But there are consequences, and there is always more to the story.

In Leviticus 9:23-10:3 we read an incredible story of the how God revealed his glory through fire that consumed an offering, initiating the priesthood. Two of Aaron's sons followed this up by putting fire in their own censers and offering them to the Lord. In God's displeasure they were slain. Leonard used this story to highlight the difference between God's light and our own.

One of the problems with making or following our own light is that we can become so blinded by it that we become deceived. We all know how it is when people choose to hear what they want to hear instead of hearing the truth, God's still, small voice.

He pointed out that one reason Madoff's Ponzi scheme succeeded is because people were so receptive to the opportunity he offered, guaranteed above-average returns on their savings. Unfortunately, in the end what is true will be revealed in God's light.

The classic passage on this subject is found in Matthew 5:14-16
14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither 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. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

The Gospel of John opens by noting that John the Baptist was a witness to the light, but never claimed to be the light. Jesus alone was able to say, "I am the light." (John 8:12)

Today, are you walking toward God's light or making your own light? Does the light within you point toward God?

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