Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

A reading from Isaiah 60:1

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 60:2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 60:4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms. 60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

This is the Word of the Lord . . . Thanks be to God!!


Shining for God!

The Word that we have from Isaiah this morning reminds us what we are supposed to be People who Live Every Day to the Glory of God. . . . we don't just want to live as though we have to work at it . . . but we Literally ought to SHINE because GOD IS AT WORK IN US! His Glory shines on us and in us and people see the light of God beaming from our lives!

This is the kind of Fulfillment to the Godly Life that happens when we are CAUGHT Up in What God is doing in the world through the fulfillment of his WORD as when Isaiah prophesied that the People of Israel would return to their land and their joy would be restored. Isaiah's prophecy also includes the Epiphany of His Son, Jesus, who comes as the human and divine manifestation of God's Glory come to earth. Jesus is born in Bethlehem under the Star that the Magi Saw and followed in their quest to see the Savior King.

Central to our topic today is the inspiring command of Isaiah, "Arise, Shine, for your Light has come! What does it mean to shine for God? Surely we can think of Moses from the Old Testament whose face shone with a visible light when he came down from the holy mountain after receiving the Law from God (Exodus 34:29-35). We also know that the Glory of God settled on Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. And in general we know God's Spirit shines on us, causing our lives to be brightened, however, it might be helpful to consider for a moment WHAT LIFE WOULD BE LIKE if we did not ARISE and SHINE for God?

Luther makes the following observation:

If a person does not ARISE and SHINE FOR GOD then THIS MAN OR WOMAN ARISES AND RUNS FROM GOD! IN FEAR! IN ANGER! IN UNBELIEF!

Jesus reminds us from Luke 11:23 that, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." if we are not for God we are against God! If one is not in GOD .. . then this is a person who lives in the fear and Dread of God!!! This is the one who, when challenged with the Good News "ARISE AND SHINE!" Instead sees this bright opportunity as a threat to their existence, because the one who is not in God or the one who has rejected JESUS . . . this person is Not Interested in Giving GOD THE GLORY . . . because such a person is caught up in their own self interest. "Can't accept your glory today God, I've got my own life to live the way I want to! Got my own trail to blaze -- don't need you God!"

Such a response can be indifferent or outright with animosity toward the Sovereign Lord, but rejecting what God offers to freely give can never be a good thing. Often the one who rejects God in order to follow their own way, is bound for calamitous failure. Such as when Cain (from Genesis 4:6-8) would not listen to God. He made the improper sacrifice, and when God tried to confront him about the wrongdoing, Cain rejected God and took matters into his own hands. Cain's jealousy and rage resulted in the death of his brother Abel, which results in further suffering for not just Cain, but us all. Your actions and mine have consequences far beyond what we might think of as "just our own individual problems!"

Those who reject rising and shining for God are prone to RISE from self-centeredness and go to do mischief!! Or to Arise and to go out into DARKNESS (without God) or ARISE to do whatever is in them to do . . . usually that which is evil! No good can come from arising without God's light shining down and into our lives, we need this light being offered . . . we need it for life!

Three Very Evil (and IRONICALLY POPULAR) CHARACTERS COME TO MIND who either arose to do evil or who fell from the light and manifested Darkness -- a sure Biblical signal of disease, death, destruction. One who rejected the Light of God shining into the world, and relevant to our Epiphany Gospel text from Matthew (2:1-12) is King Herod.

HEROD THE GREAT DOES NOT ARISE TO SHINE FOR GOD, BECAUSE HIS HEART IS SO DARK AND SELF-CENTERED. HE wants no part of what God is Doing, he only cares about what he is doing! HE IS SO FIXATED ON RETAINING HIS POWER AND KINGSHIP, He's willing to kill his own family members, and even if God himself were to appear in the world (as he did in Jesus Christ), Herod would REJECT God, as he certainly did, and he sought to destroy Jesus when he was a young boy. HEROD WAS JEALOUS OF GOD! . . . . Remind you of anyone else in the Biblical narrative?

Judas Iscariot was another one who literally "arose from the table" . . . TO DO WHAT HE THOUGHT WAS RIGHT, BUT IT WAS DONE IN DARKNESS From John's Gospel (13:30) we read, "So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night." Judas had rejected the light of God, he worked out his own plan, and it was founded in darkness. Judas betrayed the Lord.

And our third example of one who literally fell from a state of light into darkness, is none other than the devil himself who had formerly been an angel of light. But Satan had become disillusioned, he wished to be even higher than God. Surely we learn from scripture that PRIDE AND Arrogance will always lead one to fall as Satan did. Interestingly, as the disciples who were filled with the Power of God's Light and Spirit through Jesus the Christ, returned from their missionary journey. Jesus says, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning (Luke 10:17-18)." Perhaps Satan's fall is like a fireworks explosion, poof! He's gone!

Perhaps someone might say, "Well you CHRISTIANS, You say you live in the Light, but I have seen you there at the devil's door plain as day. You're sinners too!" Or "You, who are so puffed up and who boast of your faith, you also are guilty of many sins!"

To this we who are in Christ must admit, "YES," we may have Fallen into Darkness on whatever occasion or whatever circumstance, BUT WE ARE ARISING TO ASCEND INTO THE LIGHT ONCE AGAIN!! We are the people who take God's Promises and Commands seriously and as a powerful curative to our weaknesses and propensity to stray from God's ways or to even fall into the darkness on occasion. But!! We choose to "Arise! Shine! For the Glory of the Lord has Risen Upon US!" We choose to confess our sins, we acknowledge that in this life, we cannot escape that part of us that is yet vulnerable to deceit, lust, covetousness, and negativity. BUT WE ARE a PEOPLE WHO YET HEAR GOD's COMMAND ARISE MY LOVE!! COME INTO THE GLORY OF MY PRESENCE. Through confessing our faults we open ourselves to cleansing and renewal.

Indeed, this is precisely the context for Isaiah's message. The Israelites had been deported from their land. They had rebelled against God in various ways, they had fallen, but through their exile and suffering, they were now ready to amend their ways. God's word was sent to them, that they should "Arise, Shine" and receive God's Blessed Light for it was light to renew their hearts and show them a new way to live. In God's Glory!!

And so WE GO with God, because we also are children of sometimes darkness, but Arising to the Light! We do not hesitate to respond when we hear his Word Come to US in the person of Jesus. "ARISE SHINE! FOR YOUR LIGHT HAS COME!" WE WANT TO RECEIVE WHAT GOD IS SO READY TO FREELY GIVE. WE WANT TO KNOW HIS GLORY, AND WE ARISE TO GO AND MAKE THIS WORLD A BRIGHTER, SAFER, AND LIGHT FILLED PLACE! Arise! Shine! For Your Light Has Come, The Glory of the Lord HAS RISEN UPON YOU!!

Amen, Thanks Be To God!!!

Read more writings of Pastor Jon