Lent 4 (A)
A sermon preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First & Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 6, 2005
Text: Ephesians 5:8-14
Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
My dog has a lot of toys. Heaps of them. Stuffed toys, rubber toys, rawhide toys, she’s got them. Squeaky toys, talking toys, rattling toys, she’s got them. I read when she was a pup that the best way to raise a dog who doesn’t chew up chair legs and leather shoes is to make sure she’s got plenty of toys of her own around, so that whenever she’s bored or playful there’s always an appropriate chew within her line of sight.
Anyone who’s ever been to PETsMART knows just how much variety there is in dog toys – the aisles are packed with just about any sort of canine plaything you can imagine. And they’re fancy, too. Tennis balls tied to knobby plastic handles with red and white braided dental floss. Plush animals that are better looking than some of the ones I loved so much as a boy. You can spend as much as you like on as fancy as you desire a toy for your dog. And yet, with Ellie, two of the plainest toys in the dog-bone chest are among her favorites.
These are Ellie’s nighttime toys. They’re not much to look at now, especially compared to some of the other fancy things that fill her toybox. This one’s just a flexible plastic tube with different grooves, ridges and knobs on it. This one here isn’t much more than a hard plastic ball that used to have a black logo on its yellow skin until someone licked it off. But when the sun goes down or the curtains are drawn, these two toys are more fun than all the rest – they light up in the darkness.
Ellie’s toys aren’t so different from you and me. God’s children aren’t always much to look at…but we cast a little light into the darkness. God chose little David to be king despite his seven older brothers, who seemed for all the world a better choice, because God knew that David would shine with a heavenly light for his people in a dark time. God lit David up so that he might shine for his Lord into dark places and bring hidden things to the light of God’s presence. David, and everyone else who follows our God, is just like Ellie’s nighttime toys: it’s not the fanciness that counts – it’s the light we shed that makes us special.
Our Lord Jesus is the light of the world, the light that shines in the darkness and that the darkness cannot overcome. And when we have been made part of Jesus’ spiritual body through God’s gift of grace and our response in faith, we become lights as well. Paul reminds us: “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.”
We once were darkness. Not much to look at, nothing worth seeing, not so different from these dog toys. But God lights us up, and that makes all the difference.
But there’s another lesson Ellie’s favorite toys have to teach us.
The blinky ball is hollow. If you were to pop apart its two halves you’d see the source of the light. Inside the yellow halves is a motion sensor that can tell when the ball is rolling. Attached to that sensor are a battery and two bright LED lights. The ball itself doesn’t give any light at all – it’s the lights inside of it that make it glow. Without them, Ellie could play with her blinky ball all night, but it would never light up – it would never be more than a plain plastic ball.
This toy here, on the other hand, is solid plastic. There’s nothing inside of it at all. When this funky little tube lights up at night, the glow you see comes from the toy itself. It’s made from glow-in-the-dark plastic, and its very nature is to shine when the lights go out, to let its own light fill in the darkness around it. Like the blinky ball, it’s bright enough that Ellie can play with it in the dark – but as homely as it is, this fetch toy’s light comes from itself and not some device inside it. No matter how much she chews at it, this toy will continue to shed light on Ellie’s playtime night after night, because that is its nature.
Both toys are lights in the dark, but one lights up from within while the other glows of its own accord.
Scripture tells us that Jesus is the light of the world, and that although we once were darkness, we’re now lights, too. The temptation is to think that we’re like the glow-in-the-dark fetch toy, shining of our own accord, but the reality is that’s Jesus’ job. Only Jesus shines forth from his own self. Only Jesus can never be put out. Only Jesus has it in his very nature to cast light into every dark nook and cranny of this world.
We’re a different kind of toy. We’re blinky balls. We light up because there’s a bright light inside us, shining through. Without the light of Jesus inside, we’re dull and plain – dark, in fact – but when Jesus’ light fills us, we shine brightly.
Light is light, and in a dark room Ellie’s just as glad to play with the blinky ball as with the fetch toy. God does his light-shining work both directly through Jesus, and also by lighting up ordinary people like you and me to be beacons. The effect is the same – we simply must remember what the source of the light is. Jesus shines because he is Jesus. We shine because Jesus is within us.
You are a child of light, lit up from inside by our Lord in order to bring his light into the world. Once you were dark and plain, but in Christ you are bright and beautiful, shining with his own light. Live today as the child of light. Let the light of Christ shine in you; let it shine onto everyone you meet.
Praise God – by his grace we are blinky balls! What a great blessing…just ask Ellie! Amen.