Hi Friends! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. For the fifth year in a row, we trotted for Bella at the turkey trot in Pawtucket, RI. It was extra special this year, because she had been admitted to Hasbro Children’s Hospital the night before.
Here is my sermon from last weekend. I talked about living in God’s light and, the funny thing about this sermon was that it was POURING when I arrived at church that morning, but when church was over, the sun was coming out! I guess when you preach on light, light shine!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
November 19, 2017
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Live In The Light
Does anybody else end up in a funk this time of year?
I blame Daylight Saving Time. Even though I am always grateful for the extra hour on that one Sunday morning when we turn the clocks back, there is something just so abrupt about the whole thing.
Granted, in the days and weeks leading up to it, the days are already getting shorter, but it is a gradual shift. Once we fall back, all of a sudden it is like … ugh … now it is dark when I pick the baby up from daycare.
And then I start to countdown to the winter solstice when the days will at least start to get a little bit longer again and I realize … ugh … well, that is still a month away.
So my solution this year has been to pull out some of my Christmas decorations a wee bit early. Nothing major – just some lights, tabletop pieces and of course, Christmas music.
I justify this in two ways:
- I am a pastor and I need to plan for Advent and Christmas. What better way to get into the spirit of the season than to surround myself with visual reminders of that season?
- We need light. This time of year, us New Englanders physically need light, because the days are getting shorter and shorter. We need light to give us energy, to lift our spirits and to illuminate a sometimes-dark world. When the days are as short as they are this time of year, sometimes that light can come from something as simple as Christmas décor.
Even more than that, I would argue that, as Christians, we need the physical and tangible presence of light to remind us that God’s light always shines; that we live in this light and that this light lives in us.
In this morning’s scripture reading, the Thessalonians are reminded that they are, “not in darkness … [but they] are all children of light.” I was drawn to this passage, especially in light of the darkness this time of year, because it reminds me that we are part of the light we need in our lives and in the world. Light shines because it shines through us. When the world seems dark, we have to shine light into it.
This letter is the first of two letters written to the church in Thessalonica. The first letter, which this morning’s reading is from, is said to have been authored by three men, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, though most scholars believe Paul had the biggest hand in writing it. This is one of Paul’s earliest letters and it is addressed to Gentile Christians who had left their pagan gods and practices for this emerging Christian movement.
One of the frequently mentioned topics in this letter is that of the end time. There was a growing concern as to what was going to happen to Christians who died before Christ’s return and Paul addresses this in the passage we just heard.
Now concerning the times and the seasons … you do not need to have anything written you. For you, yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
In other words, we do not have a clue when Jesus is coming back.
But, in the meantime, Paul assures the Thessalonians that they do not have to be afraid; that, no matter what, they will not be left in the dark. “You are all children of light and children of the day,” Paul writes. “We belong to the day … God has destined us for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul does not want the Christians in Thessalonica to live in the dark, worrying about the fate of their salvation. Instead, he wants them to live into the grace of their lives now, in confident hope that God is constantly drawing them into the light.
Far too often, our world is often filled with uncertainty, but Paul’s words remind us that, in the midst of this, God’s light is always certain and we are living in that light. Paul is not reprimanding the Thessalonians for living in the dark; he is assuring them that they are already living in the light. He is encouraging them to keep doing what they are already doing.
And today, as we read these words, we, too, are reminded that we live in the light. We are encouraged to keep doing what we are already doing to illuminate this world.
Thanksgiving is four days away. I encourage you this year, in addition to giving thanks, to also think about the ways you see light shining in your life and in the world. Because if you look around and really try to notice it, I think you will find that God’s light really does shine, even in the darkest of places.
Even though the days are getting shorter, I have seen a lot of light lately.
I saw light when the water pump died at the parsonage this week and Ray quickly called multiple companies after hours to get someone out to fix it as soon as possible, because it reminded me that the Trustees care about where my family and I live and that everything is working properly (or, at least, on its way to working properly).
I saw light when I dropped the baby off at daycare on Wednesday and I could hear the older kids shouting, “Harrison’s here!” before I even had him out the car, because it reassured me that when I am away from him at work, he is still well cared for and cherished.
I saw light when I heard a knock on my office window on Thursday morning and looked up and saw Deb Burns and Liam Ware waving to me while they were out for a walk, because it made me think about how special it is for a child to know they are loved by the people around them beyond their parents.
I see light every time I talked to a member of the music committee or the choir and witness them working tirelessly to keep our music strong throughout this transition in Music Directors, because their efforts have helped to create worship that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all.
Friends, there is a lot of uncertainty in this world, but this letter reminds us that we can be tangible signs of grace in the midst of that uncertainty. This letter calls the Thessalonians to, “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” In other words, it is through our faith and our commitment to the Gospel that we recognize and create a light that can illuminate even the darkest of places. It is through our trust in God that we are assured of our protection and the promise that we are never alone.
The world needs light; sunlight AND Sonlight. I believe our faith calls us to turn on those lights; not only to shine God’s light into the world, but also to recognize when others are shining it for us and to live in that light.
Paul said, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” He said this because he already saw the church doing what God was calling them to do: Shining light in the world, illuminating one another’s journeys, offering strength and encouragement and practicing resurrection in their midst.
And so this morning, I say these same words to you: Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Indeed, you are doing just this.
Rehoboth Congregational Church, our church in the village: This week I will give thanks for you! I will give thanks for the ways you illuminate my life, even when the sun sets at 4:30 in the afternoon. I will give thanks for the ways that, together, we live out God’s call to love one another, proclaim the Gospel and serve the community. I will give thanks for our worship, for our outreach and for our fellowship.
So if you find yourself in a similar funk this time of you, I would encourage you to do several things.
- Pull out some Christmas decorations and let yourself get swept away by the magic of the twinkling light.
- Open your eyes and be transformed by the ways that other people are shining light around you.
- Remember that, as a child of God, you live in the light. And you can take that light and let it shine for all the world to see.
Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!
Thanks be to God!