Epistle for the 26th Sunday After Pentecost
In the Epistle reading appointed for this day, Apostle Paul speak about the unfruitful works of darkness and the fruitful works of light. He exhorts us to have no fellowship with darkness, shying away from even naming those shameful things which are done under the cover of darkness. Instead, we are encouraged to walk as children of light… for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.
Throughout Holy Scripture we are presented with the characteristics of light and darkness. The goodness and grace of God are described as light-bearing, whereas evil and sinful things are described as being full of darkness.
Hearing this, one might think that the spiritual life is simple… it is a simple, black and white matter of darkness or light. If we find ourselves in darkness, let us run to the light of God! If we are abiding in the light of God, let us run from all manifestations of darkness! What could be more straightforward?
But the realities of this life are much more complicated. And one of the biggest issues that we face, both as individuals and in the society in which we live, is that we have become accustomed to darkness.
It is like we are placed in a dimly lit room… Over time, our eyes become accustomed to the darkness and we even begin to feel comfortable in it. The walls and floor of the room may be filthy and covered with dirt and stains, but we cannot see it because of the lack of light. And so we grow accustomed to this darkness and we are not even aware of all the details of filth that we cannot see clearly.
How accurately does this describe our world today? The world is being turned upside-down by a society that hides in the shadows of darkness and cannot see the truth of one thing from another. Sins, which an earlier and brighter time and culture could see as harmful, are now paraded before us as being just fine and even desirable. We are surely in a darkened room and we can no longer see clearly.
If suddenly a bright light comes shining into this darkened room, it is painful to us and we rush to cover the curtains, to shut the door, so that we can return to the comfort of our dark existence.
How accurately does this describe our world today? A world which recoils and is offended by the Gospel. A world which rushes to shut out the Light of Christ wherever it shines upon the darkness and exposes the evil to which we have grown so fond.
The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian writes of this most eloquently: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.’
We, who cower in the darkness of our sins, are fearful of being exposed to the light. Depending on the depth of our darkness, exposure to the light can be extremely painful and frightening. We are afraid for several reasons… one is because we enjoy our sin and we don’t want to have to change. The second reason is related, but goes deeper… we do not trust God – we fear He is going to squash us and cannot fully believe that He loves us. And, as the Evangelist John said, this is our condemnation.
Ultimately, we will not escape being exposed to the Light. Our little fortresses of darkness in which we hide will fall away and the Light of God will shine forth upon us all. If we have accustomed ourselves to darkness, this exposure to the direct Light of God will be a torment. Therefore, cries the Apostle Paul, ‘Awake you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light’. Christ calls us to the light of His love and mercy. We do not need to be afraid… no matter how dark the walls and floors of our room may be… He will come in and shine His light upon every speck of dirt and He will clean the walls and floor and will abide with us.
We must have the courage to allow that to happen. We must have the courage to risk being exposed. We must have faith and trust in God that He is indeed our loving Father Who desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should repent and come to a knowledge of the truth.
Apostle Paul’s final exhortation to us in this morning’s Epistle is: ‘See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.’
The will of the Lord is that we might regain the beauty and dignity of the image of God emblazoned within each one of us. That we might follow His commandments of love for God and one another. That we might become illumined with the light of Christ and shine with the joy of Paradise!