ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH JULY 12, 2020
Rev. Sabrina Ingram
WORSHIPPING AT HOME TOGETHER
Call to Worship 2 Corinthians 4:6
It is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has filled up our lives with light as we saw
and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
Lord of Lords, Light of the World,
We praise you. You are the one who separated the heavens and the Earth to create the wonder of the cosmos.
You looked upon the Earth, without form and void, and the darkness that encased it and commanded the
existence of light. We praise you for your great wisdom and power in giving us a sun which floods our world
with warmth and brightness and holds us in our orbit. Your greatness is beyond our imagination!
You continued to look on your creation with love and with horror. You saw the darkness in our hearts and the
sin that festers there which leads us to do dreadful things to one another. You know that we love that darkness.
Our thoughts and deeds are prone to evil. We fear that evil in others, we run from it. Unlike us, you come
towards it. You came into our desperate and despairing world, bringing light. You came into our lost and lurid
lives, bringing light. The light was the light of all people. We see this light in the face of Jesus, who was born
as a flesh and blood human being. We praise you for it is by his flesh and blood we’re able to walk in the light
and not stumble spiritually. We praise you because this Life-light blazes in the darkness and the darkness
cannot extinguish it. We praise you that, with all of our short-comings and shadows, the light of Christ lives in
us and we are able to be light for others. Help us to be beacons of hope.
As we worship today, shine Jesus shine. Consume our darkness. Flood the nations with your light. Send out
the blazing flame of your Spirit to set our hearts on fire. Shine on us, in us and through us to the glory of your
radiant being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon Ephesians 5: 8 – 10
At one time, you groped your way through the murk of sin, but no longer. You’re out in the open now.
The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So, no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The
good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will
please Christ, and then do it.
Prayer for Illumination
Lord, the light of your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness, shining
Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us
Set us free by the truth you now bring us
Shine on me, shine on me
Shine, Jesus, shine
Fill this land with the Father’s glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river, flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord, and let there be light.
Scripture Readings
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it
under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way,
let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father
in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14 – 16 NRSV).
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re
going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going
to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a
hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to
others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (The Message)
Isaiah 42: 5 – 9
Philippians 2: 14 – 16
John 9: 1 – 12
Message:
When Terry and I went to Israel, we met a kind, intelligent Jewish man with whom we discussed the political
dynamics in his country. He had a balanced perspective; he had a low opinion of Hamas (the militant Islamist
organisation which won the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and has remained in power, without
elections, since) and an equally low opinion of Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he believed was a criminal who
belonged in jail. He was disturbed about the developments in the West Bank which he described as “an
apartheid state”. Towards the end of our conversation he said, “I think Israel could do a much better job of
being ‘a light to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:6)”. This directive – to be “a light to the nations” is one which God
gave to Isaiah for the Israelites. God desired, through Israel, to “open blind eyes, release prisoners from
dungeons, empty the dark prisons” (vs 7). God summed up, “I’m announcing the new salvation work.
Before it bursts on the scene, I’m telling you all about it” (vs. 9). The Jews believed that no group of
people kindled their own light. It was God who lit Israel’s lamp so they could shine for the world. Like a flame
being passed from one candle to the next, their light was a gift from God which they merely borrowed. The
Israelites were to shine that light to the glory of God and for the good of others. Many years later, in the process
of healing the sight of a man born blind, Jesus announced “I am the light of the world.” Jesus, aware of
God’s directive through Isaiah, was declaring himself to be the one who fulfills God’s desire. What Israel had
failed to be and was unable to do, Jesus was and did. As we read today, at some point in his ministry, Jesus
also encouraged his followers to be “the light of the world”. Like Israel our light is a gift from Christ, and we
are to shine for his glory and the betterment of our world.
Actual, “physical” light has many qualities which give us an idea of what being “the light of the world”
encompasses. Light has the strength to dispel the darkness – both the actual darkness and the metaphorical
darkness of sin.
The light of day is, normally, safer than the shroud of night. The cover of night provides a certain anonymity for
people who chose to do evil; we learn early to avoid unlit areas at night. A night light chases away the boogey
man. Light in a stairwell keeps us from tripping. It’s easier to drive in the daylight. Spiritually speaking, we’re
also safer now that “the light of the world” shines. The light of Christ dispels the darkness of our sin. It
transforms that darkness to light, saving us from the ill-fated consequences of our evil thoughts and actions.
Spiritual light opens people eyes and hearts to God. It frees people from the dungeons of guilt where
forgiveness can’t be found or offered, and from the prisons of our judgements, obsessions, and disobedience.
Many of you saw the remarkable video Carol sent in which a man scuba diving among stingrays is approached
by a wounded dolphin. The dolphin gets remarkably close to him and holds still while the diver removes a
fishhook from his fin and cuts fishing line away from him. Carol and I marvelled at how the dolphin knew to
approach the man and not the stingray. What made him sense the man was safe? I remarked to Carol how
sad it is that human beings don’t have the same instinct which would draw us to our Saviour. As I reflect on the
video, the man was holding a flashlight – could the light have drawn the dolphin? As we shine our light, we’re
able to help others find freedom from the things that ensnare and injure them. Like the diver, we may be asked
to help someone find freedom, through Christ, from a sinful behaviour, mindset, or existence. As light to the
world, we challenge and support people by creating an atmosphere of safety. Christians are to be a “safe place”
for others so they feel accepted, protected, and freed rather than judged, exposed, and exiled. Light saves.
Light is intended to be seen. As Jesus makes clear, you don’t light a candle and then cover it with a bucket.
The light needs oxygen to keep burning. The flame needs to be exposed. In Jesus’ day, light came from wicks
which sat in vessels like gravy boats filled with oil. Lamps weren’t too bright nor did the flame last long. One
reason for putting a lamp under a bushel may have been to extinguish the flame to preserve the oil for another
time. Sometimes in the Church, we’re more concerned with preservation than light. Perhaps, we’re fearful
that our demise is imminent and so rather than going out in a blaze of glory, we do all we can to stretch out and
protect what we have. It’s as if we’re worried there’s a limit to the Holy Spirit an d if we give away too much of
our faith, ourselves, our time, our money, or our love, we’ll peter out. The darkness gives us a mentality of
scarcity rather than abundance. When we fan the flames of possibility, the light grows brighter. God, in Christ,
has been generous to us. Do we trust God to be faithful? Do we trust the Spirit as an eternal source of air to
fuel our light? In the last few (CoVid) months, St. Stephen’s has found a number of creative ways to be
generous to our community – holding food drives, sewing masks, cookie deliveries, helping neighbours,
supporting the One Roof Diner, caring for each other, etc. You have let your light shine!
Light is a sign of anticipation and happiness, and a source of warmth. We celebrate with light: birthday cake
candles, fire works, Christmas lights. As spiritual light, we serve God when we worship. We celebrate and
invite others to revel in all God is and everything he’s done for us. As spiritual light, we are beacons of hope
and joy. When people come into our presence, we cast off the shadows of bitterness, complaining, envy and
self-pity. We radiate the positive, abundant, new life Christ gives us. Along with The Message, some
commentators try to dilute Jesus meaning by saying we’re “light-bearers” or “lamps” – but Jesus is clear: light
isn’t something we transport or host, it’s who we are. As with the early Jews, the source of our light is The
Light, Christ himself. Ironically, this leads many Christians to diminish their light. We’re often afraid of being
“too much”, attracting too much attention to our self, indulging our egos. It’s true, that it’s easy for a fire to get
out of control and burn wildly and destructively. So, we “play small”. We restrain the light that makes us
uniquely who we are. We don’t feel free to be all that God has gifted us to be. Yet a candle which gets its
flame from another greater candle, still burns with its own light. My 8-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, is one who
lets her light shine. She lights up every room she’s in. She uses her gifts with joy. She’s not afraid to put it all
out there and do her best, and when her best isn’t the best, if someone else does better, she shines her light
on them. Our light shines brightest when we are our best self in Christ. We’re meant to celebrate and use our
gifts, rather than apologize for them. We’re meant to live abundantly rather than repress ourselves. We’re
meant to blaze. A quote, often attributed to Nelson Mandela, says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are
inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that
most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are
you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing
enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as
children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in
everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Every day we’re given opportunities to be light to the world. Shining our light can be risky. It takes trust.
During WW2, during the Blitz, people were asked to turn off their lights and cover their windows with paper.
The reason was that the lights of the city created an easy target for German bombers making night raids. (I’m
not suggesting that one shines a physical light under those circumstances). Shining our spiritual light also
makes us an easy target for hostile people. We’re tempted to hide. We don’t want to be a city on a hill. So,
we let our light shine only in a small circle of other Christians. A Christianity which stops at the church door is
not much use to anyone. While people in certain countries are forced to worship in secret to avoid imprisonment
or death, there is no such thing as secret discipleship. If discipleship doesn’t destroy the secrecy, the secrecy
will destroy the disciple. According to Martin Luther, our Christianity should first be visible in believing,
confessing, and teaching. Before we fulfill the last 6 commandments which address how we behave with
people, we’re to give priority to the first four which address our relationship with God (Exodus 20: 2 – 17).
Christians often play a guessing game with the world. We say, “I’ll behave in a certain way and it’s up to you
to figure out what I believe. My words are unnecessary. If, by some miracle, you do figure it out, it’s then up
to you to formulate a creed and grow in your faith.” That is not letting our light shine. Our light shines first for
God through worship and declaration. We don’t need to burn down the town to be affective, a small and gentle
flame can cast more light than we can imagine; even a few gentle words of faith cast light. Still, letting our
light shine, does include what we do. Our faith should be visible in the ordinary activities of life. Our light can
shine through the way we treat strangers, or order a meal, in the ways we serve and the ways we lead, in the
ways we drive, play, speak, shop and in everything else we do. Let your light shine, fully and freely, verbally,
and silently. Put it on a lampstand or a hill.
Our task is to light the way, like a beacon, so others can “see the Light”. We’re “here to be light, bringing
out the God-colors in the world”. Our purpose is to glorify God, while helping others come to do the same.
As with salt, our light is a given, a gift. “You are the light of the world.” Your light comes from Christ and
you burn for his glory. Why be an ember when you can be a flare?
Questions for Reflection:
When did you become aware of Jesus’ light as a part of you?
How do you shine for Christ?
Do you create a sense of safety for others? When has Christ used you to light the way for someone’s salvation?
Do you preserve your light (have a scarcity world view) or let it blaze (have faith in the abundance Christ gives)?
Do you hide your faith or let it be seen? Do you profess your faith or leave others to figure it out?
Are you an ember or a flare?
Offering
Lord, you have made us light in our world. Set us on fire with your Spirit, so that we will shine to your
glory. Let us bring hope, warmth, and guidance to others, so that they too will walk in your light. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Generous God, how glorious is your name in all the world!
We thank you for creating this planet. You set the stars in their place to dispel our fear and give us guidance.
You bath the world in sunlight so that everything unfolds in its season. In the warmth of the sun you cause fruit
and vegetables, grain, and herbs to grow. You provide for all our needs.
We thank you for the light of the Son, who protects us and provides a path for us to return to you. Jesus is the
Light of the World. He shines in the darkest corners of our souls, our lives, and our world. His light is more
powerful than any shadow of sin, driving the darkness away and giving us hope.
We are so honoured that you call us to walk in the light as you are in the light. Create in me a new heart so
that no darkness dwells in me. Overflow the broken and damaged places of my heart with your love and grace,
making all things new. Help me to walk in your light where no darkness overcomes me.
We thank you that you give us your light, so that we too are able to shine for you. Help us to embrace our light
and our gifts so that we may be symbols of hope in a gloomy world. May all we are and do blaze to your glory.
We pray for your Church. You know our tendency is to slip back into dark places. Places of disunity and
meanness, places of scarcity, places of fear, places of despair. Bring us into your light and let us be a beacon
to the world. Make us conscious that we are the light of Christ — it’s our responsibility as Your ambassadors,
but also a gift and privilege. Teach us to walk in goodness, righteousness, and truth. We want to be a conduit
of Your love shining bright like the strobing light of a lighthouse bringing weary sailors home.
We pray for those who are lost to you. We want, more than anything, to see our loved ones come to you. Help
us to remember that you love them more than we ever could. And that you desire to extend your great love
and forgiveness to the deepest part of their soul. We are forever grateful for your healing power, for your gift
of mercy, and your message of hope. Let the light of Christ appear to them as you did to Saul on the road to
Damascus and let us be light in the darkness bringing them into Your safe and secure embrace.
We pray for our world which is sitting in deep darkness. From disease, to injustice, to hatred, to corruption, to
the love for money, to selfishness, to violence, to the abuse of power, to oppression and neglect, we walk
through the valley of the shadow of death. In our world there is much division and anger. Open the eyes of
those who do not see themselves. Rescue those walking in darkness. Let your light shine again and let us be
light that overcomes the darkness of this world.
We know that there are spirits of darkness, principalities and powers still opposing your will and your work.
Remind us that you are greater than he who is in the world. Remind us that in your light, darkness cannot grow.
Help us to see and trust your plans for good, for a future and hope, have already prevailed in the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. Shine brightly, Jesus and let us be light that shines to show your face.
We pray for those who are ill and anxious. We remember those who are taking treatment or physio, those is
constant pain, those awaiting surgery and those awaiting test results. We pray for those who are mentally and
emotionally ill. We pray for all those who care for others in homes, in hospitals, in nursing homes, through
medicine and therapy. Glow softly for them and let us be a light that causes the darkness to flee and brings
hope to the hopeless, peace to the anxious, and courage to those afraid.
Loving God, we are forever grateful for your healing power, for your gift of mercy, and your message of hope.
Lord, we want to walk in the light as You are in the light. We want to walk with You, to be used by You. Set
our hearts on fire. Cause them to burn with passion for Your people, Your church, Your city, Your world. Kindle
the flame afresh, through Christ who is the Light of the world, the hope of the nations. Amen.
Invitation to Mission
We come out of this time of quiet worship to shine openly and brightly, so all will know that Jesus is
the Light of the World.
May the Triune God bless and keep you. Amen.