***Audio coming soon.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Because we have received this mission just as we have received mercy, we do not faint, instead, we have renounced the hidden shame. We do not walk in craftiness nor falsify the word of God, instead, by making known the truth, we commend ourselves to every conscience of men before God.
And, if our gospel is concealed, it is concealed to those perishing in whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that the radiance of the gospel of the glory of the Christ, who is the image of God, does not shine. It is not because of ourselves that we proclaim, but because of the Lord, Christ Jesus, and we are servants of you, for Jesus[’ sake]. For God spoke: “Out of darkness, light will shine.” He shined in our hearts, for the radiance of the knowledge of the glory of God is in the face of Christ.
Children’s Message: “Alleluia”
What word do we stop saying during Lent? Guesses… It’s “Alleluia!!” Do you know what that means?? … It’s “Praise Ye the Lord.” That means “Everybody Praise God.” Why do you think we don’t say it during Lent? … At a funeral, if one of your friends was crying because they loved the person who died and they missed them, would you say, “Praise God!?” No… They probably wouldn’t like that very much. It’s the same way in Lent. Lent is the time that we think of the price that Jesus paid for us, he died so that we can live. It is the time that we miss him the most. And, then on Easter, we shout “Alleluia!!” Because Christ has won. He rose from the dead and we share that word with others.
Lead them in the song “Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia, praise ye the Lord…”
Mark 9:2-9, 2 Cor. 4:1-6
+ Grace, mercy, and peace to you from
God the Father and Jesus Christ,
His Son, our Lord. Amen.
All these words, hear them with your ears. But, hold them with your hearts.
(That the hearers lift the veil to share the light… repentance to proclamation.)
There was a man who didn’t know what “Alleluia” was. He had enough of his life behind him to realize that something was missing and just enough of his life in front of him to know he needed to find it soon. | He did not want to run out of time before he found what was missing. | He might have been a lot like you or a lot like me.
He decided to start a journey, he wanted to find what would fit in the hole in his heart. He packed up a bag full of clothes, bought his ticket, and flew out to experience the world in the East. It wasn’t very long before he realized that everything over there seemed to be backwards from where he had come. They ate their food with sticks instead of scepters. Their voices made different tones to create different meanings instead of the monotony he had grown up with. They didn’t even wear the same types of clothes or drive cars. Most people walked everywhere they went.
He had lived there for a while and some of the most inspiring things came from the festivals he saw. Many of them were filled with rituals and prayers. The ones that stuck out the most always had to do with light. Whether it was sending candles over the water or attached to paper balloons and sent into the sky, flames on a menorah or celebratory fireworks, something about the flame stood out to him. It was easy for him to relate it to his own life. In a way, he thought, he was just another light, a flicker, in the vastness of the world and its universe.
Although, he traveled his heart was still empty. He met many different people from many different nations and he grew to understand them. As he got to know them, he grew close to them. He learned that in other countries shame is the worst thing you could ever bring to your family. Men lived for honor and glory, but if they gave into shame, it would be quick blot out any good deed. They would live in dismay as if they were cursed.
As he traveled, the man remembered that his time was running short. He had to find the thing to fill the emptiness. He decided to come back to America. He would take the train from state to state. Maybe he would find it there.
After riding by coach for days on end, he realized that the United States was far more diverse than he ever realized. There were mountains, valleys, fields, and seas as well as people of all different cultures, shapes, and sizes. He heard stories from other travelers who had come across bears and other wild beasts. As they relayed their fear for their lives, he remembered the rituals of the East. He thought of just how small of a flame he was once again.
Although he had traveled from coast to coast, north to south, and even into the non-continental territories of his homeland, the traveler did not find what he was looking for. He remained empty. Money spent and exhausted, he finally decided to go back home. He might have been a lot like you and a lot like me.
It seems like there is so much going on in our lives. We have full schedules and obligations. Finding enough time to get in our hours at work, eat a decent meal, and sleep the hours we need is hard enough let alone going to the gym or reading the Bible. By putting others first, we become last. And, somehow we become empty, our lights are dimmed, we forget to sing “Alleluia.”
I’m not going to tell you how to manage your time, I don’t have a “ten-steps-to-a-better-life” program. I can only tell you what happens next. The traveler, disgruntled, unhappy, alone, gets to his house which he hasn’t seen in many months. He unlocks the door. He walks in. He is home. But, the void is still there. It isn’t very long until he decides to check his mail. There, he finds an invitation. It’s from his good friend. She has invited him to church.
Now, this doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. But, to our traveler it is everything. This means that he matters. He matters to someone. He takes his friend up on the invitation. He doesn’t realize it right away, but the church has been what he was looking for. It had been there, back at home, this whole time. Even more-so, it’s not the Church that he had looked for, but the hope that fills his heart when he comes and hears the Word of God. It’s not this building, but the assembled witnesses and fellow servants of the Lord, Jesus Christ, whom he comes to know and love.
Being an American, he had heard of Jesus before. He was the one who said just looking at a woman with lust-filled intent was a sin. He was the one who said that slander is murder. He is the one who condemns those who are immoral. But, as he is drawn in by this invitation, he begins to understand that Jesus is so much more.
Jesus is filled with grace and love and truth. The reading for today draws us back to the time of Elijah. Do you remember when he ran away? He was running for his life, fleeing from those who persecuted him. He ended up climbing to the top of a mountain, hiding there in a crevice. | Empty. | There was a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But, it is not until a voice confronts him and commands him to go back home that he hears the Word of God. He continues his ministry by the Spirit.
It is later, when Elijah is about to leave, his time is running short, that his friend Elisha begins to feel the void. Everywhere that Elijah and Elisha goes, Elisha reiterates with surprise, “Do you know that the Lord is taking Elijah??” What will we do when he leaves? Elijah gives him a gift, the gift of the Spirit, and Elisha is able to carry on the ministry without his friend.
There is another man who is mentioned who had once ran. Moses met his Lord for the first time on holy ground, speaking from the fiery bush. He knew that he was empty, he was burnt out; he was missing something. And, the Lord filled him with mission. He chose Moses to free his people, to take them to the Promised Land. But, first to take them through the wilderness so that they might better-know their Lord.
Still, both Elijah and Moses are just flickers, little lights, in an impossible huge world. Their embers created sparks in the lives around them, but they were nothing, they were empty, apart from God. It is these men who Jesus has join him on the mountain-top. They were not there to eat, drink, and be merry. They were not there to take over the government. They were not there to build tents. They were there to radiate the knowledge of God.
The flames of these apostles were first lit by the Spirit of the Lord. Because they had seen his face, they could do nothing other than spread his word. They understood the promise, that God’s people would be made righteous again. They would be made clean. They would be fixed so that they no longer lived in shame, emptiness, and darkness. Their emptiness was filled. They would live in the light of God. Jesus Christ died so that they might live in the forgiveness of their sin, their emptiness, and their darkness.
At the other side of the cross, Paul writes about the boldness he has because of the hope that is in him. Just like Elijah; just like Moses; just like us, the scales were removed from Paul’s eyes. He could do nothing other than to radiate the light that he had blinded him on the road to Damascus. He does not lose heart. He does not live in shame, being disgraceful or underhanded. He does not lie, tampering with what he had witnessed. He shares the truth.
This is not because he wants to. It is because it is his life. It is no longer he who lives, but Christ who lives in him. Although he had once been blinded by the darkness and the shame of the world around him, Paul has now become blinded by the light of God. He becomes the servant of all those who would cling onto God’s Word with him. All who hear this good news, the story that brings fulfillment into empty lives, will believe. There’s something in us that just know it’s true.
The only hindrance is the god of this world, the one who snarls and roars, claiming that you are no better. You are a disgrace. You lie. You are empty. But, the light of Christ blows that all away. He points out how thin and unstable his enemy’s arguments truly are. Just in seeing Christ, we see the image of God. He has made himself known to us. And, it was of him who God spoke to the world and said, “Let light shine out of darkness.”
This news radiates in our lives. We become like the kid who has heard something so exciting that he just can’t help but share. He goes around the neighborhood on his bike and yells loud enough to wake up the neighbors. He lights up his Facebook and Twitter feeds, even his Instagram gets posts that Jesus Christ has come. Although we are sinners, we no longer live in shame. Although, we have been fumbling around in this dark world, Christ has become the light so that we can see. He gives us the hope, the mission, the boldness to live lives not with emptiness, but with meaning. “Alleluia!”
It seems so strange to end on a note of praise. Lent starts this Wednesday and our “Alleluia”s will be taken from us. We will mourn. For forty days, we will remember what Jesus Christ has done for us. He entered the world in order to save the world. And, that salvation came with a price. He died. Even in our lament, we radiate his message, his news, his witness. We cannot help but praise him for what he has done, to share the news with our neighbors, in a bold hope that after this season is over we will celebrate with a stronger “Alleluia!!” than we had ever known before. “Praise ye the Lord.” Amen.
Now, may the peace that passes all our understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from this time forth. Amen.