Ignite the Light
Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
Pastor Bob Henry
July 1, 2018
It was James Nayler, a seventeenth-century English Quaker/Friend and traveling minister, who is probably best known for his fall into the darkness and eventual emergence into the Light at the end of a painful imprisonment who said,
“Art thou in the darkness? Mind it not, for if thou dost thee will feed it more. Stand still, act not, and wait in patience till light arises out of darkness and leads thee.”
Now, in a little more plain English…
“Are you in darknesss? Don’t mind it, for if you do, you will feed it more. Just stand still, don’t act on it, but wait in patience until the light arises out of the darkness and leads you.”
This morning we are going to talk about letting our light shine out of the darkness as you will hear in our text that Eric is going to read. Take some time in our silence and meditation time to center down on those areas of darkness surrounding you and where also the Light may be leading you.
2 Corinthians 4:6-12
6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
9 years ago, on our way back from our first family vacation to Florida, we stopped to experience Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky. How many have been there?
On our tour we went straight down deep into the bowels of one of the caves and then were to meander slowly up and out over the next couple of hours.
It was in the largest opening - a huge cavern - that we stopped with our group. In the cavern they had placed lights throughout to highlight the beauty of the rock formations and to give us a visual path to the exit.
Our guide talked about the importance of light, but also talked about light pollution – especially for people who live in big cities or suburbs. He said, we don’t know what living from “sun up to sun down” actually meant.
Our guide then had us take our hand and put is right in front of our face. He explained that even today because of light pollution we can still make out our hand in front of our face with the lights out. But before the world had light pollution – this is what it was like.
He then proceeded to turn off all the lights in the cave. Wow! It was a bit scary. You could see nothing. I could not even see the outline of my hand. I could not see Sue or the boys. I quickly realized I could not see or sense direction. It was disturbing. Light is so important to us.
But just as important is how dark the darkness really is.
During the summer months we have the sun much later at night. So we stay up later around the camp fire or backyard fire pit. We wait until the sun sets to watch fireworks – as we will this week. It is at night that we see lightening bugs – something that we missed in Oregon because they did not have them.
As we sat out in our back yard the other night the moon seemed more brilliant, and I could see the stars even with the light pollution of the city.
Darkness at times can almost seem magical.
But it is because of the darkness that the light is so important.
This week we celebrate the Fourth of July and fireworks will be a key part of that celebration. It seems fireworks have become main stream. We experienced fireworks at Disney World, recently after a Major League baseball game, even our neighbors set off fireworks in their yard that lit up the sky. They seem to bring so much joy to children and adults alike. I believe they represent a celebration. They bring awe and wonder. Some consider them patriotic, but this week I decided to do a little history on fireworks.
Jeff Rice in a piece on the History of Fireworks says this...
The history of fireworks goes back thousands of years to China during the Han dynasty (~200 B.C.), even long before gunpowder was invented. It is believed that the first "firecrackers" were likely chunks of green bamboo, which someone may have thrown onto a fire when dry fuel ran short. The rods sizzled and blackened, and after a while, unexpectedly exploded. Bamboo grows so fast that pockets of air and sap get trapped inside of the plant's segments. When heated, the air inside of the hollow reeds expands, and eventually bursts through the side with a long bam!
The strange sound, which had never been heard before, frightened people and animals terribly (it still does). The Chinese figured that if it scared living creatures so much, it would probably scare away spirits - particularly an evil spirit called Nian, who they believed to eat crops and people. After that, it became customary for them to throw green bamboo onto a fire during the Lunar New Year in order to scare Nian and other spirits far way, thus ensuring happiness and prosperity to their people for the remainder of the year. Soon, the Chinese were using bursting bamboo for other special occasions, such as weddings, coronations, and births. The "bursting bamboo", or pao chuk as the Chinese called it, continued to be used for the next thousand or so years.
I found this fascinating. To think that fireworks were used by the Chinese to scare away evil spirits seems a wonderful illustration for us today. This is as our text said, “light shining out of the darkness” Evil spirits have always been associated with darkness.
Just as children talk about being afraid of the dark, about monsters under their beds and things that go bump in the night. Parents are quick to illuminate the darkness. We give our children nightlights or leave lights on to make it less scary. When we go camping we give them flashlights, and I know as a camp counselor those were not just to find the path to the bathhouse, no they helped with homesickness, when it was too dark and things were scary.
I shared that story about Mammoth Cave earlier because I have to admit I was a little bit afraid in that darkness. For a split second, I thought, “What if the power went out and the lights did not come on?”
In Jesus’ day it was that dark at night. We don’t understand the Biblical story of the 10 Virgins and how important keeping their wicks trimmed and the oil in the lamps was to simply getting home after sunset. It was dark and light was of utter importance.
Now, darkness doensn’t have to be the absence of physical light. Sometimes, we suffer from levels of darkness in our own hearts. As our scriptures said this morning, sometimes we are hard pressed on every side, we feel crushed, perplexed, maybe in despair, sometimes we are persecuted, feeling abandoned, even struck down, or destroyed. Death – physical or mental is knocking at our doors.
There are times we aren’t sure if the lights are ever going to come back on for us.
There are times when we think the bad person is going to win or get us.
There are times when we think the darkness is going to consume us.
But God has said to us,
“Let light shine out of darkness,”
God has made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
God wants us to remember our inner lights.
God wants us to look deep within our own souls.
God has placed a special knowledge, an all-surpassing power within us.
God wants us to be the light in this dark world.
Sometimes that is hard to believe.
Sometimes that light is hard to find.
Sometimes we wonder if the darkness of our world has consumed us and simply blown out our inner light.
Sometimes that means we need the shining light of our neighbors and friends surrounding us.
But scripture says that we are that treasure – in jars of clay. Just think about this… we are really more like fireworks than we know. Those big beautiful fireworks that we see on the 4th of July or at Disney World, or at the ball park – did you know those are clay shells. They are fragile and need careful attention and care so they can really make an impact in the dark night sky.
The light, the color, the sparkle is found within those clay shells. And much like fireworks, God wants us to recognize the light within each of us and ignite it and come alive! And when we do – it is actually out of the darkness that we are the most beautiful. That we radiate the Light of God into our world.
A great modern theologian of our day, said it this way…
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting though the wind
Wanting to start again
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards
One blow from caving in
Do you ever feel already buried deep
Six feet under
Scream but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine
Just own the night
Like the Fourth of July
'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on show 'em what your worth
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y
Baby you're a firework
Come on let your colors burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
You're gonna leave 'em fallin' down down down
You don't have to feel like a waste of space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow
Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed
So you can open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will glow
And when it's time, you'll know
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine
Just own the night
Like the Fourth of July
Firework by Katy Perry
Songwriters: Esther Dean / Mikkel Storleer Eriksen / Tor Erik Hermansen / Katy Perry / Sandy Julien Wilhelm
Firework lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Peermusic Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
You and I are fireworks. We are to let our lights shine in the darkness of this world.
· For some that will mean taking action.
· For some that will mean being arrested and protesting.
· For some that will mean volunteering and giving of themselves.
· For some that will mean monetarily supporting.
· For some that will mean physically moving or sacrificing.
· For some that will mean dedicating their life to a call or passion.
· For some that will mean becoming a faithful presence in their neighborhoods or community.
· For some that will mean making food, writing letters, gardening, teaching, networking, smiling…you name it…
What is it for you? I look around this room and I could name so many ways that First Friends are “fireworks” in the darkness of our world already. Yet how can we be even more brilliant, more impactful, more light in our dark world?
I know often when my light seems rather dim or my firework seems to be fizzling that is when I need others to ignite my inner light. One firework is beautiful, but a full night sky filled with fireworks -- now that is even better!
When we recognize the light in us, when we let our light shine out of the darkness, then scripture says We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Our “firework” life addresses the evil spirits in this world, and lights up our world to truly be a celebration of hope, and love and peace. So when it gets dark this week and you sit out on the grass or in a lawn chair to watch the fireworks. Watch them and let them be a reminder of how we are to live our lives brilliantly in the darkness of this world.
As we enter into waiting worship this morning, ask yourself this query, How will I let my light shine out of the darkness this week?