God is Light (A Sermon for Easter 2B)
God is (Revealing, Healing, Purifying) Light (A Sermon for Easter 2B)
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (Cypress, Texas)
1 John 1:1–2:2
April 8, 2018
We don’t know who wrote this letter, but the language and theology have led folks to assume that it was John. So we’ll go with that. In that tradition, it is believed to be John (or maybe someone from his school of thought), writing later in life, at the end of the first century.
Have any of you ever heard a sermon on First John? I haven’t… While it doesn’t receive much attention, this epistle happened to be a favorite of John Wesley, so much so that he claimed: “If the preacher would imitate any part of the oracles of God above all the rest, let it be the first epistle of St. John…”
We don’t get to hear much from First John throughout our lectionary cycle, except for the weeks of Easter in Year B. So for the next six weeks, we’re going to look at what we can learn from the First Letter of John.
From the content of this letter, it seems that some in John’s community split off due to disagreements, especially about the person of Jesus and the nature of the Christian life. These dissenters denied that Jesus was really human. They believed they followed the model of a spiritual Christ. As Christ is spiritual, sinless, and wise, so they thought they were as well.
And so John sets the record straight.
He starts by reaffirming why folks should listen. He isn’t making this stuff up. He’s declaring what he heard, what he saw, what he touched and felt with his own hands.
And then he gets to his thesis statement, the heart of this letter.
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
This idea, of God as light, echoes all the way back to the beginning of John’s Gospel… “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
God is light. Pure, spotless, light.
John then spends the rest of this first chapter talking how we, who claim to follow the light, should act.
He uses a word that we say a lot in church, but do we really talk about it?
If we say we have no sin…
If we say we have not sinned…
John is really interested in sin. Not “sin” as in certain, particular bad things, or specific wrongs. John isn’t isn’t giving a checklist of things not to do. Because sin is not an action. Sin is a nature, a condition.
Sin is a separation from God, a break in the community.
And what does John say the antidote for this condition…this sin…really is?
As I’ve thought about light this week, I’ve seen three ways in which John might be talking about light as the antidote for sin. The Light reveals, heals, and purifies.
First, the Light reveals….
Who here is scared of the dark? It’s ok, this is a safe space. In the dark, it’s hard to see what’s around us. In the dark we can’t see where the danger is. And when we can’t see, we turn on the lights or find a flashlight. Then we can see where we are, where we’re going, and where there might be danger around us.
God’s light is the same way. We can’t always see our brokenness…our sin…but when we walk in God’s light we begin to see those parts of our lives — and the parts of the world around us — that we’d probably rather keep in the dark.
But the Light reveals.
Second, the Light heals…
When we lived in Virginia, I learned I need the sun. We know it’s true that plants need sunlight, but we do, too. So when it was cloudy and gray and cold for several months each winter, I had low energy, my mood changed, and I just didn’t feel “right.” I went to my doctor to see what was going on, and he told me I probably had SAD. That’s a real thing…Seasonal Affective Disorder. And do you know what the doctor prescribed? Light.
I had a lamp, similar to this one. And every day, I was supposed to sit in front of this light. And the light caused my body to react in a way similar to if I was in sunlight. The light helped to heal my SAD.
God’s light is the same way. Walking in God’s light, living in God’s light, begins to heal the brokenness — the sin — in our lives. We don’t always know how it works, but God’s light begins to heal us from the inside.
Because the Light heals.
Third, and finally, the Lights purifies…
When our boys were little, we used cloth diapers. I don’t know if you’ve ever used those or seen those, but they can get messy. And sometimes they would get stained, and washing them with soap and water wasn’t enough. So you know what we did? We put them on a clothesline to dry and the sun made them white as new (…and made them smell great!).
God’s light is the same way. Because of sin and brokenness in our lives, we sometimes feel pretty crappy…sorry for the pun. Or we feel unclean, or stained. But when we walk in God’s light, we are made clean and new. John says in our reading today, if we walk in God’s light we are (…like those diapers…) cleansed from all unrighteousness.
Because the light purifies.
God is light. That’s John’s thesis…that’s what he wants us to know. And walking in that light, being people of that light, will begin to change us.
Because the light reveals, heals, and purifies.
John has a lot more to say to us in this letter, and we’ll get to that in the next several weeks. But this week, I want us to focus on the light. When you see the sun, or flip on a light switch, or use your phone’s flashlight to help find something, think about God.
Think about our God that reveals…our God that heals…and our God that purifies.
And think about that very same God that invited us to walk in the Light. And remember that when we walk in that Light, we walk in fellowship with God, with each other, and and with the whole world.