The prophet carries us to the moments just before dawn. We hear the pronouncement that darkness covers the earth and a thick darkness covers the people. It is vivid picture of that moment when all is quiet, all are asleep. This is not a picture of rest and peace, but rather an image of a people who are spiritually asleep. One commentator used the image of people who had settled down in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth, back and forth, and going nowhere. Another claimed the image of people dozing in the backseat of the car, going wherever the driver choose, with no input or involvement. We do not have to look back over the centuries to see people of faith who seem to have lost their passion, their vision, and have slowly but surely drifted to sleep. You also feel it in a larger sense when you walk into churches who have become so comfortable sitting in their pews going through the motions and that they seem to be playing church rather than being church.
Isaiah calls out; “Arise! Wake up! Get up! Stand up! On your feet! While others are content to slumber in darkness, bask in the sunrise of God’s glory. Shine! Glow with God’s love! Let your little light shine! Don’t hide it under a bushel or let evil put it out. Shine! Glow with God’s love! Let your little light shine! While others are content to sleep in a dark as black as night, your place is in the bright light of God. If you will arise and shine an amazing thing will happen, the nations will notice and come to find out why."
The prophet’s call is important to hear because it is easier to stay still and do nothing. There are so many voices that will bless us to stay right where we are. It is easier to stay sleeping when rather than to rise and shine. You hear the voices of those who sleep. You hear it when people whisper; “we always done things a certain way around here.” You hear it when someone declares, “I don’t talk about my religion. I do not want to offend anyone.” You hear it when someone asks, “I believe what I believe, and they believe what they all believe, don’t all religions lead you to God?” You hear it tragically when someone utters, “I just don’t know what to believe, so I don’t really believe in anything.” Countless people are confused and have become content living in the darkness of doubt and disbelief. Our response of many Christians is equally tragic. Somehow it seems that many – too many –Christians have become embarrassed at the prospect that those around them might see that they are a person of faith. In their desire to be socially appropriate and politically correct, they choose to walk around silent and spiritually asleep rather than to radiate the love and grace born in their relationship with God and the pure and unadulterated glory of God. In their effort not to offend anyone they forget that their job is to shine! Their light has been hidden beneath the basket so long that it is extinguished from the lack air born in the wind of the Spirit.
We are not created to live in the darkness. We are created to shine! God is not a God that calls people to darkness, but calls us to live in the bright light of God’s glory and grace. I want to celebrate the many ways I watch people in this congregation shine every day. You are the church I always dreamed of and was never sure actually existed. You are a people who get up from the pew, roll up your sleeves, and go to work serving our community and reaching out to the world. You have opened the doors and opened your heart to refugees and immigrants from all over the world. Over the last six years you have been a part of the birth or development of Fusion/Convergence Church, the United Myanmar Baptist Church, Lai Baptist Church, the Cowboy Country Church in Chickasaw, Crosstown Church here in downtown, the Sudanese Christian Fellowship, and most recently Western Winds Cowboy Fellowship in Choctaw. You have also affirmed serving as the sponsoring congregation for the rebirth of the Korean First Baptist Church located in south OKC. When many moderate Baptist talk about good examples of a missional church, we are one of the examples they use. I celebrate the church we are and the church we are becoming. But, a place of challenge for us in the coming year is to respond to the edict to shine as a transformational witness to those walking in spiritual darkness in our community. We are called to shine so bright that those living in the dark of night might catch a glimpse of the sunrise of God great light. Isaiah tells us that when we arise and that we will become radiant – infused by the love and light of God – and that our hearts will throb and swell with joy as we share the light of God with others. When was the last time you felt radiant? Do you remember when your heart throbbed and swell with joy from God. This is what God intends for us. Let’s not settle for anything less.
In the second half of our focal passage we hear Isaiah make some amazing promises on behalf of God. He tells us that if God’s people awake and shine then God will do an amazing work in us and through us. The verses talk about sorrow giving way to God’s bright light of glory; of violence giving way to peace; of people finding a right relationship with God and grow in faith and faithfulness. Isaiah understood that when the people of God rise up and become a reflection of the light to God amazing things can and will happen. Things can change – people can change – when they get a glimpse of the glory of God reflected in our words and our way.
I love how this passage ends. The grand old prophet reminds them that it is not about them, but about who they are in and through God. He tells them that even the least of them will be like a thousand – a veritable parade – and that even the smallest will be like a might nation. He wanted them to know that when they lived in God’s glory and out of God’s power, God would multiply their efforts beyond their wildest imagination. I long for God to use this me this way! I long for God to use our church this way! We would turn our city upside down and the light of God would shatter the darkness of those walking in the black of night and those who we content existing as spiritual sleep walkers. God is already doing more in this place than I could have ever imagined. How about you? I wonder what God has in store for us – what God will do in us and through us if we are ready to arise and shine.
Let’s begin to pray today for those God will put on our path and in our lives this year.
Let’s begin to pray today that God will give us opportunities to shine into the spiritual darkness of that claims the lives of many in our community.
Let’s pray today that God will give us the words – and the courage – to be a people of light without apology when God gives us the opportunity to shine into the life of others.
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m going to let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? I’m going to let it shine, let is shine, let it shine…..” How about you?
[Picture from stardel.com]