SERMON from 5-12-12: “I AM the Light of the World”

John 8.12-20

 

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 13 Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. 18 I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.” 19 Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

 

I AM the Light of the World

 

I have a theory that may or may not get me in trouble. Today is Mother’s Day, right? It’s the one day of the year that we specifically set aside to ensure that mom knows just how much we appreciate her. It’s a great time for kids–and their fathers–to buy gifts, make dinners and maybe complete some extra chores in the days before or after.

 

There is a new KFC commercial that shows a family sitting around their dinner table. While dining on the best of what comes out of KFC’s friers, the mother stands up and goes on to tell her husband and two kids how much they appreciate her. In a ridiculous way, she goes around the table and tells each one of something she has done for them. In essence, she is telling them that she is the light of their particular world.

 

Let’s face it; it’s the truth. Mom is the one who typically handles all the things the rest of us just assume take care of themselves. How do our clothes get from the laundry room back into our dressers? How do we always have our favorite breakfast items available without fail? I should have run out of deodorant a long time ago, but–as if by the same miracle which ensured there was enough fish and bread for the five thousand–I always have deodorant. The KFC mom may not be comparing herself to Jesus, but more ensuring they know just how important she is to their lives.

 

Father’s Day was the product of a post-dinner conversation. After dad took the family out for dinner for Mother’s Day, everyone was sitting around the table–stuffed out of their minds. Someone said, “Hey, we should do this for dad.” Everyone else said–while adjusting themselves to aid the digestion process–“Oh, alright.”

 

KFC mom says, “I am the light of your world.” Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world.”

 

Which brings us to the final sermon in our series on Jesus’ “I AM” statements from the book of John. We’ve looked at “I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life,” “I AM the Vine,” “I AM the Good Sheherd.” This week, Jesus sets himself apart as the light of the world.

 

I just returned home from a week in Dayton, OH. For those who don’t know, I attend school at United Theological Seminary. Most of the work for that is done from my office at the parsonage, but I do spend one week per semester in face-to-face instruction. I am not going to bore you with a bunch of theological talk–though I could if I were so inclined. I was bored by a lot of it.

 

However, there was one thing I think I should share with you. It has to do with one of the most important aspects of Christianity–the Trinity.

 

But don’t worry, while it’s fairly important, it’s also highly confusing.

 

If I were to ask you what the Trinity was, what would you tell me? Father, Son and Holy Spirit, right? Imagine you are discussing this with someone who doesn’t know about any of this.

“Does that mean we worship three gods?”

No. It’s the three ways we understand God to have worked and is working. God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit.

 

“So, does that mean Jesus was God?”

 

Yes.

 

“But he was also human, right?”

 

Yes.

 

“Well, how is someone both God and human?”

 

He had to be human to die for the sins of humanity.

 

“But you said he was also God.”

 

Yes.

 

“So, God can die?”

 

No.

 

“Then, Jesus never died, did he?”

 

Yes, he d…go bother someone else!

 

It is one of the most important things about being a Christian, but it is something we can be so easily confused about. We’ve tried to explain it many different ways.

 

How do we explain it?

 

We do not worship three gods. We worship God in three different forms. Some try to use an egg. With three parts–the shell, the yolk and the white–you can say that’s God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, respectively. That one doesn’t really work, because those things are still pretty different things–even though they come from one thing.

 

Still, others have tried to use water as a way to explain the Trinity. Water can take three forms–liquid, solid (ice) and gas (steam). This is a bit better, right? It is one thing which we can understand and experience in three different ways. It’s not my favorite. And, let’s be honest, when we think about God in the form of steam, some may make jokes about us being full of hot air.

 

I found my favorite Trinity analogy this week. I cannot find the source for this analogy, but I find it helpful to think of the Trinity by the ways we encounter the Sun. Not Son–with an “o”–but the Sun as the center of our solar system. And when you think about it, I think you might just agree–though I’m certainly not going to make you.

 

The Sun is the thing which makes life on Earth–and in our little neck of the inter-galactic woods–possible. It is gigantic and powerful. Without it, we would die. Even more amazing than that, if we were any closer to the Sun, we would evaporate in the Sun’s immense heat. If we were any further away, we would all freeze in a nuclear-type winter. This balance is so sensitive that it is believed that just a few degrees closer to or further away from the Sun would be enough to destroy life on Earth. What a great way to imagine the power and majesty of the God we serve.

 

More directly, however, we experience the Sun’s power through what we have called “rays.” We can see those rays. We interact with those rays. We wear protective lotion to be able to interact with those rays. The physical presence of the Sun on Earth are the rays which it gives off, and that’s how we can think of Jesus in this Trinity analogy.

 

Which only leaves the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is something which we cannot see, but with which we interact as God’s presence on earth, right. Well, what is the part of the Sun which we cannot see, but with which we interact–especially as summer comes around. Heat. We cannot see the heat which comes from the Sun, but we encounter it–and would freeze without it.

 

So there we go. The Trinity. One thing in three forms, all of which God is the source.

 

So, is Jesus the light of the world? In more ways than one. The context for Jesus having said this is perfect. In the preceding verses, Jesus is beating back the Pharisees in their attempt to stone a woman they believe to have committed adultery. Bringing things into perspective for them, he says that the only way they can have any authority to stone her for her sin is if they, themselves, haven’t sinned.

 

I was an umpire for the Pennville Parks baseball program. I was awful at it. It’s one thing to stand behind the plate when the pitching machine was tossing them in, but the whole thing changed when those 15, 16, and 17 year olds started hurling that ball into the catcher at 60 and 70 miles per hour. One time, they put an 11 year-old in to catch the fastball of the best pitcher in the league. FYI, it was a small program and they had to mix the teams with kids of all ages. Anyway, after the first pitch came unabated towards my head, I began to use the big, black pad they gave me to block the pitches–rather than stand firm to call balls and strikes.

 

Now, I have a newfound respect for the “boys in blue” calling the games in the big leagues. I cannot hammer them for their mistakes when I have made just as many, and some even worse.

 

Jesus is making that clear to those standing with rocks in hand.

 

When Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world,” he is saying that his presence and our obedience clear up for us those things that cloud our understanding of God’s design for our lives. By his living, Jesus sheds rays of light on how we are supposed to live. By his living, Jesus shed rays of light upon what it means to be truly faithful to God–the Sun which is the originator of the rays of light. By his dying, Jesus sheds rays of light on just how much God loves us.

 

He is the light of the world! The physical manifestation of God; which makes our lives on earth possible, sustains us everyday and promises us that we can always count on that presence through the warmth of the Holy Spirit.

 

Jesus is many things. Let us never forget his lessons. Let us never forget his example. Let us never forget his sacrifice. Let us never forget the great love by which we are able to know him. Him who comes from the One who is “I AM that I AM.”

 

Thanks be to God.

 

AMEN

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