Sermon 3/14/2021: Stepping in the Light (Lent IV)

At this time, due to Coronavirus concerns, many are not quite ready to return to face-to-face worship. If this includes you, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/523297245

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cre2cgVcA3V

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition: 

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

HYMN When Morning Gilds the Skies
“When Morning Gilds the Skies” – John Wesley Slider
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT7Kh88CrL4

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Breathe on Me, Breath of God
Breathe on Me, Breath of God – SE Samonte
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5keJHZdWYM

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Stepping in the Light
Text: John 3:14-21, 1 John 1:5-10
Series: The Journey Through Lent To The Cross

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The title of this message is from a class gospel song. In case you’ve not herd it, you can listen here:

Mylon Hayes Family “Stepping in the Light” at NQC 2015
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsFK9LjX82Q
or
When we would sing this, we’d do a quick march … about twice as fast!
About like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5H2XGBVzgg
Or this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xdc9qNsUbZU

Stepping In the Light
By Eliza Hewitt, 1890, public domain

1 Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Trying to follow our Savior and King,
Shaping our lives by His blessed example,
Happy, how happy, the songs that we bring.

Refrain:
How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Stepping in the light,
Stepping in the light;
How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Led in paths of light.

2 Pressing more closely to Him who is leading
When we are tempted to turn from the way,
Trusting the arm that is strong to defend us,
Happy, how happy, our praises each day. [Refrain]

3 Walking in footsteps of gentle forbearance,
Footsteps of faithfulness, mercy and love,
Looking to Him for the grace freely promised,
Happy, how happy, our journey above. [Refrain]

4 Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Upward, still upward we’ll follow our Guide;
When we shall see Him, the King in His beauty,
Happy, how happy, our place at His side. [Refrain]

You can watch the video “Reasons (why people don’t go to church)” from Central Films
at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUJpJyth3J4&t=4s

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HYMN How Great Thou Art
How Great Thou Art w/ lyrics By Alan Jackson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYTKYpnRnAQ
or
Reggie Smith, Wes Hampton, Stephen Hill, Gene McDonald, Larnelle Harris – How Great Thou Art [Live] (‘Alaskan Homecoming’ Cruise)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaggjCp3Dbg

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Many years ago, in the very first church to which I was appointed, they had a favorite song. It was called Stepping in the Light, and the song talked about how much easier it was to follow Jesus when Jesus shone a light so that we could see our way forward step by step. It’s certainly easier to follow Jesus when we are not walking in darkness, but stepping in the light.

I came across this amazing picture this past week. This is a picture of what is called an Escher drawing. The perspective is strange because if you look at the top of the picture, you can see a van, but then if you look over to the left, it appears that there is a blue car driving down the road. But when you try to put it together, you see that the blue car is driving on the underside of the bridge.

I want to suggest that it’s possible that when Jesus says, follow me, if you’re willing to follow Jesus, if you’re willing to be a passenger in the car and you let Jesus drive, sometimes strange and astonishing and confusing things will happen … because Jesus leads us forward into unusual paths and to surprising places. It takes a little bit of courage to let Jesus drive the bus, but I think we can have faith in him and I think we can follow him.

Consider the value of light. What would happen if you went into the bathroom to wash your hands, but before you started to lather up, you turned off the light? Would that give you some good results? Well, if your hands weren’t very dirty, maybe it wouldn’t be much of a problem. But light helps us to do things well. And the reason it works is light reveals us as we are. You see the dirt on your hands. You see how far you are from perfection. And if you’re a perfectionist, that can give you quite a bit of frustration. Light reveals our world as it truly is, and we see all the little cracks. We see all the little broken places. All of the small hurts are visible, and light reveals the truth. The truth of all the little hurts and broken places, but also the truth of what it’s going to mean to cleanse everything that needs cleansing, to heal everything that needs healing, because we can’t begin that corrective work until we can see clearly. The light is our friend.

Both Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, were well-known jokesters. And I’m not sure which one of them did it first, but Mark Twain in New York City, Arthur Conan Doyle in London, supposedly, sent a telegram to a dozen wealthy and prominent men. The wording in the telegram was very simple. “Flee at once. All is discovered.” Both were astonished to find that by the next morning, everyone on their list had fled the country in the darkness of night. There is something within human beings that doesn’t want to be seen. There’s something within us that we want to hide and let the darkness protect it. We don’t want the light to reveal it. The last thing we would want is for everything about our lives to be visible, to be discovered.

All the broken places within us whisper to us these little words, “If you knew me, if you knew what I’ve done, you wouldn’t want me.” That’s what the light reveals when the light shines on the parts of us that we’d rather keep in darkness. There’s a beautiful little video called “Reasons (why people don’t go to church)”, and these words come from that video. This is a reason why someone feels, “I don’t want to go to church because if you knew me and what I’ve done, you wouldn’t want me.”

And the response to that is the response of Mike, a retired pilot. And every time I watch this little part of the video, the tears just come as he very calmly says, “If you knew me and what I’ve done, you wouldn’t be worried.” We need this reassurance because we forget that the light of Jesus Christ, when it shines on us, it might reveal all of our flaws and errors and sins and mistakes and everything we wish we could hide and keep hidden. But that light also reveals the fact that no matter what we’ve done, we are forgiven. There’s an old saying. We frequently find it on signs, out in front of churches because we forget it. We miss it. And that saying is this, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” Christians aren’t perfect, but they are forgiven. What the light reveals, where it shines the brightest, is that people are forgiven.

John, chapter three, verse 14, “The time has come.” Nicodemus comes by night to speak with Jesus, and Jesus says confusing things to him. Jesus says, “You must be born again.” And Nicodemus tries to figure this out logically, “What can this mean?” And Jesus goes on to use these phrases, John 3:14, “So must the Son of man be lifted up …” That is a euphemism for dying on a cross because they would lift the cross up so that the bottom of they fall into a (post) hole and the person crucified would be visible to everyone. “So the Son of man must be lifted up,” Jesus says, “that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned. He who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Verse 19, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” What Jesus is saying, and this was very well understood in His day, because there were no street lights. There were no electric lights. Everywhere in the night time, when the sun went down it got dark. And any sort of light in that darkness, you could see it for miles. What Jesus is saying is that in the darkness of the world, His presence on the cross, lifted up, was like a light shining that people can see from a great distance. Jesus was the light of the world.

Verse 20, Jesus says, “For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light.” Why do people not want to come to where the light is? Jesus says, “Lest their deeds should be exposed.” You see, when you come close to the light, people can see you for who you are. When you come close to the light, what you would like others not to see is revealed.

Verse 21, “But he who does what is good, he who does what is true, comes to the light.” And as they come to the light, they are revealed. Jesus says, “That it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.” You see, there’s the difficulty … Jesus is a great and beautiful light shining into the darkness and the whole world begins to move. Some are moving toward the light and they don’t care what other people can see. They are so much in love and desiring so much what the light can bring them.

But there are also people who are moving back into the darkness, because they’re ashamed, because they’re afraid, because they don’t want anyone to see themselves as they truly are.

And I John 1:7, you see this beautiful promise, “If we walk in the light as He he is in the light. We have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his son, cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” But verse 9, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins…

Isn’t it wonderful to know that we can be forgiven? But notice there’s more to the promise than forgiveness. He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, from all that is not right.

So here is the epic question we all simply have to ask ourselves. Which way are we going? Because here’s the reality of following Jesus: The closer you get to the light, the more it will reveal the truth about you and all the small things and in all the big things. When the light comes on, all of a sudden the world divides into two groups. There are moths who are drawn to the light, and they come to the light no matter what it costs. But there are also, in some places in this world, when you turn on the light, what you see is the cockroaches running for the safety of the darkness. They’re afraid. And sometimes, friends, we are afraid of what the light will reveal. It’s a human thing, and we’re all human.

St. Francis de Sales put it this way. Purging the soul is a lifetime effort. That cleansing that Jesus spoke about, that’s a lifetime effort. There is no reason to be upset by our imperfections for— and here’s how St. Francis de Sales defines perfection– perfection is nothing more than fighting against them. You can’t prevent your hands from getting dirty, but you can wash them. That’s close enough to perfection. You can’t protect bad things from happening in this world, but you can do your part to make them better. Perfection is nothing more than fighting against whatever imperfection we might see within ourselves when the light comes on. How can we resist them unless we see them? How can we overcome them unless we face them?

If you want to live a better life, you want to let the light shine on your hands as you’re washing them. That’s what it means. You see, the light gives us the opportunity to work. The light allows us to examine ourselves. The light allows us to do and examine, to review how we should repent, what we should change, the sort of washing that is needed. The point of the light is not to harm us but to heal us.

How many times, friends, have you prayed, “Lord, forgive me.” I’m sure that the longer your life has been, as I realized in mine, I find myself praying more and more and more for forgiveness because I am more and more aware of everything for which I need forgiveness. But the whole point of the promise and 1 John 19 is not that we should only pray for forgiveness because God offers us more than forgiveness. God offers us the opportunity for cleansing.

And so I’ve changed my prayers a little bit. “Lord, forgive me, but don’t just forgive me, heal me, repair me, wash me and make me clean.” And as Jesus was saying to Nicodemus, “Let me be born again. Let me find and experience a new beginning.”

Because you see, the time has come for us to follow Jesus. The time has come for us to follow him into easy paths and sometimes down darker streets. The time has come for us to follow Jesus, knowing with our faith that wherever he leads us and wherever we follow, we will find that the light he shines on our path will lead to our cleansing and healing. That’s a good reason to go forward. So we all need to ask ourselves during this season of Lent, this season of repentance, which way are we going? Are we hiding or are we willing to come out into the light, even if it means that everything that we don’t want to face about ourselves, we would have to see.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, thank you for forgiveness. Thank you for every mistake, every sin, every negative experience that I lift up to you. Thank you that I am forgiven. Because we can trust you, Lord, to forgive us. Nothing that we would confess as a sin comes as any surprise to you, but Lord help us not to forget the great truth and the great benefit that comes from following you, that we are not only forgiven, but that you are ready to cleanse us from all that is not right. And so, Lord, we pray for that new beginning. We pray for that sense of rising up into a bright, clean, and beautiful new day. Lord, we pray that we would be born again and rise to walk in newness of life because, Lord, we have found that you not only forgive, but that you cleanse us and make us whole. We ask you to remind us of that continually, Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

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