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The Risen Lord Gives His Church Understanding

Sermon Theme: The “Oh-oh!” “Oh!” and “Ah!” of Easter Light

Darkness brings fear from outside and fear on the inside. There is no switch, no beam, no light we can create to make it go away. But Jesus can, Jesus did, and Jesus does, shining Easter light to you and to me every day and on into the forever-day of heaven. Based on 1 John 1:5-2:2 we learn about “The ‘Oh-Oh,’ ‘Oh,’ And ‘Ah’ Of Easter Light.”

 Oh-oh!

She pulls the handle of the door and listens for a creak. Whew! Nothing. The storm door presents another problem. It always squeaks. Slowly, gently she pushes it open. Seconds tick by. There’s space just enough for her to sneak through. Made it. Now comes tiptoeing along the house’s back wall to the back of the garage. No motion sensor lights here. She glances around, then pops the pill she pilfered from mom’s medicine cabinet and fires up the cancer stick so she can think alone about how to keep what she has been doing with her boyfriend a secret. She closes her eyes and leans back against the wall. Flash! The back patio spotlight bursts on, catching her mid-exhale, and there’s Dad. “Oh-oh!”

He’s sure he heard her gentle night-breathing. She’s out. He rolls out of bed without the tiniest tremor of the mattress and pads silently, breathlessly from the bedroom down the hall to the back office where he can flick on his phone and call up the pictures that get his pulse thumping and his brain’s pleasure center kicking out a rush of dopamine. Just then, a few inches from his ear, his wife gasps, “What are you doing?” “Oh-oh!”

He had been so clever. With every cash transaction, he slipped a bill or two into his pocket and then cooked the books with a record of sale that matches what was listed. Weeks, months, years went by, feeding his craving for online gaming and purchases until the day the office manager called him in, “Tell me about the missing money and unbalanced books.” His “I have no idea what you’re talking about” plea was met with, “We have it all on tape.” “Oh-oh!”

Is it possible to commit a crime or a self-harmful act under the cover of darkness, and and never get caught? Sure. Is it possible to live a lie, keeping dirt in our minds and hearts, and no one else finds out? Sure. Is it possible to ignore the little voice inside that taps like a miniature hammer, “It’s wrong! You know it. Stop it!” and eventually not hear it anymore? Sure. Is it possible to fool ourselves into thinking that there will be no day of reckoning? Sure.

But the apostle John learned the truth, the apostle, known as “the one Jesus loved,” is the same apostle who joined his brother in peppering Jesus with, “Put us in position-number-one in your kingdom,” the one who joined with the others in making Jesus smack his forehead, “Why are you such no-faith-ers when a storm comes up?” “Why are you biased against non-Israelites?” “Why are you so intent on the here-and-now and not the hereafter?” We wrinkle our noses at the mention of Judas, the betrayer, and shake our finger at Peter, the denier, but this apostle, who eventually was trusted by Jesus so much that he entrusted his mother into John’s care, is the one who got Peter into the courtyard of the high priest during Jesus’ trial, the one who opened the gate for Peter to get near the fire and burn himself. John should have known better. He spent three years with Peter and before this disciple-business shared many a night fishing the waters of Galilee’s lake. Surely he knew of Peter’s impetuous, impulsive leaping before he looked. He was there right there when Peter claimed, “Even if all fall away on account of you, Jesus, I never will,” and heard Jesus’ warning, “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (Matthew 26:33-34). Not unlike Adam in the Garden as the serpent dangled his, “Did God really say?” and “You won’t die” in front of Eve, did Adam speak up? Did he warn Eve, “Get away from that snake! Don’t listen!” No! And in Holy Scripture Adam gets the hit for the first sin. In just that way, John had to deal with guilt when Jesus appeared on Easter evening and put Easter light on him. “Oh-oh!”

This apostle learned and wanted his readers, including you and me, to learn, “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth … If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us … If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. There will be a day of reckoning for each of us because God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. Most often I don’t think about how bad darkness is. I get up, turn on light, enter a room, turn on light, smile when my kids or grandkids say, “Alexa, living room!” and lights come on. But there’s something that keeps nudging me into thinking first and foremost of my wants and needs, my ideas, my time, my, my, my, oh, my, oh, my … and each “my” is a step down into the dark cellar of God’s disapproval and anger with a dirty-laundry basket of guilt weighing me down and making me want to hide and cover up. Then Easter light and all the holiness of God bursts into the darkness I created, you created. “Oh-oh!”

Oh!

At first, Easter light made the apostle John shrink back, made him duck, made him cover his eyes. But then the glorious, risen Lord did two unexpected things. Number one: He didn’t blast the disciples with the astronomical lumens of his Easter grandeur. Number two: he spoke, turning on the warm, glowing, gentle light of his love. He conveyed comfort. He proclaimed peace, dispelling the dirt of their sin and the darkness of their fears. A week later, John was there again when Thomas showed up. Did Jesus whack Thomas for his doubts? No! “I forgive you.” Did he smack Peter across the face for his insensitive, self-centered, self-preserving denial? No! “I forgive you!” Did he holler, “Shame on you, John, for your triumphalism and for not helping your friend avoid temptation!” No! “I forgive you!” Did he berate the disciples, “Where were you when I needed you? Why did you run?” No! “I forgive you!” What could Thomas and Peter and John and the others say but, “Oh! How about that!” The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin … If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness … He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. Like a little child comforted by a nightlight and a hug from Dad, like a miner trapped in a cave seeing a rescuer’s light, like a hiker lost in the fog seeing a ranger’s searchlight, “Oh! I didn’t think light would ever come. Oh! I thank God that I’m safe.”

Darkness hurts your heart. Darkness hides your face. Darkness makes it difficult for you to look up. But Dad puts his arm around his daughter as the cigarette drops and says, “Tell me what’s bothering you.” The wife hugs her husband and says, “You need help. I will help you get it.” The boss says, “You can’t work here anymore, but I’ll find and fund your rehab.” “Oh!” And Jesus says, “Here is my body given for you; here is my blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” “Oh! I didn’t expect that you’d still love me. I don’t deserve it. But, oh, you do! I didn’t think light would come into my life, but, oh, your Easter light brightens my day and warms my heart!”

Ah!

The apostle John and the people to whom he wrote had to deal with Cerinthus, a charismatic teacher who played mind games and appealed to higher learning, then tapped into people’s curiosity about and fascination with the spirit-world, witches, demons, and goblins. Cerinthus dealt in darkness, and darkness brought fear. Once in darkness without a clearly lit path on how to behave, the folks in and around the left coast of Asia Minor fell prey to a group of snake oil salesmen, today we’d call them scammers or cyber-hackers, who teased them into thinking that darkness lets you satisfy your base desires and you won’t get caught, who enticed them with promises of pleasure or popularity or power, and pretty soon they were wandering around like the Egyptians under the ninth plague.

But God did not want first century Christians nor does he want us to wander around in the dark any more than he wanted Adam and Eve to drink in the gorgeous sights of paradise and receive no answer to their immediate question, “How can we thank you, Lord, for this paradise? Everything is, well, perfect! Lions and lambs get along. Bunnies and bears play together. No thorns or thistles, no crab grass or creeping Charlie, no pain or problems. How can we thank you?” The Lord did not keep them guessing. He did not leave them on a raft in an ocean under black clouds without a rudder or paddle. He did not leave them in a deep forest at midnight without a compass and flashlight. He did not leave them in a pitch-dark cave or basement cellar without a candle or phone app. “You want to thank me. Here is a special tree. It’s not for food. Your obedience to my word and my will is the best thanks you can render.” “Ah! Now we know. Now we understand where to go, what to do to thank you!”

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you … if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another … My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. “Ah! That’s where you want me to go. That’s how I can thank you. It’s by trusting in your promises of eternal joy even in dark days. It’s by serving others. It’s living out the fellowship, the connection, we have with each other because you have enlightened us and united us with the Easter light of your love. Ah! Not one but eleven times in just one psalm (Psalm 119), “I delight in your decrees … Your statues are my delight … I delight in your commandments” (Psalm 119: 16,24,47). Does God have a map, a specific plan laid out for every step of your life, every fork in your road? No! But he does shine the Easter light of his “Love me and love others,” sparking our daily, “Ah! Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Darkness brings fear from outside, “What’s around the corner, hiding under the bed?” and fear on the inside, “What have I done? What have I become?” There is no switch, no beam, no light we can create to make it go away. But Jesus can, Jesus did, and Jesus does, shining Easter light to you and to me every day and on into the forever-day of heaven. Christ is risen! Amen.

Pastor James Huebner
Grace Evangelical
Lutheran Church
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Milwaukee, WI 53202
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