Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

Light & life, death & darkness

July 15, 2018
Martin Baker

15 July 2018                   Light and life, death and darkness.                                Martin Baker

Introduction

This morning we continue our series on the First letter of john.

The message of Jesus spread quickly in the first century. And it spread mostly through cities. It’s likely that this letter from John was written from Ephesus. Ephesus was a major city in south west Turkey.

We need to remember that the people who committed to Christ all had religious backgrounds. Obviously religions that was different from Christianity.

One of the most difficult ideas then, and now perhaps, was that this idea of the Word of God, God’s creative purpose and intention, present at the beginning of creation, could be embodied in a human being.  In a person.  In Jesus

These false teachers said that he might have appeared as human but he wasn’t really flesh and blood. He did not really suffer anguishing, bleed in the way we would do those things, because he wasn’t really human.

John took a hard line on this view – and he describes these church leaders who deny the humanity of Jesus, as anti-Christ’s.

He says you can’t be a leader of church and deny that Jesus was fully one of us - fully human. And this is because first of all that what Jesus did, matters.  

Last week we heard John speak about Jesus as God’s word  - he said it is so real that we can hear it, see it and touch it.

This week John develops this theme by talking about God as light – and the power of Jesus’ sacrificial life and death as being the thing that transforms the darkness’s in our life and the life of the whole world.

So think about this background and listen to what John is saying to those early believers some of who are struggling with the notion of who Jesus was and is.

 

1 John 1:5--2:2

1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Let us pray…..

 

This wonderful statement today. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

We could spend all morning simply reflecting on these words.

In fact if you read in Genesis, the very first words God speaks, the first time we hear God’s voice it is all about light:

2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness

The fundamental measurement in physics is the speed of light. A constant 300000 km per second.

And even at this vast speed, one of our nearest star clusters, one we hear a lot about at the moment,  Matariki or Pleiades, is over 400 light years from us.  The Matariki light we see today was created when Elizabeth the First was on the throne in England. And the first British colony in the United States had just been established in Jamestown Virginia.

We can hardly comprehend the nature of light, even though it is all around us. A particle or wave or a wave made up of particles, light that scripture and science tells us did not exist before creation. 

And here we have this great statement.

God is light. Essential in the very act of creation itself, essential for our own life and being, essential for measurement and distance perspective.

It’s not just a matter of speaking about light verses darkness, it’s a much bigger claim.  As it is in nature, so it is in our faith - life cannot exist without light.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it. Jesus, the Gospel tells us, is the right of the world.

Maybe all of us have had this experience: you arrive somewhere new late at night, and you can’t imagine what is around you. And it is only in the dawn that you see where you are.  It is only in the light that we can really get our bearings, and see the beauty that is about us.

We look at our past and our memories are clouded we look into the future and our vision is subject to so many thoughts and emotions. We look around today and we have so many things to think about.

We read in 1 Corinthians: 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Our vision is always incomplete. There are always shadows and points of darkness.

If we went around this morning and talked about how we were each seeing the world. Seeing ourselves.

I remember when I brought my little boat and I imagined the years of joyful fishing.  I never imagined back then this sense of relief and pleasure at its sale a few months ago.

Someone asks you out and you imagine a future. A child is born and the happiness you have imagined.  And yet all parents know that what we imagined can be different from the reality.

We all know that something can happen, a loss a failure an illness, and our perspective on so many things changes. Darkness or a shadow we can almost feel creeping into how we see everything.

In the midst of all we see, think and feel  we read this morning that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

So though we are often all too conscious of how our perspective changes, the thing we learn about here is about a light that brings total clarity. 

Absolutely freed from the damage of the past, promised a future which is eternal. And sure now of a present. And this powerful langue we hear used to describe this new reality, this view that is filled with light

7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin

9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So for that community that John is writing about a key challenge is one of integrity. A simple message.  There has to be a consistency between our faith and how we see ourselves and how we act in the world around us. Light needs  to be present in all these things.  And here again we have the use of this wonderful word Koinonia. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship (Koinonia)  with one another.

Then as we read this text the mood changes.

2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

My little children.  The words are of an older teacher who is very fond of the people he is teaching.  John has this deep affection for these believers.

Up until this point John has been warning of these false teachers. But now there is a shift in time to one of encouragement

“I write these things to you so that you may not sin” (2:1b). 

But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous

The word here for advocate is parakleton. From two words close-beside" and "make a call" –  in Jesus day the word was used  about a legal advocate who makes the right judgment-call because they are close enough to the situation

If we were in trouble and needed some kind of help or support, and maybe it would be legal trouble, or maybe some other thing where we realised that we need help to get through, we would be using this word paracalete. Someone who is alongside us knows our situation and has the skills and knowledge to help us through.

And again we come back to one of Johns main themes. Jesus is real. Knows what it’s like. To face ridicule, fear, temptation, to suffer unfairly. To face death.

Jesus for us and not against us, the paraklete,  even when we do muck up and do the wrong thing.

And finally this great affirmation at the end of the passage

2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

They are such huge statements to make and when we hear them I think we need to find analogies that help us wrestle with what the gospel is saying.

Last week a former Navy Seal a diver called Saman Guman died after entering the cave to lay oxygen tanks along the exit route so that the students trapped in the cave had a chance for survival.

We knew the students should not have been  in the cave in the first place. We know that they were living in darkness. We know that they were utterly unable to save themselves for their plight and they would have died. And we know that it was only through Saman Guman’s  sacrificial act, and the bravery and heroism of others,  -  others put their own lives at risk so that these children could be saved.

Prior to his execution, Jesus, when he was talking to his disciples said   13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

There is always a temptation to elevate these kinds of statements into some kind of spiritual realm, but again John is so insistent that we see these things as earthly realties. Jesus son of god lived among us, showed the natures of God power through service and sacrifice. Was condemned and executed as an outcome of human fear, arrogance and stupidity.

As hard as it is for us to ponder the substance of light, so it is hard to ponder the breadth and depth of God’s love shown in this act.

And though we don’t speak often of Gods wrath and anger, our scriptures make it quite clear that God is not laid back, is angry when it comes to our poor treatment of creation and the people in it. It is not ok to damage and hurt and sin and maim and kill. And there will be always be consequences for those things. The fruits that are born through acts of kindness, sacrifice and selfless giving,  the destruction that is caused by acts of greed or hatred or selfish gain.

The resurrection holds that the cycle of those terrible things can only be broken by acts of sacrificial love and forgiveness and grace.

So let’s again place ourselves back with that ancient community in Ephesus.

The false leaders have told us that Jesus was just about spiritual things and wasn’t really human.  But John has written to them to remind all those Christians that faith in him is about something real. Seen, heard, touched. And if he is real, then our actions have to be real.

So this week, number one

Being mindful of those who show their love through acts of sacrifice and service. Let’s give thanks for those in our lives who have given so much to us. And we call to mind children or parent or friends or family or those who have supported us through some iifcut times. Or maybe we think of first responder in this community. Or nurses perhaps especially this week.

Number two.

Let’s be especially aware f he shadows and darkness that can overcome us in our lives. Are we bearing fruit - is God’s light shining from us? Can we pray to Jesus our advocate for help in overcoming the power of fear or anger or hurt which can so damage what we say or do.

And number three

To spend a time this week in quiet -  pondering the enormity of God love for us. It is light from Light. Despite all the things we have done that damage ourselves others the environment, there is nothing we can do to stop God loving us, and naming us as sons and daughter. Let’s pause and open our hearts to a spirit of blessing and thankfulness.

 

AMEN