Scripture: 1 John 2:7-17
Did anyone else get excited by the eclipse last month? We were driving back from vacation and stopped in Orangedale to see Bev’s family on the day of the eclipse. We got there just before the eclipse started and we quickly made a pinhole camera so that we could watch the moon pass over the sun, even though we knew it wouldn’t be very much coverage here in Cape Breton. Still, this was our first eclipse with the kids, and we wanted them to see what they could. It certainly wasn’t as dramatic as other parts of North America, but it was a fun experiment to try.
For weeks leading up to the eclipse, we were all told by the news and social media “DO NOT LOOK AT THE ECLIPSE!!!!”
We all know staring at the sun is generally a bad idea. Right? But it appears as though some people took this warning a little too far.
In some parts of America, school starts in mid-August. Some schools were ordered to keep children inside during the eclipse for “their own safety.”
I heard of a town pool, here in Nova Scotia, that closed for the afternoon of the eclipse for safety reasons.
Really? Is that where we’ve come to as a society? Bev and I were talking, and eclipses have been happening since the dawn of time, yet we don’t hear of mass blindings now do we? Sure, there’s a few people who might stare at the eclipse for too long, you’ll always have that small percentage who think it something bad couldn’t possibly happen to them. But there were schools missing out on the opportunity to do hands on science with their students because someone might look directly at the eclipse for more than 2 seconds.
We want to inspire thought and exploration. We want our children to learn and grow. We want them to know about the universe and it’s infinite number of mysteries.
In short, we want the world to be a better place. Don’t we?
This morning we’re continuing our series looking at the letter of 1 John. And John begins by speaking about the importance of darkness and light, and the distinguishing features of the two, in terms of being a follower of Jesus Christ.
John opens somewhat cryptically for us in that he is says he is not writing to them about a new command, but then a verse later, he says it is a new command.
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:7,8)
John is sort of saying that he is not giving them anything new, because they have already heard it. It appears as though John is writing to a church somewhere.
There must be some sort of problem, or possibly a division, in the church that has prompted John to write his letter. And if he is bringing them a new interpretation of the commands they already have, then the situation may be getting a bit ugly.
The Gospel of John, who is widely expected to be the same John as we are talking about this morning, begins with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
John likes to talk about light and darkness it seems. He sees the current state of the world in which he lives as one living in darkness. It’s living in darkness because it does not know about Jesus, or God, and he probably sees it as a world steeped in sin.
I’m going to pause for a moment to wonder if we might not draw parallels to today. We too live in a world which does not know God, sure it’s heard about him, but without Jesus and a more intimate relationship with God, the general state of the world is living in sin.
Jesus, is the light. For John, there is no questioning this statement. If we are living for Jesus, then we are living in the light. And in living in the light, the darkness passes. Darkness cannot overcome light. It’s not possible. In the battle of light and darkness, light always wins.
For instance, why can’t we see many stars in cities in the middle of the night? Too many lights. The glow from the city reduces our ability to see the dark night sky. When we lived in Ottawa, we certainly didn’t see as many stars as we see when we are lying on the dock at our family cottage.
For John, living for Jesus, that is living in the light, means you live a certain way. We heard last week, if we claim to be living in the light, then we better be living like Jesus. So John expands a bit on what living like Jesus means.
If you say you are living like Jesus, living in the light, but you hate someone, then you aren’t living like Jesus. John says you are in darkness.
And the darkness blinds us. Doesn’t it?
Bev and I went for a short walk after dark one night at the cottage this summer. We were just looking at doing a little exploring to see what we might find. In the woods, in the dark, we could not see anything except a few stars in the sky through the trees. But then we saw a little blink ahead of us on the road. A firefly! I haven’t seen one of them for years! That was an added bonus we didn’t expect to find. In the middle of blinding darkness, simply following a road we knew well, we could not see at all without our flashlight. We were pretty much just wandering, we weren’t even sure of how far we had walked, even though we had walked that roads hundreds of times before. Without any light, we were still effectively lost.
We didn’t take a flashlight with us either. We kind of assumed that our eyes would adjust and we could see where we were going. It didn’t work out that way. We saw pretty much nothing at all in the pitch black forest shortly after sunset.
When we don’t live in the light of Jesus, we can find ourselves lost in the darkness of the world. We can get disoriented, lose our sense of direction, and we can make mistakes which can cause big problems. Without Jesus we can be effectively blind to the sin in and around our lives which separate us from our Father God.
Today some people like to question the various laws of the Old Testament, saying Jesus never really said anything about them. Well that’s more or less true. Jesus didn’t speak about cleanliness laws, or food laws, or many other laws of the Old Testament. But there’s more to consider about his silence.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
I guess the question becomes, “Has everything been accomplished?”
In a sense yes it has. Jesus came to do what he came to do. He lived, he taught, he healed, he loved. And then he died. And then he rose again on the third day, and is now living with his Father in heaven. But we also know that heaven and earth have yet to disappear. So what about these old laws we don’t pay a whole lot of attention to?
Jesus came so that we would see the laws lived out in real life. He came so we see what a true child of God would look like. He came to be an example, a light in the darkness.
He also came for us. He came so we could find new life in him. He came so we could be set free from the sin in our lives and inherit the promises of God.
He died for this cause… the cause of setting us free from our sin, our guilt, our shame, and even our death.
John writes poetically about why he wrote this letter. As I said, we aren’t entirely sure who he wrote it to, it may have even been sort of a form letter he sent to several churches to encourage them and to centre them back on their true calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.
I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 1:12-14)
These words are inspiring to us today as people who seek God in our lives.
It’s a reminder our sins are forgiven because of Jesus, and thus we are welcomed as children of God himself.
It’s a reminder that as children of God, we are leaders in our community simply because we know him.
It’s a reminder that we are strong because in Christ we have overcome the devil. He has no claim on us.
Who do we follow? Who do we know? Who is our strength? Who is our guide?
John says “Do not love anything of this world because then the Father is not in you.”
He’s talking about sin again.
He’s talking about lust. He’s talking about pride. He’s talking about greed. He’s talking about the things that are not from God, but things which are from human hands and minds. These are the things which break relationships. These are the things which harm ourselves and others. These are the things that work against what God is trying to do. These are the things our world tells us we need to have in our lives. Yet, they are not from God.
Do we believe God loves us?
Do we believe God loves all his children?
Do we believe God died for us and for them?
Then we need to choose who it is we follow. We need to decide if we are children of the darkness or of the light.
John closes in telling us the things created by this world and it’s desires will all pass away. Everything we see has a limited lifespan. Everything humankind has created has a limited lifespan. This list includes what we have built. It includes this building. It includes our statues, our parks, our monuments.
The list also includes our ideologies, our governments, our financial systems. It includes socialism, communism, capitalism. It also includes the darkness. Those sins we have created, pride, greed, lust and so on.
All of these things will pass away.
There is only one thing that lasts forever.
It is God.
He is the light. He is the one who will not be overcome by the darkness. He is the one who created this universe. He is the one who created us.
And he created us to be his children, living as light in the darkness. Sharing this light with others, helping them out of their own darkness.
This summer we learned that if we stare at the sun too long we can suffer damage to our eyes, enough damage to cause us to go blind for the rest of our lives. So we take measures to protect ourselves from this risk.
There is another risk which can cause blindness. Using John’s terminology, this risk is darkness. In the darkness we are lost, we can’t find our way, we stumble, we go in circles, we just don’t know where we are. And it’s hard to find our way out. This blindness can last for eternity.
Yet, there is a way out. Sometimes it’s hard to see. Sometimes it’s a tiny firefly down the side of the road, beckoning us to come closer.
The way out of darkness is to seek a source of light. Why? Because darkness can hide a lot of things, but it cannot hide light.
To find our way out of our spiritual blindness, to get out of the darkness of sin, we look for light. That light is God.
John said to us this morning, “whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)
Being set free from our sin and living in the light of God as Jesus shows us how to live; living in the light as Jesus gave his life for our’s; this is living as God’s children.
May we all be God’s children.
And may we share this light so others can come to know our great, loving Father as well.
Let us pray,
You are the light of this world. You have come to chase away the darkness of sin and death we find all around us.
So help us to find your light in our lives. And when we have found it, may it shine brightly in us so others may find you as well, for the light shining in us is not our light but your’s.
Jesus, we seek to live more like you. Help us along this path, for it’s not always easy.
Walk with us as we seek to walk with you, and lead us into the life everlasting in the company of your Father and our Father in heaven.
This we ask in your most holy name.
Amen and amen.