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Tag Archive | "light"

Into the light – John 3:1-19


cs-united-methodistPastor Steve Lindeman

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

In the movie Shrek, when Donkey thinks that Shrek has been mortally wounded, he says, “If you see a long tunnel, stay away from the light.” Of course, Shrek was fine, but why would he say that? Why would his friend say, “Don’t go towards the light?” Historically, light has been associated with the presence of God, and darkness with his absence. In many documented near-death experiences, people have described a bright, warm, comforting light. We see this theme of light and dark also played out in the Gospel of John. The Christ, the Word, is greeted in the opening verses of the Gospel, The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

During this season of Lent, we often hear the story of Nicodemus—a story that is very similar to that of many Christians in our world today. It is a story of growth, and a story of hope. We first encounter Nicodemus just before we hear the classic words of John 3:16. We are told that he approaches Jesus at night. Just like many people today who are walking in darkness, Nicodemus comes to Jesus looking for guidance and direction.

The author of John tells us that Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ questions by teaching him that he must be born again—born of the Spirit. We aren’t told how Nicodemus responded, but I picture him scratching his head, not completely understanding, as he walks back into the night.

But there is hope. Nicodemus appears again later in the Gospel of John. This time he is with his fellow Pharisees as they mock the temple guard for failing to arrest Jesus. Nicodemus, in his own, still incomplete way, stood up for Jesus. He asked his colleagues to give Jesus a fair hearing and questioned the legality of their actions. I can see the signs of a growing faith here—of the Spirit within him. He is willing to speak up for Jesus, in the light of day.

Our final experience with Nicodemus is at the very end of the Gospel of John, right after the crucifixion of Jesus. Nicodemus was there, with Joseph of Arimathea, to collect and care for the body of our Savior.  This man who had first gone to Jesus in the dark, went to the cross to take the lifeless body, wrapped it with spices and linen and helped to lay him in the tomb. Those words that Jesus spoke to him must have been ringing in his ears: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16.

Approaching the light of Christ can be a powerful theme during this season of Lent, as we journey with Jesus to the cross. How do we stand up for Jesus, even in very little ways? Do we take these actions in the light of day? The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. May we embrace the light of Christ as we prepare to celebrate his resurrection on Easter.

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Garden of light


The Rev. David Meyers

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church

1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306

 

Here, in the darkest, coldest part of the year, our mailbox is filled with names such as Gurney, Burpee, White, and Jung. For non-gardeners, these are popular seed companies. Their catalogues come with vibrant colors, promising great harvests and bouquets that make a florist weep. Sitting indoors, retreating from the weather, these colorful publications present tempting future possibilities. While it is dark and snowy right now, it will not stay that way forever. While we huddle from the cold, the catalogues prompt us to look ahead and plan for the seemingly impossible warmth of summer. Some would say, “Look around—why even think of summer?” Others say, “The cold and dark are only temporary and cannot resist the anticipation of the coming season.”

Isn’t that also true of life? Just when it is darkest, when we shiver from a chilled spirit, when our hearts are broken, a little light peeks through, reminding us that life is not all poverty, despair, and tragedy. There is the horizon of distant hope, whose roots take hold in the darkest times and grow until they again overcome the present and bring the fullness of life. That does not mean the darkness can easily be ignored or that it will depart forever. The worst continues to compete for our attention. Coldness will return. It is a part of life. But keeping focused on that sliver of light, however small, will allow a strengthened spirit to melt the burden of concern and sorrow.

The church is half way through the season of Epiphany; the season of light and good news breaking forth upon the earth. Just when the days were darkest—literally and figuratively—God broke in. A small but indomitable light was born in the form of the Christ child. That light, appearing to a lost world, gave a reason to hope and the relief that all was not dead. The Magi from the East introduced a new idea for the whole world. Other characters in the story carried that light to distant places.  And even in our own time, Epiphany brings the light of grace, shining forth to conquer the darkness in the furthest corners of the globe. The Epiphany vision of redemption introduced the idea that God’s promise was not only for a few but, through the inextinguishable light, the whole earth would enjoy the mercies of reconciliation.

Seed catalogues are the beginning of new life. It is time to dream and imagine what our gardens will look like, having renewed energy to push through the dark. Jesus is like those seeds. He brings the inspiration of a new world. His followers place their order, get the seed of life, and plant it wherever God’s plan can be fulfilled. The purpose of every person is to carry the seed of light to the world until it becomes the redeemed and transformed garden of love.

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