Second Sunday of Easter : This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
A Sermon preached by Revd. Ivo Morshead at St George's Church on 12 April 2015
This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1. 1-2.2
I am sure that we all have stories to tell about darkness and light. Parents have the predicament of whether or not to leave the light on in the corridor for the young child who is frightened of the dark. Adults need light too. We used to take dishes of food to a couple living on the fifth floor of a house round the corner from here where there was a retracting black button as you came into the front door which you pressed to allow the lighting up of the staircase. Unfortunately the timer was set too short to allow time to climb up to the top floor and you would find yourself in total darkness on floor 3 and unable to find the push button for the onward journey. For child and adult it is a case of Light is good, darkness is bad. This too is stated biblically as in my text from 1 John. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. The author of the Letter to John goes on with the important simile of walking either in darkness or in light as we heard from today’s epistle If we say that we have fellowship with God while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another .
The bible right from the start in the book of Genesis associates the simile of walking or remaining in the light as a metaphor of living in relation to God, of behaving as he would wish. We find in Genesis 17 v 1 the words ;When Abram was 99 years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him ‘walk before me and be blameless’. All through the Old Testament we have light and fire as a sign of God’s presence, Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 commandments as the Lord descended upon it in fire. We have in Psalm 104 v 4 O Lord my God, you are very great, you are clothed with honour and majesty wrapped in light as with a garment. In the prophecy of Isaiah in chapter 2 v 5 the house of Jacob is urged; O House of Jacob come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. This in emulation of the Servant poem of Isaiah where the Servant of the Lord is the Light of the Gentiles. In short the good are sons of light and the wicked sons of darkness.
Most of us no doubt do our best to walk in the way of the Lord, to abhor all that is evil. All of us surely glory in the light and avoid the darkness. It is a well known marketing fact that given a choice, a retailer or café should choose the sunny side the street for that is the side of the street that people will choose to walk. So too we choose to show only the light side of who we are to others and hide from others the dark areas that we even perhaps try to keep from ourselves. These areas of ourselves which we strive to overcome and which are part of human nature which appeared as a warning in the Book of Common Prayer Epistle for Easter Day. In this we are urged among other things to mortify your members which are upon earth; uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness, which is idolatry. We need only to look at any advertising on television or any media to see how corporately the nation is caught up in such tendencies as well as ourselves in the darker corners of our being. On this Low Sunday as we bask in the light of the Risen Christ at Easter we are called on to remember This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. ,….which continues but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. It is a dual message, that of setting the task of walking in the light and the comfort of the assurance of forgiveness for our failings so to do.
Such a task falls too in the nation especially at this time of the general election. Listening to the party statements it is hard to see very much interest in matters other than which each political party might win over votes be it reducing taxes, cutting immigration, maintaining the health service and so forth. In the context of light and darkness many feel that the prospect leans heavily towards the latter. It is upon this scene that the Church of England Bishops have launched their letter to Christian men and women suggesting how we should approach this General Election just four weeks away from this coming Wednesday.
The Bishops letter is addressed to all members of the church but the authors hope that others may share their ideas. It is published in a small booklet of 52 pages entitled ‘Who is my Neighbour’ and there are printouts available in the church as well as one of the booklets. May I commend this for all to at least look at and if possible read. There is to start with a categorical statement that politics are very much to do with the church. Christians everywhere and throughout the ages have prayed as part of the Lord’s Prayer ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven. That is why politics and the life of the Christian disciple cannot be separated. That is why the church calls its members to play a full part in the political life of the nation and to support politicians and the government with their prayers. The bishops do not claim to have a ‘God’s eye view, they remind all people, including politicians, church leaders and opinion formers , in the words of Oliver Cromwell to ‘ think it possible that you may be mistaken’.
There are various key issues that are brought to our attention in this book. To mention one that affects us all is the apathy that leads so many not to bother to use their vote. We are reminded that because of this the different political parties are having to concentrate their policies on satisfying the wishes of their core of solid supporters and ignoring any grander vision of policy making for the good of all. The Bishops remind us that there have been two such visions and policies in the last seventy years. One was the Beveridge Report in 1945 in which the party argued for a state welfare system to combat the ‘Five Giant Evils’ of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and idleness, the other was Margaret Thatcher’s keenness to restore ‘Victorian Values’ by which she meant not only the unregulated markets but a strong sense of duty, self-help and personal responsibility. A case of state versus free market, individuals dependent on handouts as against standing on their own feet. What is so difficult is to provide a balance between the two. How to achieve this needs to be addressed.
Today we have moved on from the times of Beveridge and Thatcher, both have left their legacy. The Bishops remind those debating the question of immigration of the parable of the Good Samaritan. It was in an answer to the question put to Jesus as to Who is my Neighbour that he told the parable to make two subtle points. First calling people to follow the example of the foreigner who came to the aid of the wounded traveller and secondly answering the question by suggesting that neighbourliness may mean receiving care from a member of a despised social group. Neighbourliness, then, is not just about what we do for others, it is also about what we are willing to receive from those we fear, ignore or despise. The Bishops letter recalls the words of Disraeli deploring the state of the nation in his time; ‘Two nations between whom there is no discourse and no sympathy, who are as ignorant of each others habits, thoughts and feelings as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor’.
As individuals we are called upon to walk in the light of God as enjoined in today’s epistle; This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. May we pray also for our nation as a whole and for our leaders at this time that they too will seek to lead us away from darkness into light.