Thursday, April 7, 2011


In August 2003, the Great Lakes states and upper east coast experienced the biggest blackout in North America’s history, leaving about 55 million people without power for upwards of 2 ½ days. In addition to being without electricity, communities experienced interruptions with subway transportation, water distribution and telecommunications. Wall Street, The United Nations, and over a dozen airports were shutdown. Over 800 elevators in Manhattan alone were stalled, with countless people stuck inside. So, what do people do when the lights go out and you’re left in darkness? (lightly) During the 2003 blackout, families with young children reported a significant uptick in the number of living room forts built using blankets and furniture. And, area hospitals reported a huge increase in births exactly 9 months after the blackout. But regardless of how you spend your time in the darkness, everyone, from those stuck in subway cars to children making furniture forts all have a common goal—seeking the light. You want the lights back on, you want to exit your unexpected trip to 1880 and return to a life filled with modern conveniences!

During blackouts, everyone is searching for light, but what about other times, when light is available to us, and yet we choose darkness? Or darkness is chosen for us? As we continue with our Lenten Sermon series, “Why, Jesus” one of you asked us this question: “If light is good, why does mankind choose darkness?” Our Gospel reading, the conclusion of John 3, sheds some “light’ on the “darkness” of humanity. It reads, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” Sure, light/power/electricity, keeps transportation systems going. It ensures water, and fuel sources are distributed. But light can be uncomfortable because it exposes the darkness. We find a false sense of security in the dark—we think no one, not our friends, family, coworkers, even God Himself, will see the “real us.” No one will see the parts about ourselves that we don’t want…that we CAN’T have exposed. Sin causes you to start spinning your wheels…you HAVE to keep up this façade.

So, we start stuffing our anger, our addictions, the hurt we do to ourselves and to others, we stuff it deep down, into those dark places that we hope light won’t shine upon it, exposing who we “really are.” But, as the Gospel says, the more evil we do, the more sin that comes into our lives, the more the pain festers inside us, the bigger the dark place gets, consuming our whole being. Soon we can’t keep our secrets in little dark pockets anymore, we find ourselves so enveloped in what we are trying to hide, that the darkness takes over. We commit ourselves to a voluntary personal blackout. Sure, our communication systems with others may fail, our energy supplies may be stagnant, we might get stuck in life’s elevator, but we can’t let light in. So, you ask, why does mankind choose darkness? Because light reveals to us, to God, to the world, the sin, the pain, the hopelessness we’ve been trying to hide

But, our Gospel tells us that “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” Some quick context on the words “light” and “truth” used in this passage. Our reading, John 3, teaches us a bit about God’s plan for the world through Jesus, The Light of the World. In Greek, the original language of our New Testament, the same word can be used for “light, truth, Word, and, in the biblical context, Jesus.” (It’s “logos” for those interested) So, Christ is Light. Christ is truth, Christ is the living Word of God. When we chose darkness, when we choose to engage in a personal blackout to hide the pain, we are choosing the opposite of Christ. We have sinned and condemned ourselves to darkness by separating ourselves from God’s light, God’s Truth, (pause) from God Himself. That’s what sin is—it’s any way in which we separate ourselves from God, the light. Jesus, the Light of the world, the truth, the Word, comes into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it. Jesus, our light and truth, has come to expose the world for what it is, to be a light shining in the darkness. Christ has come to shed light on the darkness of sin, our sin. The Light of the World comes to US, in our dark places when we can’t bear the darkness. He dwells in the darkness with us, yet, immediately brings light to lost souls. This should be reassuring! Light is good! Christ is good! Yet we STILL choose darkness! Because, brothers and sisters in Christ, in light, in truth, that first burst of light following our personal blackouts can be painful. Our pupils, dilated in an attempt to see in the darkness, are at first blinded by the brightness. Our skin, not accustomed to the sun’s rays, burns. Our bodies can become dehydrated by the heat produced from the light. The light exposes what was in the darkness, and those hidden things can hurt us, our family, our friends. Exposure to light brings questions like “What do you mean, you haven’t told me?” “What do you mean you’ve hidden this from me?” The reality of betrayal and the consequences of our sin are exposed by light.

But do not fear, for Christ, our light, our truth, our living Word of God, has not come to condemn the world, but to save it. Even in the most painful of experiences, we have the assurance that light isn’t going to harm us, living in continued darkness will. Eventually, our pupils begin to adjust, our burnt skin heals, our dehydrated bodies are nourished by living waters. And all of this is possible, because Christ our Light, came to us in the midst of our painful darkness, no matter how painful it may first seem, to bring life, truth and forgiveness, to God’s precious children.

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