Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 58:8-9
Gospel Readings: John 8:12-16; Matthew 5:14-16
(Note: I preached this sermon from memory, so it may be different than what you see below)
A favorite film of mine depicts our world in the very near future. It's based on science that is actually being done right now. Scientists, in this story, discover how to take a virus and retrain it to attack cancer cells. The analogy they use is a very fast car driven by a criminal can do tremendous damage, while one driven by a police officer can be safe and do good. A virus is the same. They CURE cancer. But the resulting virus mutates, gets entirely out of hand and takes the lives of most of the world's population, ravaging the minds and bodies of everyone left so badly that they are no longer recognizable as human.
The main protagonist is immune, and he's a physician, a virologist. Now, stop me if you've heard this story before. Evil comes into the world and creeps inside of everyone, leaving them just shadows of the people they were meant to be. A healer, a hero, a physician, comes to save them.
In the midst of the story, he's joined by a woman and a little boy from South America. They become his adopted family for a short time, since his own family was lost. He plays his favorite music for them, a song by Bob Marley, a musician they've never heard of. He explains that Marley had a theory, a theory that was much like that of a virologist. He believed you could cure evil and hatred by injecting music and love. This physician says Marley was scheduled one day to play music for a peace rally and the day before, gunmen came to his house and shot him down in his home.
The next day, he walked out on stage at the peace rally. People asked him why he felt the need to risk that. He said that the people trying to make this world WORSE are not taking a day off... so how can I? LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS.
The physician does discover a cure, but it's almost too late. The creatures who used to be human have invaded his home. And again, for us as believers, the story gets familiar again. He has realized the cure is in his blood. "I can save you!" he yells at them. To no avail. They can't understand him. They're too far gone to comprehend. The physician gives the cure to the boy and his adopted mother. And like the scene on Calvary, he entrusts the woman and her boy to carry on the mission and tell the world. And he gives his own life to save them all those in need of a cure. He LIGHTS UP THE DARKNESS.
The physician believed against all odds that one person could LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS. He followed the example of his hero who would not take a day off from a world full of people trying to make it worse. He believed love could cure evil and hatred. And as believers, SO DO WE. Christ came as THE LIGHT. And his final mission to his disciples and to us is to take that light into a world that can be very dark. LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS. And Christ came to show us that an individual, a person can do that. We can do that. He did it. He got others to help him. And we can too. People do it every day,
Shane Claiborne, a popular young writer and activist went to college in Philadelphia. As a student, he became involved in outreach and ministry to the homeless in that city. Like the members of First Pres who helped make Rowan Helping Ministries a reality, he was not content to merely see the homeless, but desired to know them, know their story, and join their struggle.
Many homeless in Philadelphia were living in an abandoned Catholic cathedral. The local Catholic archdiocese was not happy with this. It was a huge liability. Presbyterians never think like this, do we? Riiiiight. They warned the homeless to leave on many occasions, but they had nowhere to go. Finally, the bishop took action and had the building condemned, ready to be demolished. The homeless were given short notice to be out by 8am the following day. Shane Claiborne and dozens of his friends heard about this and flocked to the cathedral to stay the night with the homeless and be arrested with those who remained as a protest of solidarity for their plight.
At 5am, a knock came at the door. The fire chief and his men were there in uniform. The students said, "We have until 8am! you can't kick us out!" "You misunderstand," said the fire chief. "This building is being condemned because it doesn't meet fire code. And we're sure we can get it up to code by 8am." LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS. You see, it just took a few students to see the plight and make it known that their homeless brothers and sisters were in need. It just took a few firemen to notice them and to solve the problem, to bring light to the darkness, to the hopelessness of those living in fear and need.
The plight of these homeless is not rare. People in need have never been rare. People in need of hope, or food, or housing, or jobs, or love, or mental or physical healthcare, or companionship or family. There has never been a shortage of children who need families or elderly who need visitors, or people who need a church home. It's not even hard to find them. They aren't hiding. WE ARE. LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS. You have a light. You have THE light.
Our VBS kids and youth spent the week learning, hearing, experiencing, and living the stories of Christ and learning how he lit up the darkness. They are now prepared to share that with others. And you can get in their way. Or you can get out of their way. Or you can go with them and show them who needs it!
Take a moment RIGHT NOW to think of someone who needs that light, who needs hope, who needs something you have or something you and your family or your friends can provide. Leave this place, go find them, and bring them that light. Someone once said... "The world is FULL of kind people. If you can't find one... BE one." Say it with me… LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS. Amen.