“The Light of Lent”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
March 26, 2017
8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Isn’t it a bit odd that we have a scripture smack dab in the middle of Lent, the season known for the darkness of our spiritual journey, that speaks about light? How odd is that? This would make a great Advent text, but how and why is it found in the middle of our Lenten journey? Let’s think about this for a moment. Paul was writing to a group of Christians who were “at best” struggling with what was going on in the Christian camp. They were in the midst of turmoil, attempting to decipher what was to be considered “correct worship and church work.” Pretty much sounds like today’s journey in our American Protestant network. We are all trying to figure out what should be done, how it should be done, and if it should be done. Times have not changed very much.
Now, it is important to understand that Paul did not have a liturgical calendar as we do. His quandary between what should be part of Lent, part of Advent, part of Easter was not chronologically laid out. Now Easter was a given, but it revolved around the word context of resurrection. So here we are, in the midst of self-preparation for Easter, in a season we don't really like and for the fact of the matter, we don’t like darkness!! We want to be Children of the Light! We want to be brought out of darkness and shown how to live as Children of the Light. Even in the midst of our darkness, we have been chosen by God to live in the light.
Now that puts a unique twist on this text when we read in Lent. For we know as we read that Paul is not really concerned about where we are in our lives, except for the fact that we persevere out of darkness and into the light.
The text itself is relatively short in verbiage, yet is emphatic with the notion that God through Jesus was showing us the light since His coming into the world. Paul was actually portraying a rather close Lenten theme. For in the Greek, when this verse is read, it translates to mean “people were not living in the darkness” as we think of it. It wasn’t because darkness surrounded them; it was because they were “darkness” themselves!! Now that puts a slightly different and more Lenten adaptive approach to hearing this scripture. For when we hear the understanding of ‘live the life God made possible even when darkness surrounds you’ it begins to sound more and more like a Lenten dirge of self examination. For don’t we find ourselves “dark” during Lent? Don’t we find that we examine ourselves when we appear to be dark? Just as Paul was dealing with, it is/was so much easier for one to blame another for the darkness that surrounds them as opposed to looking at their own “darkness”? In v. 11, Paul reminds us, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Here again, Paul lays claim to the fact one must work to find out what is “pleasing to the Lord” v. 10 yet in the same breath be able to ascertain what “darkness” surrounds their own life and livelihood and seek to rid themselves of that darkness through the forgiveness offered by Christ Jesus.
Kind of sounds like a Lenten journey, doesn’t it? Maybe our darkness, our lives, need to seek what is “pleasing to the Lord” and resist that dwelling in darkness that brings us closer to the earthly world and away from the heavenly Kingdom.
We could spend a great deal of time focusing on the “dark side,” but what I believe Paul wants us to do here and even in the midst of Lent is to focus on what “turns us around” from this darkness? What brings us “light” so to speak when we are darkness? It is the grace-filled love of Jesus?! It is that transforming power in God’s presence that moves us to a place of understanding and joy? It is that grace that shed’s away the darkness that permeates our life and holds us captive to ourselves?
It is the grace that was poured out on Barrett’s life and the life of his parents, grandparents, family, friends, and us, the community of faith that has promised to oversee and raise him, even though we are going to miles apart. It is that transforming grace that allows someone who is so hurt to pick up one foot and place it in front of the other, knowing well and good that it may get them killed. It is that transforming grace that supersedes the violence and uproar in our world and lays down a sense of peace that surpasses all human understanding. It is the grace and the love that we see in our neighbor’s eye when we aren’t sure what their next step will be!
It’s that grace that moves us to points where we aren’t sure we can exist as Children of the Light. But you know, Paul provides for us a great Lenten challenge as we work our way through our “darkness,” when he says at the end of verse 14. “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Shed that darkness that is you, that is around you, and that covers you and walk in the light of Christ!
AMEN & AMEN