Series: August 2021
Title: Arise Shine
Date: 10:45am Traditional Worship. 22 August, 2021
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Isaiah 60:1-5a, 19-22
Arise, Shine, for your light has come. God spoke these words through the prophet Isaiah to people going through a tough time … giving hope and a promise of a breaking new era. As we prepare to meet together as a church to make some important decision which will shape our mission and ministry, maybe these words can also speak to us about a new era, a dawn breaking in the midst of challenging times. Join us as we arise and shine!
I only wish to speak for a few minutes, and this is both a bit of a kids talk and a sermon in one. This talk has an interactive part to it – so if you would like to participate with me, you will need the candle or two that I asked you earlier to find. If you don’t have a candle – that’s fine, you can listen while I talk a little about God and Jesus and light.
In our bible reading today, God was speaking through the prophet Isaiah and said, “Arise, shine for your light had come.” These are great words at any time, but in the context of the Israelites – these were deeply powerful.
Isaiah is a book that was written during a difficult period in Hebrew history. But to understand how power this verse is we need to go start at the beginning. The very beginning.
Genesis chapter 1.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth but the earth was formless and darkness covered the waters. Then God said … [light match] let there be light … and there was light and it was good and God separated the light from the darkness. If you keep reading Genesis 1 we see that this light is not the sun or the moon but God is the light. David said the same in Psalm 27:1 when he wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear”.
Not only does the Old Testament affirm God is light but the light represents the presence of God. During the exodus and the journey to the promised land … do you know what went before Moses and the Israelites? A pillar of fire – a light representing that God was with them. When God gave instructions on what to put in tabernacle / temple, one of the most important pieces of religious furniture was the candle.
The candle (or to be more technical, the lamp stand) had seven arms and was to signify that God’s light guides us and is with us – in the good times and the dark times. And that when we draw close to God [bring second candle to the first candle] we find that the light of God is within us too.
Which brings us back to our bible reading for today – because the Israelites were in a tough time. It’s a long story but in short – they decided not walk in God’s light – to move away from the light of God … and had found that their lives had grown dark and cold. They had been taken from their Promised Land and were now in exile by the Rivers of Babylon – and things were looking pretty dark indeed.
But Isaiah came along with some hopeful words – was saying that every night has it’s morning. Yes, things were dark now but they needed to come back to God because God is light. “Arise, shine for your light had come.”
But Isaiah gave another promise about light. In Isaiah 9:2, 6 Isaiah wrote these familiar words…
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And this promise became true in Jesus because as Jesus himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12. Jesus – the light had come into the world. This light shines in the darkness and although it tries – the darkness can not overcome Jesus the light. (John 1:4)
And that is why we celebrate and repeat Isaiah’s words,
“Arise, shine for your light had come.”
But Jesus went a step further. Not only did Jesus say that he was the light of the world, Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 that … you are the light of the world. That we all are the light of the world. Just as Jesus shines in the darkness, we too are to shine this light of love in dark places too. We are to shine our light before others so that they can see and glorify God. (Matt 5:16)
But that’s a bit scary because we are too much like the Israelites and there are times when it feels like we have moved away from the light of God and our light goes out. So how can we be the light of the world? John in 1 John 1:5-7 gives us some simple advice. If we find ourselves in darkness, all we have to do is remember that God is light and … step into the light. Paul in Ephesians 5:8 encourages us to live as people of the light. The light that we can bring to the world is not our own, but is this life-giving love-drenched light that we receive from God.
So … I encourage all of us – the people of God here at Turramurra and surrounds – Arise Shine for the light has come.
But I also think that there is a message in this passage for us particularly on this day where we are holding this special congregational meeting. At this meeting we are being asked to make a decision that has huge implications for the life of our church. The calling of a second minister to Turramurra is not only a big financial commitment but it brings with it the potential to free up some time and space to allow us to re-engage with our community engagement and growth initiatives. This decision will allow us to shine our light as a lighthouse church even wider and brighter.
So if we loop back again to our Bible reading – arise, shine for your light has come. While we naturally think that Isaiah is talking about Jesus and the time when Jesus the light of the world will dispel the darkness forever, there is some evidence that Isaiah is also talking about the particular situation they were in – being stuck in exile in Babylon.
You see, this was not the first time that God’s people had found themselves stumbling in the darkness … and it would not be last time. It seems to be a bit of a pattern. And while Isaiah did speak of the promise of the eternal light … I think he was also speaking to the Israelites in exile about an emerging new era for them. That the dark night that they had struggled through was coming to an end. A new dawn was emerging and a the light of day will soon spill over them. Who knows how long this day would last but Isaiah was encouraging them to embrace this new opportunity, this new era.
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
I think that we as a church here in Turramurra might be in a similar place. As a church we have had a number of different cycles of great times and tough times, of eras where we have shone brightly and others were we have stumbled a little because of the dark. These last 18 months have been tough as the momentum that we were experiencing was damped by the dark cloud of COVID and lockdowns. And although I have been immensely proud of the way that we have adapted and cope with this time … I am wondering whether, like Isaiah, we are seeing the dawning of a new era. While we haven’t emerged from the darkness of COVID yet, we can see the evidence that a dawn is coming. With this meeting today, we are starting the preparation for a new era here at Turramurra, a new era where as a lighthouse church we can shine brightly within our community and region.
Can you see it?
Arise and Shine, TUC
Arise, shine. Let your light shine for all to see.
For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on us.
The Lord will be our everlasting light,
and our God will be our glory.
Let us walk in the light
And experience the warmth and joy and blessings
that come from the light
Look around at the signs of growth
We are the green shoots that God has planted.
We are the works of God’s hand
And through us God’s glory and life and love and light
Will be displayed.
The dawn is breaking. The light has come.
Are we ready to step into this new era that God is bringing?
Let us continue to embrace what it means for us to be a lighthouse church, a church that shines our light to all around. Arise, shine, for your light has come. Amen.