We’re going to be looking at several texts this week.
First, let’s pray.
Sovereign LORD, Sure Foundation, Mighty Deliverer, Holy God - the names used for you throughout Scripture remind us again and again that you are our Creator God. We need a touch of your healing this morning. We need a word of encouragement. We need a word of comfort. We need something that reminds us of who You are, and who we are as your children. So we come to you this morning and invite you to speak - speak from your holy Word, speak words of hope and comfort to our hearts in turbulent times. Speak Lord, your servants are listening.
We ask this in Jesus Name, AMEN
I have to say, I love seeing you all, No matter what the weather, it’s always better when we’re together.
I’m sure you’ve noticed, but it’s getting darker earlier each day, and the sun seems to be taking its time rising in the mornings more and more. The truth is we’re in that time of year when the days get shorter, the mornings get brisker, and the nights get longer. For many this makes this pandemic even more difficult.
As we spend more time at home, we no doubt spend more time reading the paper, or listening to the news, or browsing the internet. There we see the news and talking heads tell us how awful it is, whose fault it is, that we should be angry and who we should be angry with, and the cycle repeats itself. We’re told of the horrors of a pandemic, protests, riots, fires, floods, hurricanes, elections, conspiracies, on and on and on, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, ad nauseum - That means ‘til your sick. And we’re all sick.
Some of you may be aware that I just returned from vacation that ended up being a staycation due to fires, and smoke, and power outages, and the list goes on. We’re all safe, and my home was not impacted. But I had good friends evacuated. I know some in our congregation had to relocate for their safety. It was not exactly a restful time.
It seems we don’t have to look very hard to feel overwhelmed by darkness - literally and figuratively.
That leads to the title of todays message: “Overwhelming Darkness.”
Now that is a real thing. It can feel so dark right now. In my conversations with people they’ve described feeling overwhelmed, closed in, like there’s a dark cloud that is hovering over them. Some have said that it feels oppressive, putting so many of us on edge. People go from seemingly calm to outraged in a flash.
Here’s a question we should all be asking one another - “How are you doing, really?” Not the superfluous, “Hey, how are you?” as we continue on our way. But the stopping, and asking, looking at the person’s face, and listening with our ears and our eyes. How are you? One of the greatest gifts we can ever give to another person is our full attentive presence.
So in pure honesty, since I have this opportunity to share, I’ll tell you that I too am feeling the sense of darkness. I too have felt the angry me stewing beneath the surface waiting to peak his head out. And I remember that anger is a secondary emotion. Ah yes, it’s a secondary emotion brought on by fear or pain.
I grieve for our sisters and brothers of darker shades of melanin who feel the weight of history and see it stacked against them. I don’t know what that’s like and I grieve that I will never fully understand. I hear from brothers and sisters in Christ struggling to make sense of all that has happened in just this year. They are hurting, they are grieving, they are angry and like so many I want to help, I want to fix it. And I can’t.
So that’s a bit of what I’ve been feeling as I return from vacation. As I’ve talked with friends and co-workers, and fellow Christians from around the country I know that many are feeling the same way. This may describe you as well.
And so I turn to the Scriptures, God’s Word to us that remind us again and again of not only the world’s need for our savior and ours as well; but it also reminds us again and again of God’s unfailing love, that God remains on the throne, that God is in control despite what we may see.
In writing his letter to the church at Ephesus Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Even as Christians we often forget about the spiritual realm that is all around us. Paul then encourages us:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
To stand firm. We all have those times when we feel overwhelmed. I shared with you of Joshua being handed the mantle of leadership from Moses a few weeks ago. Sometimes it’s our own spiritual highs and lows too. Remember Elijah? If you look at 1 Kings 18 & 19, you can read about Elijah taking on 450 prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel in chapter 18. He’s bold and confident and then you get to chapter 19 and he’s running from the very ones he defeated in fear.
What is the armor of God? Paul was speaking metaphorically, but armor all begins by fastening on a belt, and the first thing Paul mentions is the belt of truth.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
We remember Jesus proclaiming Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We remember him teaching if you are his disciples you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. We must come to Jesus first - it’s the foundation fo our armor.
To that belt, we fasten the breastplate of righteousness. Protecting our heart and our lungs where we breathe in the breath of God - life itself.
and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
The shoes are readiness given by the gospel of peace. Ours is not to be about arguments, but about sharing peace
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
The shield of faith - that can be a hard one at times. We remember we’re always on the continuum seeking to have faith, “Lord, I believe, help me with my unbelief.” God is good.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
A helmet to protect our head, - salvation. We are saved, have been saved and are being saved. God is with those who trust in Christ. And, finally we come to the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.
We are in a spiritual battle, and too often it feels like it is thrust upon us and we have no weapons - notice the weapon we’re given is God’s Word.
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
In the closing words of this passage we’re encouraged to pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication, keeping alert and praying.
I want you to take note that the title of this sermon, Overwhelming Darkness can be both something that keeps us down, and a call for us to action. 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us:
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
How many times in God’s Word are we told to Fear Not? More than any other command.
As a church we committed to examining ourselves as a Vital Congregation. We are a vital congregation in this community. We as sisters and brothers in Christ continue to seek to shine the light of Christ here in Milton, Edgewood, Fife, Tacoma, Federal Way, and throughout our region.
I shared with you about how we lost power at our home due to the fires on the Bonney Lake/Sumner grade. What has always fascinated me is how when there is so much darkness, just how much light one little candle gives to us. The truth is, when you see nothing but darkness that is when the light is most notable. It’s true in our daily lives as well.
So let’s make it a battle cry of sorts:
That is what we’re doing. How? Remembering the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. God has not left us, God is with us. Do you want to overwhelm darkness? Then let your light shine bright!
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Be encouraged, church!
This is the Word of God. AMEN