Monday, September 21, 2009

Shades of Darkness, Bursts of Light!
Matthew 25:31-40
Rev. Glenn F. Merritt
LCMS World Relief & Human Care

Dear Christian friends,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

I know what darkness is. Do you?

I know what Darkness is (the first shade)—

After getting out of the Air Force in 1966, I went to work on the 5600 level of a phosphate mine in western Montana. One day the miners in the main tunnel, called a drift, hit an underground lake plunging me (and others) into ice cold water and total darkness. While I struggled to keep my chin above the rising water, I wondered if I would ever see the light of day again.

Slowly, I felt my way up dark mining shafts, called stopes, trying to find a way out, only to be disappointed time and again. Hours passed, alone in the cold and dark, my only hope was rescue. That darkness was a shade of darkness I had never known before and I never want to know again.

So, I know what darkness is. It’s being alone and lost, cold and fearful, without hope and helpless! But, there is another shade of darkness that is even more dreadful and I know that one too. It’s the darkness of sin!

The Darkness of Sin (the second shade)—

Sin brings darkness into our lives! Our eyes may see the light of day but on the inside it’s dark, oh so dark. Perhaps you’ve been there; maybe you’re there this morning! Sin plunges us into the darkness that chills us to the bone, leaving us lost and alone, fearful of God and separated from our family and friends. It’s a mind shaft filled with cold and dark and there’s no way out unless someone rescues us. We’re up to our chins in sin and we’ve all been there!

“For, there is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (St. Paul, Romans 3:23)

Sin is a shade of darkness like no other darkness known to man! I’ve known it and I never want to know it again. Unrepentant sin leads to such a great darkness inside. Jesus puts it this way—
"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-24)
Sin fill us with a great darkness but there’s yet another shade of darkness in our world!

It’s the Darkness of Despair (the third shade)—

The darkness of despair is another shade of darkness that closes in on the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, the sick or the imprisoned. It’s a darkness sets in when a personal tragedy, a crisis, or a disaster darkens your doorway. I’ve seen that darkness too many times first as a police officer, then as a missionary and a parish pastor, and also as a father. When our 21 year son died suddenly of an asthma attack three years ago I experienced shades of darkness I’d never known before and I never want to know again.

When the darkness of despair sets in it’s so easy to feel like nobody cares, like there’s no hope of rescue. Disaster, crisis, and personal tragedy, are cold, dark places with fear lurking at every turn. Today, the helpless and hurting are scattered across our nation and around our world hoping and praying for rescue but who will help them?

Everybody needs a burst of light to break the darkness in their lives—

By now you’ve probably figured out that I survived the darkness of that mine disaster 40 years ago. Some men didn’t but I was rescued when a burst of light broke through from the main tunnel above me and guided me to safety and life. Life is a good thing when you’ve been a prisoner of death.

God promise to his people in is always hope, a way out, a burst of light when darkness closes in. When your world seems cold and dark, when you feel lost and alone, when your tunnel life fills with waters death, there is hope; there is hope in Christ.

God promise was revealed in one huge Burst of Light—

The King of the Kingdom of Light shattered the darkness of sin & death and gave all mankind the light of life declaring—

"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)

Jesus said, "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46)

Are you staying in darkness? Is something preventing you from delivering that touch of mercy, from living in the light of Christ, from sharing the gospel and engaging in merciful ministry? In and through the gospel of hope and forgiveness, Christ gives us the privilege of being light in this sin darkness world.

What a privilege it is for you and I to be the of Light of the World—

It’s true, Jesus said, “You are the light of the World. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14) Christ’s vision for his Church is one of selfless service to others rather than the selfish service for our own benefit. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many, so we come to the poor and needy to serve, not be served, and to give our lives in the service of Christ’s gospel.

A touch of mercy, the gospel of hope and forgiveness, only takes a minute to deliver but its effect lasts an eternity. The motivator for mercy is mercy! Christ’s mercy toward us motivates us to be merciful to others. Our nature as Christians is to be merciful, sharing the gospel in word and deed, not with ulterior motives, but purely because of Christ’s sacrificial love for us. If you’ve received mercy, it’s the most natural thing in the world to share mercy!

Mother Teresa, known for her great compassion, was asked after winning the Nobel prize, “What is the gospel?” She replied, “The gospel is written on your fingers?” With that she held up her hand and demonstrated, “You-Did-It-For-Me.” Mother Teresa added, “At the end of your life, your five fingers will either excuse you or accuse you of doing it to the least of these. You-Did-It-For-Me!”

What a great philosophy of life, what a great example of faith, but more importantly what a great testimony of Christ’s words in Matthew 25 which are about bringing light into darkness, bring a touch of mercy to the hunger, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, the sick, or the imprisoned. We are the light of the world as we shatter the darkness of tragedy, crisis, and disaster with Christian care for the helpless and hurting.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

You did it for me! Through Christ and because of his gospel we can turn chaos into compassion, darkness into light when a personal tragedy, a crisis, or a disaster strikes.

LCMS World Relief and Human Care is committed to being the Church by upholding Christ and by doing what needs to be done around the world; the feeding of the hungry, quenching of the thirsty, sheltering of the strangers, clothing of the naked, treating of the sick, and visiting of the prisoners all on your behalf.


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