Third Sunday Of Lent: Night Lights in a Dark World
A well-known author tells a fictional story in one of his books of a bunch of candles that were in a storage closet. One night, there was an electrical storm, and the electricity in the house went out.
So the husband went to the candles to get them to provide light during the darkness, but the candles—which could talk—all had excuses for why they couldn’t leave the closet, or why they couldn’t give off light.
One said that it needed more preparation. He didn’t want to make mistakes when he finally was sent to light a room, and so it was studying to be the best candle it could be. He said he was in a great study on wind resistance, had just listened to a tape series on wick build-up and conservation and was getting ready to read a best-selling book on flame display called Waxing Eloquently.
The second candle claimed to be busy meditating. He said that he was meditating on the importance of light and that he couldn’t be disturbed because it was so…enlightening.
A third claimed that he wasn’t stable enough and had to get his life together before he tried to light any rooms. He said his main problem was that he had a short temper and people thought he was a hothead.
The fourth candle was a female, and said that while she would like to help, lighting the darkness wasn’t really her gift. She was a singer, and her responsibility was to encourage the other candles so they would go out and light the darkness. To reveal her gift, she immediately launched into a beautiful rendition of “This little light of mine.”
All the other candles began to sing as well, and nothing the owner could do would make them stop.
When the husband asked his wife where she had picked up the candles, she said, “Oh, they’re church candles.”
Candles that won’t shine. What a tragedy. I wonder if that is how God sometimes views us?
We should be like the advertisements for a certain hotel chain telling us that they’ll leave a light on for us.
Christians are supposed to be like that. Always allowing our light to shine—to be seen by those in darkness. To provide light for those in the storm. To be a lighthouse for those who need to see the way safely to shore.
But too often we cover our lights, or let them burn out, or simply refuse to be light.
More tragically still, rather than contribute to the light, rather than showing people the way to God, we sometimes join in the deeds of darkness.
We tend to pick and choose when we want our light to shine and when we don’t. We want it to shine at church, but not at work. We want it to shine in the Scripture study at our parishes, but not at the neighborhood picnic. We want it to shine when we sing along to the radio in our car, but not when somebody cuts us off while we are driving.
But imagine for a moment, what would happen in other areas of our lives if we decided that sometimes we wanted the light to shine and other times not.
Imagine what would happen on the highways if sometimes people drove at night with their lights on, and other times they didn’t.
Imagine what would happen if the runway manager at an airport decided to turn the runway lights off for a few hours every night when planes were trying to land.
Imagine how hard it would be to get around your house, if some rooms were lit, but others were not.
If we lived these ways, our lives would be full of terrible disasters. But that is how some of us live our Christian lives. That is how some of us treat the light of the truth that we are each responsible for.
We think we can turn it on and off and not suffer the consequences, but we are wrong. Anytime a light is supposed to be shining but it is not, disaster results.
Which is what Paul tells us in Ephesians 5. In this section of Ephesians, Paul is explaining how to imitate God our Father.
In our epistle reading, coming from Ephesians 5:1-6, we saw that since God is love, we need to walk in love. Christ is the perfect picture of love, and the world is the perfect perversion of love. We need to love as Christ loves, not as the world loves.
In Ephesians 5:7-14, Paul discusses the next characteristic of God we need to imitate. We are to imitate God by walking in the light.
(Ephesians 5:7-14) Be ye not therefore partakers with them. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth; Proving what is well pleasing to God: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light. Wherefore he saith: Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee.
Let’s begin with Ephesians 5:7.
Walk in the Light
(Ephesians 5:7) Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Paul is again pointing us back to what he has just said. In Ephesians 5:1-6, he has talked about fornicators, unclean people, covetous men and those who deceive others with empty words.
And now, in transition, Paul tells us to not be partakers with them. In other words, do not share with them in their actions. Do not participate with them.
Willem Hessels van Estius, an eminent Roman Catholic theologian in the 1500's said it this way, “Do not imitate their wickedness.”
In the words of Saint John Chrysostum, “Do not run back into your former wickedness, nor do despite to the grace of God.”
Saint Paul is saying that in regard to the sinful ways of the world, don’t join with them. Be a friend to those in the world, but don’t befriend their sin.
The word here for partakers is the Greek word summetochoi, (soom-met'-okh-os) and it means to partner with or to be a companion with someone.
One of the reasons we should not partner with the world in its sin, is because as Christians we are already partners with Christ. Throughout Scripture, this word is used to describe Christians as partners with Christ. As Christians, we share in the responsibility and reward that is due Christ.
So if, as partners with Christ, we decide to partner with the world in its sinful behavior, we have betrayed our partnership with Christ.
Here in Ephesians 5:7, Paul calls us to not join with the world in its false forms of love, which we saw in Ephesians 5:1-6, and now in Ephesians 5:8-14, he calls us to not partner with the world in its deeds of darkness.
For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light. (Ephesians 5:8)
Darkness is the way we once used to walk. Darkness is how to describe our lives before we were Christians. Futile. Empty. Devoid of meaning and significance.
In the words of Saint Jerome, “Those who receive salvation—the righteous—are “the light of the world.” Those who refuse, the unrighteous, are in consequence called darkness…. The difference and distance between one and the other is clearly seen by their own fruits.”
And again Saint John Chrysostom says, “Not...by your own virtue, but through the grace of God has this accrued to you. That is to say, you also were sometime worthy of the same punishments, but now are so no more.
Walk therefore as children of light.
In Ephesians 2, Paul describes it as a walk that was according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. We conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh and of the mind.
But now you are light in the Lord.
Just as God said into the darkness, “Let there be light” so He has also brought light to the dark lives which we once lead.
And not only has His light shined upon our lives—for it shines upon all those who are still alive—but we have personally been transformed into light as well. The text says, you are light.
We once were darkness, but now we are light. Once we were sinners, now we are saints in the making.
Therefore, at the end of Ephesians 5:8, we should walk as children of light. As children of God, we should walk in love as God is love—that is what we saw in Ephesians 5:1-6. Now, also since God is light, we should walk as children of light as we try to imitate God.
Having told us to walk in the light, Paul wants to shed some light on the subject, and so he tells us what light looks like in Ephesians 5:9.
The Appearance of Light (Ephesians 5:9)
“For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth” Ephesians 5:9.
Children of light live in such a way that it reveals goodness, justice and truth.
We all know what these words mean and I would even venture to say that we all know whether we are living according to these words or not. So nothing much needs to be said about them except that goodness and justice are the exact opposite of fornication, uncleanness and covetousness mentioned in Ephesians 5:3 and truth is the exact opposite of the deception mentioned in Ephesians 5:6.
These words are also further ways to describe the character of God who is light.
So, if we are going to live as children of light, we need to live like the God who is light. Since He lives in goodness, justice and truth, so must we.