"God is light -
in Him there is no darkness at all"
Sermon preached at St Mark's Church by
Mr John Bassil. Methodist Local Preacher
30 April 2000
Today, the 1st Sunday after Easter is often known as Low Sunday. It marks the end of Easter week—the period called by St. Augustine " Octo dies neophytorum" referred to as 8 days of rebirth or renewal. At one time Easter was so pre-eminent in the life of the Church that some traditions even restricted the time when baptism could take place to this 8 day period between Easter Day and Low Sunday The name Low Sunday indicates a feeling of anti-climax—the sense of getting back to normal after a very lively party. So Easter has happened and now what?—back to the old routine, the humdrum.
But Low Sunday is a Festival Day, a lower Festival than Easter (sometimes called High Sunday to demonstrate its significance as the high point of the Christian Year) but a Festival nevertheless. Anti-climax is the antithesis of what is really meant.
For the Christian the Resurrection story means that things are not going to be the same again. It is not back to the old routine it is forward to the start of a new one. Life is not going to be the same.
Of course it is natural for us to have doubts. We can identify with Thomas—doubting Thomas, the one who could not believe this incredible story that his friends had told him. This Man whom they had all believed in, had sworn to follow to the end of time, was dead, crucified on a cross like any common criminal- no better than a common thief.
Thomas knew he was dead , he had seen he was dead. It was the end. What was to happen to them all now? They were finished, the leader they had put so much trust in had been executed. Thomas simply could not believe these gibberish stories that his friends were saying—Jesus not dead, but alive! Impossible. No wonder he simply could not believe them.
There are times when I could hold my hand up and say that I would have identified with Thomas, would probably have reacted like him, demanding proof that Jesus was alive. History has dealt unkindly with Thomas yet it is a very human story and we should take care not to condemn him without thinking how we would have reacted.
So Jesus comes, understands Thomas' difficulty and gives him an opportunity to believe at the same time uttering some difficult words as a clarion call to his followers. "Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed."
The message is not an easy one- we know that the Christian way means sacrifices. Yet this is where the whole concept of forgiveness comes alive. For those who have doubts, for those who have lost their faith, and for those who have never believed, Hope remains. Not some faint or fragile expectation which is not really believed but a living all forgiving love. As we read in 1 John "God is light—in him there is no darkness at all ……if we walk in the light, as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His son purifies us from all sin".
"In Him there is no darkness at all" When I was a small boy I often stayed with my grandparents during the holidays. They lived in a two up two down terraced cottage, with no electricity. Light was provided downstairs by gas mantels but upstairs they didn't work so I took either a torch or a candle to bed The torch wasn't so bad because it could be switched off and then on again, but when I had only the candle and blew it out, on a saucer on the bedside chair, the room was in pitch darkness- the light couldn't be put on again. The room had to remain like that until the brightness of the new day lit the room once more.
I invariably think of those times when I read passages of scripture referring to Jesus as the light of the world or in this case that " God is light". It is only when we are without light that we realise its true significance. Light is something we take for granted. We simply assume that when we flick on the electricity switch the light will come on. It never occurs to us to think that it won't until the day comes when it fuses or worse there is a general power cut and we have to wait, unable to do anything except perhaps fumble for a candle or a torch.
Perhaps our Christian faith is sometimes a little like that. Taken for granted when it is there yet when it goes out we need the reassurance that it can be rekindled again. The lamp in our hearts and in our lives can be lit again. When the light dies as it can from time to time with the buffeting we face in daily living Jesus is there waiting to light the pathway for us again, and again and again.
What a wonderful feeling isn't it. As we celebrate the Easter season once again, let us hope that the spirit of Jesus can be brought back into our lives—the spirit of love, of hope lighting into all the dark corners of our lives. There is no need to wait until the morning like that small boy in the darkness of his bedroom,—there is something we can do.
There's an old Wesleyan Methodist hymn which has these words "There's a light upon the mountains and the day is at the spring when our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King"
These words are not difficult to resonate with—light is such an easy metaphor to conjure with. Darkness corresponds with evil and menace, those things that frighten us. Light corresponds with beauty and goodness, those things which give us joy and happiness.
With Jesus bringing the glory of God into our grasp, the light of the world is ours. There is no darkness at all. With the end of the night, there can also be the end of doubt.
The joy of Easter, the message of the risen Christ, is ours, today, tomorrow and for the rest of eternity. The empty cross is proof if we need it of the mystery of the Resurrection. The darkness of Holy Week has been abolished by the light and joy of Easter. "Christ is alive let Christians sing, His cross stands empty to the sky"
There are some wonderful Easter hymns with words which stir us to the very core of our being. If you have access to a hymn-book do take the time to reflect on them, see how the writers have used so many different ways of praising God in the joy of Easter. After all this is the whole purpose of the Christian story—God revealing himself to mankind through the gift of his son Jesus and then offering him as a sacrifice on the cross so that by His very resurrection we too can have that new life and the new relationship with our Father in heaven.
"God is light—in Him there is no darkness at all"
So this is the new beginning. For us there need be no doubt—the promise of God is secure, forever. John Bassill