Fourth Sunday in Lent

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Pentecost 3, year A June 29, 2014 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42
Pentecost 2, year A June 22, 2014 Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year A Psalm 69:8-20, Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39
Trinity Sunday, Year A June 15, 2014 Trinity Sunday, Year A Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20
Pentecost, Year A June 8, 2014 The Day of Pentecost, Year A Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:1-23
Easter 7, Ascension Sunday, year A June 1, 2014 Seventh Sunday of Easter Acts 1:6-14
Easter 6, year A May 25, 2014 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014 Acts 17:22-31, John 14: 15-21
Easter 5, year A May 18, 2014 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14
Easter 4, year A May 11, 2014 Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A John 10:1-10, Acts 2:42-47, I Peter 2: 19-25, Psalm 23
Easter 3, year A May 4, 2014 Easter 3, Year A Luke 24:13-35
Easter 3, year A – Shrine Mont May 4, 2014 Third Sunday of Easter, Year A Luke 24: 13-35
Easter 2, year A April 27, 2014 Second Sunday of Easter, Year A John 20:19-31, Psalm 16
Easter April 20, 2014 Easter Day, Year A Jeremiah 31:1-6, Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday April 18, 2014 Good Friday, Year A The Passion according to John
Palm Sunday 2014 reflections April 13, 2014 Palm Sunday, year A Matthew 26:14- 27:66
Fifth Sunday in Lent April 6, 2014 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A 2014 Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45, Psalm 130

 

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Sermon Date:March 30, 2014

Scripture: Ephesians 5:8-14

Liturgy Calendar: The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A


"The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blindl" – El Greco (1560)

PDF version 

Recently, an obituary by Zach C. Cohen  appeared in The Washington Post for a man named Bill Irwin, age 73.  The headline for the obituary read, “First blind man to hike 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail.”

His first four marriages ended in divorce.   Irwin said that during the part of his life when he could see,” he was an alcoholic, a dropout as a husband and father, a guy who lived only for himself.”

Irwin lost his sight completely in 1976 after some medical mistakes on the part of his doctors.  After he became blind, Irwin smoked five packs of cigarettes a day and his drinking became worse.

In 1987, Irwin became sober and he also at this time became much more devoted to Christianity.  The obituary says that “the first verse he learned was from Corinthians:  ‘For we walk by faith, not by sight.’” 

Irwin decided that even though he was blind, he would walk the Appalachian Trail as a way of living out his faith.  He described this act as an “act of salvation.” 

He hiked for eight months, covered the entire length of the trail,”fell thousands of times, cracked his ribs and suffered from hypothermia.”  Because he couldn’t see, he didn’t use maps or a compass, but depended on his German shepherd guide dog, Orient.  The two became known as “The Orient Express.” 

During  his eight month hike, as he stopped at places along the way to buy groceries and to do laundry, Irwin would talk to local children about God.  He furnished over 500 Bibles to people he met along the way.  When he completed the trail at the top of Mt Katahdin in Maine, members of his home church met him and sang “Amazing Grace.”  He became an inspiration to disabled people and to hikers because of his accomplishment. 

The writer of Ephesians in today’s reading tells us to “Live as children of the light,” which is what Bill Irwin did, once he became physically blind and gained spiritual and emotional sight.

The following words in Ephesians might have been written specifically for him.

“Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Probably none of us will have an obituary as dramatic as the obituary of Bill Irwin, but the example of his life, along with today’s scriptures, all about blindness and true sight, are a reminder to us that being Christians is to make every effort to live as children of the light,

Because now in the Lord we are light. 

So how do we do that?  How do we wake up, rise from the dead, and let Christ shine on us as we live from day to day, so that we can shine on others? 

Three things come to mind from three great theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Smith, and C.S. Lewis.  If we could incorporate these three things into our lives on a regular basis, we’d be a lot closer to knowing that Christ is shining on us that we can shine on others. 

So I hope you will take these three things to heart and try living into them this week.

First of all, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a  German theologian active during World War II and who ran an underground seminary, wrote a book called Life Together  in which we find the following suggestion. 

And this suggestion is literally about how we should wake up each morning.   Bonhoeffer tells us that at the beginning of the day, let  “the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs.”  Jesus stands at the threshold of each new day.  The darkness of night retreats before “before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening word.” 

How we wake up has a lot to do with whether or not the day ahead is going to be filled with the light of Christ.  Bonhoeffer wisely suggests that when we wake up, we set aside the distractions and burdens of the day ahead and instead welcome the light of Christ, and then get up out of bed for the love of God.   This love of God has a way of filling even the darkest days with light and helping us to bear fruit, even when our lives seem dim and barren. 

Martin Smith, who is an Episcopal priest, writer, and spiritual director, offers this advice in his Lenten book, A Season for the Spirit.

In his chapter called “The Child of Glory” Smith reminds us about “the importance of wonder.  Creation is wonderful, the Creator is glorious.”  Smith makes the point that as adults, we get caught up in our burdens and sometimes even find ourselves bored with life.  Being proactive about seeing mystery and beauty and intense significance of the ordinary things in life” reminds us of God’s light, and also reminds us that we are still becoming who God wants us to be, light for the world.  When we think of ourselves as Children of Glory, we are being born, over and over again, into who God is calling us to become, children of light. 

 “Awake, sleeper, rise from the dead.”  Look around you, and as the Book of Common Prayer says so poetically in the Rite I Prayers of the People,

“Open, O Lord, the eyes of all people to behold thy gracious bounty in all thy works, that rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may honor thee with our  substance, and be faithful stewards of thy bounty.” 

Welcoming the light of Christ and getting out of bed for the love of God, and then going through our days seeking the wonder and transforming power of God in all that we see and do the leads us to the third thing that we can do to become children of light.

And that thing is to live in hope.  That is, as C.S. Lewis points out in his chapter on “Hope” in Mere Christianity, we are to live with a “continual looking forward to the eternal world.”  Lewis points out that the people who have done the most for the present world are the ones who had their minds “occupied with heaven.”

You all have heard me say so often that we live in a time of now and not yet.  Jesus brought God’s light into the world.  In this light we can see not only God’s glory, but also the shadows that this light casts as it encounters the dark places in our lives and in the world. 

When we live as children of the light, we are living in the light that is the heavenly glory of God.    And as we live and hope and seek more and more of this heavenly light in our own lives, we grow brighter and brighter.  And we are better able to live good and right and true lives.

And as Christ shines on us, so we find ourselves shining on others, and heaven draws near, even here and now.

Let us pray.

Lord of light, heal our blindness.   Wake us up each morning, and stand at the threshold of our days.  Lead us and guide us into goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Help us to live each day as children of glory, seeing and rejoicing in the magnificence of your creation.  And give us the hope that as Christ shines on us, we children of light can shine with the goodness of your light and push away the darkness in our lives and in the world around us. 

We pray in the name of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Amen.   

Resources: 

Cohen, Zach C.  “First blind man to hike 2.100-mile Appalachian Trail,” The Washington Post, Sunday, March 16, 2014. 

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich.  Life Together.  Translated, and with an introduction by John W. Doberstein.  New York:  Harper and Row, Publishers, 1954. 

Lewis, C. S.  Mere Christianity.  New York:  McMillan Publishing Co., 1943.  First paperback edition, 1960. 

Smith, Martin L.  A Season for the Spirit:  Readings for the Days of Lent.  Cambridge, MA:  Cowley Publications, 1991.    

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