Grace and peace to you from God Our Creator and from His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Have you ever experienced being engulfed in complete darkness, where there is no hope of light?
A couple of years ago, my family and I were in Louisville KY on a family vacation and we took the opportunity to visit the Mammoth Caves, which are known to be one of the largest cave systems in the world.
We took an introductory cave tour that lasted about 2 hours, and highlighted places
where the Native Americans utilized these caves for sacred ceremonies and burial places;
where an African American slave by the name of Stephen Bishop explored, pushing these caves secrets out into the open
and found many, many hidden wonders for future generations to explore.
Along this tour these cave paths were now illuminated with electric lamps and lights; as we finished our tour and were heading back towards the beginning of these caves, the lights everywhere suddenly went out…
And for a moment everyone was plunged into a primordial darkness-
A darkness that could not even be pierced with a shard of flickering light from a modern cell phone.
Perhaps this is the darkness experienced that Isaiah speaks about in our text this morning,
A darkness where a people could barely take steps forward
For fearing of stumbling or stepping into the abyss
An oppressive, thick weight where all a people could do is stand and flail their arms wildly
To be able to cling to a loved one for safety and security
Because that perhaps, is all that they had.
But what is this darkness?
What had the potential to stifle a people to where there was a name for their fear?
For these ancient people, the darkness was the sensation of abandonment by their Creator God
Replaced by the constant chaos that the state of war brings
Because those who had been charged to lead the people…were afraid….
Earlier in Isaiah we learn of Ahaz the king…who leaned on the faith in men
And not of God
Ahaz could not see the forgiving and faithful light of God revealing the loving and merciful path that God was clearing out for God’s People
He leaned on the fallible word of man
And not the infallible word of God
He carelessly reached out through the darkness and trusted the hand of the Assyrians, those who would become the people’s oppressors
How bitter and harsh must have this darkness tasted to these ancient people!
How fearful and forgotten must these ancient people felt for God to leave them existing, living in this darkness!
How many, many peoples of this world have felt the same exact empty feeling being discarded in that same darkness-
That for reasons beyond their understanding they have failed God and now they have fallen into this moment of despair as punishment for their unknown sins.
How those people of African descent, my ancestors
Torn from the light of their homeland
Removed from the presence of the Creator
To be absorbed in a darkness of exploitation and death
A darkness called Slavery
Where their voices were drowned in this murky darkness
Where each breath choked on the toxic air of this darkness
Where who they were, as children of God and therefore to these oppressors also were fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and in Faith
Their identity was subjected to the darkness
Somewhere in that darkness
A tiny shard of light struggled to pulsate
Somewhere deep within a people
A light blossomed as Hope and Faith
For these people, my ancestors somehow survived in this darkness
Felt the Light and Love of God
God was revealing hidden pathways to Freedom
Hidden in this darkness these people continued to cry out to the Creator God through their drumming and singing and
Through painful patience
That God’s Light would shine upon them
That the burdens they carried every waking moment
That the bar strapped across their shoulders
Of their oppressors would be shattered and broken!
What lingers in the darkness for us, my brothers and sisters in Christ?
What lingers in the darkness in our lives today that we as a faithful people cry out to God, Our Redeemer
To flood this hateful darkness with God’s Healing Eternal Light?
What rods are we asking God, Our Deliverer to break?
Because there is still darkness, beloved.
The darkness of homelessness, especially when we see youth on the streets tossed out because they made a wrong turn or dared to love the wrong gender
Of Joblessness, especially when people who are well educated and equipped are abandoned because they made a wrong decision, committed a forgivable sin and must be made an example
Of Selfishness, especially people misguided by the falsely shining light of greed refuse to open their hands, their homes, resources, this Creation that was given to us by God to be shared with others who are wavering on the fringes of our society, of this life
Of being Judgmental especially when people take the mantle of justice upon their own shoulders, and pass judgment on their fellow brothers and sisters because they cannot understand why people will not conform to their standards: of who to love, how to worship, how to vote and where they should live
Of Unrighteousness especially as it seeps in threating to pollute us when our own hearts are shuttered in darkness
Because we ourselves, are lost in the darkness of fear, intimidation, of negativity
You name it but it is THERE in the darkness
But there is GOOD NEWS!
Because this darkness only last for a moment
For as in Isaiah it says
“The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light.”
God did not abandoned God’s people in the darkness of the Assyrians and of war,
Because God “multiplied the nation, God has increased their joy”
These people who walked in darkness saw God’s Light
God did not forsake those children of Africa alone in the darkness
God’s Word was not limited, and neither was God’s Love
Isaiah reminds us
“These people who have lived in a land of darkness
On them Light has shined”
God has not and will never reject us, casting us off into the darkness
Because the blinding, healing, piercing, eternal LIGHT OF JESUS CHRIST
Our Savior calls out to us as we are lost in the darkness and says
“Come, Follow Me”
And that is GOOD NEWS!
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that God has heard our pleas, our cries, our sorrow, our pain
God knows how this world has imprisoned us and so God has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God’s Light and God’s Word into this world proclaim
For God’s reign
Is at hand.”
And when we step from being covered in the muckiness of how this life can weigh on our very being
And emerge renewed, refreshed, energized and empowered through the clear, light flooded waters of Baptism
Praising, singing, telling
We then can reach back into that darkness and pull out our sisters and brothers in Christ
Because the Light of Christ protects and surrounds us
Because Jesus Christ, the Light of the World calls out to all of us saying
“Come Follow Me…and I will make you fishers of people.”
Even during a power outage, or even with all of the lights off in this church, nothing could compare to the primal darkness that we experienced for a moment in those caves. Many others on the tour nervously laughed as the lights, in the moment they were extinguished, came back on.
As the tour reached the end, the warm rushing column of sunlight invaded the opening of the cave, shattering if only briefly the unseasonably coldness that spilled out from within and below. As light descended, for a moment I was reminded that even in the darkness that will surround us, the darkness that surrounds all of us as we are separated from this life…
God, Our Redeemer who hears our prayers will send His Son, Jesus Christ who removes the yoke of burden of this world
Who breaks the rod of death itself
Who will stretch out His Hands to us, piercing the darkness with the powerful Light of God
And say, with Love
“Come, Follow Me.”
Thanks Be To God.