Ephesians 3:2-12 “Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come”
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Do you want to know the best description someone could say about you? That you share God’s Word. The world may not feel that way, but when I think of all of my favorite people in the world, one of the first things I think about them is that they share Jesus. “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you.” (Ephesians 3:2). That right there is how I want to be remembered. I couldn’t care less if people forgot everything else about me. But if the brightness of God’s love that I get to share gets remembered, that would be awesome. Because I do have a message to share with you; and not just with you: it’s for the whole world. But the message doesn’t come from me. I have no part of it. It all comes from our Savior:
“Arise, shine, your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2) You see, Jesus is the bright light of all of ministry. Everything that we do here at Mount Calvary Evangelical Lutheran church and school is show the world Jesus’ mercy. Everything that you do as Christians is to glorify your Lord. Christians across the world find joy in making sure that Jesus is glorified and that his Word is proclaimed. We want all people to see the light that has come to break the darkness of this corrupt and fallen world. The one who saves all people from their sins. That’s our joy.
But the world doesn’t like that. They try to take God out of public places. It fights to get rid of artwork and symbols that remind us of our Lord. A world that wants to get rid of worship and to stop the Bible from being spoken in public places. We live in a world where Christians are still persecuted and imprisoned and killed. The world is doing it’s very best to stamp out the light of Christ. But is it working? Of course not! We won’t ever stop believing in God! Unfortunately research doesn’t show that. In fact there has been a steady decline in Christians who attend worship and even people who believe. According to a PEW research study done a little more than a year ago, there has been a 13% decrease of US adults who identify themselves as Christian in the past 11 years. I’m not sure about you, but those numbers sound pretty bad to me. But we also see it in our own lives. How often do you find yourself talking about God with the people in your life? And I’m talking about with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers. How often do our families make time for family devotions and reading the Bible together? Now I don’t want to get too personal: but how often do you think about Jesus on a regular day. How often is he at the forefront of your every thought, word, or action? We’re supposed to be bringing the great news of God to the world. But how often instead of being those who shout out: “Arise, shine, your light has come!” have we been instead content with just letting the world continue on it’s own sad and lost way. What do our failures mean for the world? What do they mean for us?
“Arise, shine, your light has come!” Brothers and Sisters in Christ, fellow weak and fallen sinners, I have great news for you. The light of Christ cannot be put out and his promise for you is fulfilled. Despite your sins and failures, God has a message for you. It’s the same message that Paul is talking about in our sermon text for today: “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you.” (Ephesians 3:2) I have been called to proclaim the peace that you have with God. To reveal that he has removed your sins. Jesus is the light that has taken away all of your darkness and fear. He is the light that the Jews desperately waited for, that the angels proclaimed, and that brought wise men from far away by the brightness of his coming.
And nothing can take away that light. The world will try. Look at Ahab and Jezebel who tried to kill all of the prophets of God. Elijah cried out to God in fear “They have killed all your prophets, I’m the last one left, and now they are after me!” But God calmed him down. He told Elijah that there were still 7,000 believers kept safe. King Herod wanted to destroy this newborn king of the Jews. When he heard that these Magi from east were looking for him he tried to trick them into showing him who the child was: “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “God and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:7-8) All Herod wanted to do was get rid of any competition. But who is Herod compared to God? This wasn’t the time for Jesus’ sacrifice. God warned the Magi and kept Jesus safe. The world has been trying get rid of Jesus for two thousand years, but still his Word is proclaimed. Still God works through his servants to bring his message to unbelievers and to reveal his love to the lost. The world is going to keep trying to frighten you and keep you from telling others about him. But we know where our strength comes from: “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12) We have freedom from our sins and confidence in the one who rescues. And so we share the gospel message with the world.
“Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you.” (Ephesians 3:2) I love Paul’s certainty here: “Surely you have heard!” It’s as if the message of God’s grace and Paul himself have this strong relationship. If you have heard about Paul, then you know what he’s going to talk about: God’s grace. But that’s not a bad thing! I would love it if that was the very first thing that people think of when they hear my name. “Pastor Bodden? Yeah! He always talks about God. Jim? Oh of course! He can’t stop sharing the message of God’s grace! Margaret? Yeah! Margaret! You know, whenever I see her the conversation eventually gets around to how awesome God is and how his mercy never ends!” Like bright beacons of light in this dark world. Messengers of God who always share his love. Who go to those who struggle and let them know that God is in control. Proclaimers of God’s truth who boldly go to the lost and wandering. Who let them know that God gives direction and purpose. We want the whole world to hear about this Savior that has been revealed to us. This message that we share doesn’t come from us. Just like Paul, we recognize our weakness. Our failures. And yet God has called you to share his Word: “Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given to me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:8) We know his boundless riches because he has shown to us that his love for us will never fail. He has revealed his mystery to us and says that we are coheirs and sharers in that Gospel ministry (Ephesians 3:6). To tell the whole world about God’s love: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:10-11)
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a great message to share with the world. It’s a world still lost in darkness and sins. It’s a world that wants nothing to do with the one who saves. But he has revealed himself to us in his Word. And his message is one we can’t hide. Jesus is the brightness that shatters the darkness and reveals his endless love and mercy. Let’s go to our neighbors, friends, and the strangers we meet. And together let’s proclaim that Jesus Christ has been born to rescue sinners. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3) Amen.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work with us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.