Amazing Grace

Let There be Light

‘but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.’

Ephesians 5:13-14

In the Epistle for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Ephesians 5:8-14, these verses pertain to acts of darkness. Paul is encouraging believers not to take any part in the ‘unfruitful works of darkness, but instead [to] expose them’ (verse 11). In his usual fashion, Paul is forthright, open, concealing nothing. Paul is, by his very nature, showing himself to be a child of the light. But while the verses quoted refer to the works of darkness being exposed, much about this week’s readings relates to things coming to light.

In the Light, our Hearts are Revealed

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In the Lesson, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Samuel is instructed by God to go and anoint one of the sons of Jesse. This is on the heels of yet another thing being brought to light: God’s rejection of Saul who had earlier been anointed and proclaimed king of the people. A bit of background here: Saul was the king against God’s counsel. The people had been insisting that they needed a king. God said they did not. They insisted and God instructed Samuel to anoint and appoint Saul king. For a while, Saul enjoyed victory in battle for God’s people, but then, his corrupt nature came to light and so, God rejected him as king. And so, here we are, at the beginning of the Lesson: God scolds Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel.’ (1 Samuel 16:1)

Now that this unfortunate thing had come to light, it was to be replaced by a good thing: the anointing of the new king – David. So, God sends Samuel to Jesse for it was among his sons that the new king would be found. And, yet another thing comes to the light for David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and the least likely, in the eyes of humans, to have been the one to be anointed. But, as the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ (1 Samuel 16:7). You see, Samuel, in seeing Jesse’s first son, Eliab, thought that Eliab was surely the chosen one. God brought to light what was on the inside of Eliab and made it known that he could not be anointed. And so, Samuel continued going through Jesse’s sons until all those whom Jesse had brought to the light had been rejected by God. Out of options (now on the seventh son), Samuel asks Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’. There was yet one whom Jesse had not brought to the light and that final one, the youngest, was David. When David was brought to the light, God’s light shone upon him and God instructed Samuel, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one’ (1 Samuel 16:12).

It is only in the Light that We See

Church of the Light, Japan

This story in the Lesson of our eyes being opened to see the truth, to see the light is a perfect set up for the Gospel, John 9:1-41, in which Jesus heals a man who had been born blind and who, through God’s amazing and healing grace, was made to see the light twice. Come again? ‘See the light twice’? What’s that supposed to mean? Friends, in this story, the amazing grace of God opened the man’s eyes not only to see the physical light of day, but also the Light of the World – Jesus. In John 9:7, we are told that Jesus instructed the man to go and wash himself in the pool of Siloam and when he came back, he was able to see. This was after Jesus had spat in the dirt, made a bit of mud and rubbed it on the man’s eyes. Later in the account, the man, who had now regained his physical sight, was driven out from the synagogue by the Pharisees who couldn’t tolerate his insistence that this Jesus had healed him and, on the Sabbath, no less. Having heard that the man had been driven out of the synagogue, Jesus went and found him. It was in this second encounter that the man’s spiritual eyes were opened. Jesus asks him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ (verse 35) The man replies, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him’ (verse 36). Jesus shining the light upon himself responds, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he’ (verse 37).

Amazing Grace

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Thus far, I’ve been talking about enlightenment, about revelation, things coming out of the dark and into the light. Am I mistaken in my opening invitation to you to come and receive the amazing grace? No, I’m not mistaken; I’m not misguided. Friends, without the amazing grace, you cannot be enlightened. Without the amazing grace, your eyes, be you physically blind or not, will be shut to the glory of God and you will remain in darkness. The hymn-writer, John Newton, in his ever-popular, Amazing Grace, writes: ‘[I] was blind, but now can see’. The entire second verse speaks of the role that grace played in his own coming to the light:

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.’

The third verse concludes:

‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.’

And, finally, in verse 4, he celebrates:

‘When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.’’

God’s Amazing Graces Brings us into the Light

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Friends, God’s amazing grace removes the veil that keeps us hidden from God’s light. God’s amazing grace removes the sin that separates us from God. God’s amazing grace opens our eyes to see the brilliant glory of the Lord.

On the Last Sunday after Epiphany (last Sunday before Lent), Transfiguration Sunday, we recounted the story of Peter, James and John who journeyed with Jesus up the high mountain where they were blessed to witness Jesus’ glory. At that time, I extended an invitation to you to allow that glory to shine the light upon your Lenten journey. Now, we are no longer receiving a witness’s account. No, now, we are being invited to step into the story and be a witness to the glory, to the light, ourselves. It is God’s amazing grace that opens the door, that removes the veil for us to join in the story.

How will you receive this invitation? Will you, like the Woman at the Well in last week’s Gospel, ask innocently and longingly, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water’? Or, will you, like the healed blind man, ask, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe’? Whatever your answer, friends, I pray that it will be ‘Yes’, for it is in that hour you open yourself up to receive the fullness of God’s grace. And, as we learn in our catechism, grace is God’s favour towards us, unearned and undeserved. It is by God’s grace that our sins are forgiven, our minds are enlightened, our hearts are stirred, and our wills are strengthened. Let me add, it is only by God’s amazing grace that we walk in purpose.

Until next time, I pray that by God’s amazing grace, you be kept in the love of the Father, the peace of the Son, and the joy of the Spirit.

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