THE 4TH SUNDAY IN LENT AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way.  And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food."  Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.  And the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people.  And the Lord said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live."  So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."
 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God."
Are you afraid of the light? Fear of the dark - yea, most of us can get that because at one time or another we’ve had it. The trouble with the darkness is that you can’t see what’s out there. You never know what could be hiding in it. You never know who could be hiding in it. Or worse yet you do know or at least have some idea of what or who is prowling around in it waiting for someone to devour. There’s nothing to fear in the dark but fear itself? Yea, right.
The devil is not nothing and neither are those who follow in his deeds. There’s plenty lurking out in the darkness to scare the living daylights out of you. You don’t have to read the Record or even the Toronto Sun to see that, even in our little local papers there’s reports of people being arrested for child pornography in our own backyards or weapons and drug charges just a town or two over. Murder? Rape? no you don’t have to go to the big city to find those either.
And then there’s scary things like the undercover report that’s come out of England that suggests that there are whole areas of the merry old land that you don’t dare enter because they have become a law unto themselves. Islamic immigrants have taken them over and, unfortunately, brought their own infighting with them turning their new home into a battle ground for old conflicts. Yes, fear of the dark is easy to get. Could the same trouble be brewing under the surface within our own borders in the future? Who knows?
The truth is hidden in the darkness of people’s hearts which are hard to pierce with the naked eye. A common refrain whenever someone commits some terrible crime is that they didn’t really give anyone any trouble - they seemed like such a “normal” person. Even in the light of day you just don’t know what’s lurking in the darkness. You never can tell what’s in peoples’ hearts, whether it’s old hatreds that new citizens could bring into our land, or the equally distressing, new hatred that can welcome those people who come to our shores seeking refuge and freedom.
Fear of the dark, yes, when it comes to others the darkness is kind of scary because we never know what they could be up to, but when it comes to ourselves, the light can be truly terrifying. In the dark we fear what could be hidden. With the light we tremble before what could be exposed. The light reveals the truly terrifying thing that’s hiding out in the darkness. And it isn’t Satan, the murderer, the rapist, the child pornographer or terrorist - it’s us. The Word shines brightly on each one of us today, as Christ says “people” loved the darkness because their deeds were evil. He doesn’t say “some people” but “people”. If you’re a person, and each one of you is, as I am too, then that’s His judgement on you - your deeds are evil.
If there’s any fibre of your being that’s saying, “What?!” to that then you’re revealing your affinity for the darkness. If you can’t see your own sinfulness reflected in every sinner that is exposed on the nightly news … if you can’t see the hatred hidden in your heart mirrored in the murderer … or if you can’t see your own selfish quest for personal gratification in the child pornographer … or if you can’t see your own desire to take justice into your own hands in the terrorist or if the selfishness of anyone around you doesn’t uncover your own selfishness … or if the impatience of anyone with you doesn’t reveal your lack of patience with others … then you’re revealing your shyness of the light.
If you have to excuse your mistakes by saying that nobody is perfect … if someone bringing attention to your faults makes you angry with them … if you have to find a way to make your sins someone else’s fault … if you have to justify your shortcomings by pointing out your successes … if you have to boast about your strong points to draw attention away from your weak ones … if you have excuse the times that you missed the mark by listing off all the times that you went above and beyond it … if you need to think or talk about the faults of others to keep your mind off your own … or if you have to say, “Well at least I’m not … or I could be like” … then you’re exposing your fear of the light.
The problem with the Light is that you can’t control it. You can’t just make it shine where you want it to shine - on the “good" things. The Light of the World is like the sun shinning at full strength He’s not a flashlight. Coming to Him exposes everything - every deed, every word and every thought. And so for sinners, which is what we all are, the Light can be kind of scary, while the darkness can be quite comfortable. You can hide in the shadows, while in the Light you’re exposed in all your nakedness - a problem we’ve noticed ever since our first parents sinned and then tried to hide themselves in the shadows when the Light came looking for them.
With the darkness, yes, beloved, there is more to fear than fear itself. There is a roaring lion, the adversary, Satan, there are also all those who follow in his ways, and yes most terrifyingly of all, there’s sinners like you and me. But what about with the light? Is there anything to fear? The devil, the world and your sinful flesh would like you to think so. The last thing they want you to do is come into the Light. As long they can keep you in the shadows they can deepen your terror of the Light with every wicked and evil deed they lead you to do. Keep you in the dark long enough and you can even grow to love it and love for it will make you not only want to avoid the Light but to hate it.
But today in His mercy God unveils what is the source of that light - His love - revealed in the beating heart of His Son lifted up on the cross to suffer and die for every wicked and evil deed ever committed on this earth … every wicked and evil deed ever committed by you. Although He had no sin, He took up all yours and was exposed in all your nakedness before God’s righteous judgement and was cast into complete and utter darkness for it. Although He was light, and in Him there was no darkness He endured the utter forsakenness of hell for you to save you from it. Although He has shone from eternity, He was extinguished for your love of the darkness; entering into it out of love for you to find you and lead you out of it.
Beloved, the Light that shines before you this day from this altar in this flesh and this blood is the crucified Son of God delivered up for your offences, crushed for your iniquities and chastised to bring you peace. He is the heavenly Lamp, the torch burning with the love of God, raised up here in your midst in the bread and the cup so that looking to Him, coming to Him and believing in Him you can be delivered by Him. There is nothing to fear with this Light but fear itself. The rays of this Light do not reveal so that they can condemn. They reveal so that they can forgive. They do not expose so that they can damn. They expose so that they can save. “Fear not!” He calls. “Come.” He invites. “You are forgiven.” He declares. “Look to me and I will save you.” Amen.