Filled with Joy

Joy-Laugh

Psalm 126:1-3 “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

That the people of Israel returned to Zion from their 70-year captivity in Babylon is a fact of history. But it is so much more than just a cold, hard fact. Let me ask you a question. How many Hittites or Philistines have you ever met? I know the answer already. You have never met one. When their nations were invaded by enemies, they ceased to exist as a people. They completely lost their national identity. The same thing has happened over and over again as kings, dictators, and emperors have forced their relocation plans on the peoples they have defeated. Rarely do you hear of a nation that gets to go home. In all of history, I know of only one.

After 70 years, maybe even the Jews had resigned themselves to the fact that Babylon was now their home. After 70 years, all the old prophecies, the promises of a land to call their very own, may have seemed like little more than wishful thinking.

Then the Lord shook up the political scene in the Middle East. The balance of power shifted from Babylon to Persia. All of a sudden, a new king was telling the former citizens of Jerusalem they could go home. This meant more than the restoration of their earthly fortunes. Most of these people had done well for themselves in Babylon. But this was a great confirmation of their faith in the God of the Bible. This gave great assurance that someday God would send the promised Messiah.

Even the heathen nations had to acknowledge what had happened. “Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.” Worshipers of other gods had to admit that what had happened to Israel was more than luck. The Lord had done great things for them.

Can’t the same thing be said of us? In 1989 I served as vicar at Sola Fide Lutheran Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. I had the privilege of visiting the home of Hans and Hildegard shortly after the Berlin Wall had come down. This couple grew up in Berlin. They fled to the United States at the end of World War II. They had trouble putting their joy into words, though I assure you few teenagers get away with playing their music as loud as Hans and Hilde were playing Beethoven’s 9th symphony the day the wall came down. “Their tongues were filled with songs of joy.”

I have seen the joy of parents whose sons returned from service in the Middle East. I have sat at the bedsides of people who narrowly escaped death, experienced nearly miraculous recoveries, and witnessed their new found appreciation for God’s gift of life. The Lord has done great things for them.

Our problem is that such joy and appreciation for personal examples of God’s goodness are difficult to sustain. The glow quickly fades. Sometimes we let difficulties and sorrows overshadow the good things he does for us every day. Thankless creatures that we are, we even turn to blaming God. “Why don’t you make me feel better? Why are you holding out on me? Why aren’t you doing as much for me as you do for everybody else?”

In this regard, consider God’s greater deliverance in sending us his Son. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are facts of history. But they are so much more. Greater than the Passover, greater than marching through the Red Sea, greater than Israel’s return from Babylon, God sent his only Son into the world as a real human baby. He died, and rose again to atone for the sins of us all. This was more than help for an obscure tribe of people living in the Middle East. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” The Lord has done great things for us all.

Maybe this love of God doesn’t impress us more because we don’t stop to remember that Jesus also did this all for me. Jesus is my Savior. That is my God lying in the manger. If all the rest of the world had remained holy and perfect, and you or I were the only ones who had fallen into sin, there would still have been a Good Friday or Easter. The wonder of God’s love is that Jesus would still have come to save just you, or just me.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

Forgiveness Comes First

Jesus-Paralytic

Mark 2:3-5 “Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

Do you suppose these four men thought Jesus could help? They were willing to cut a hole in the roof of a home that did not belong to them. Would you have the audacity to take a chain saw and cut a hole in your neighbor’s roof just because he had a visitor you wanted to see?

Nor was getting through this roof as simple as taking a chain saw and cutting a hole. The flat roofs on the homes in Israel were used as upstairs patios for the family to spend time with each other. A layer of clay or mud mixed with straw lay on top of a layer of brushy wood laying on top of rafters. These men had to dig through a surface hard and thick enough to support a number of people, probably by hand, and create an opening long and wide enough to lower a person lying on a stretcher.

Do you suppose they had come to the right place for help? We all believe that Jesus is the person to go to for our needs. We can be thankful that getting to him is so much easier today. He is never more than a prayer away. There is no ceiling between us that we have to dig through. And we expect that he still has the power to heal us when we are sick, keep us safe when we are in danger, help us find work when we are unemployed, fix our fractured families, lift us out of our loneliness, or fulfill an endless list of perceived needs that preoccupy our thoughts by day and trouble our dreams by night.

But first things first. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” All that hard work to carry this man to Jesus, dig through the roof, and lower him into the room, and what did they get? Disappointment, or so we might think. We aren’t told how the four friends or the man on the mat reacted to Jesus’ words, but what they had come for was obvious, wasn’t it? Jesus was supposed to heal the man!

But Jesus sees the heart’s true need. It was common for people in Jesus’ day to assume that people who suffered in some terrible way were being punished by God. It’s not so different today. We hear preachers proclaiming that the reason you don’t have more money or aren’t cured of your cancer is your lack of faith. They imply he won’t help until you shape up and trust him more. Even Christians who should know better speculate about whether God is paying them back for past sins when tragedy strikes.

That is why, for Jesus, forgiveness comes first. Paralysis, blindness, unemployment, loneliness– none of these things ever damned anyone. But despair that God doesn’t love me is deadly to faith. Who can trust God when you don’t think he loves you? Jesus looked at the man lying in front of him. He saw the paralysis. But the Doctor of our souls also sees the heart, and whether this man was conscious of his greater spiritual need or not, Jesus was. Forgiveness came first. Before anything else, Jesus made this man sure God loved him.

Is our need any different? I know Jesus can help me with so many things I am concerned about in life. I know that he holds the answer to every question I can think to ask.

But I also know that what I need more than anything is not more advice on how to work Christian, or how to date Christian, or how to raise a family Christian, or how to vote Christian, or how to diet Christian. What I need more than anything is to know that God loves me. There is nothing that my heart longs more to hear than how much God loves me, how much he was willing to do to save me, how much he was willing to give to have me, how much he was willing to sacrifice to make me his own. There is nothing that so changes me as when Christ is held before me in all his grace, and mercy, and compassion, and forgiveness.

They have been telling me to stop sinning for as long as I can remember. It hasn’t stopped me yet (not that I didn’t need to hear that!). But nothing so changes my taste for sin, and fills me with the desire to live a life of love, as hearing about Jesus and his love for me. And his love always begins with forgiving my sins.

Great Expectations

Jesus Preaching Inside

Mark 2:1-2“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.”

Jesus’ words fill us with great expectations. These people had come to know that Jesus didn’t pontificate on pious platitudes like so many of their other teachers. Dining at his spiritual table wasn’t like eating bland comfort food– the spiritual equivalent of mashed potatoes and white bread and canned green beans. It was more like three-alarm chili or spicy Thai chicken. His message had a bite to it, a message that burned a little and made you sweat.

But Jesus’ words were real, they were true to life, and he always followed them up with something incredibly sweet and soothing to put out the fire. No one preached about sinful life, and no one preached about the height, and the depth, and the breadth of God’s love the way that he did.

That is why Jesus was preaching to a packed house in our text. Even his enemies came to hear the outrageous things (in their opinion) that came out of his mouth. Are we today losing our taste for the kinds of things that Jesus’ is serving in his word? Why is it that less than half of Christians go to worship each week? Why is Bible class such a hard sell, and even fewer Christians are willing to attend? Why are home devotions and family prayer conducted in less than 5% of Christian homes? Why aren’t we hounding Jesus like the people did in his day, never giving him a break, pressing close around his word all the time?

If it’s because the messengers have lost the guts to tell it like it is, and the passion to plum the depths of God’s grace, then shame on us. If God’s people have grown tired of being challenged, and are taking God’s grace for granted, and as uptight, dignified, middle class Americans don’t want to be seen as some sort of religious fanatics, then shame on you. If we have all begun to find the greatest story ever told boring and irrelevant, then God have mercy on us all.

What do you hope to find at church on Sunday morning when you do go? Maybe some of you go hoping to pick up a few helpful tidbits on how to manage your out-of-control life. Maybe you look to find a little inspiration, something to pick you up after a week of office politics, whiney kids, and home repair projects gone sour. Maybe you come for the people– for you, church fills the longing described in the theme song from the old TV series Cheers: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came, you want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same; You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

We can find all of that, I hope. But that is not where Sunday worship begins. Week after week the hymns, the Scripture lessons, the creeds, the sermon, and the Lord’s supper want to draw our attention to one thing: the incredible grace of God that spared no price, that stopped at no sacrifice, to bring us forgiveness for our sins.

So often, when we come to Jesus, we set our expectations too low. We want a little relief from earthly hardship. He wants to deliver us from earth and carry us to heaven. It is the promise of his love and grace that take us on that trip. It may not always be the first thing for which we ask, but it is the last thing we will ever need.

Never Die

Resurrection Scene

John 11:26 whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

If we understand Jesus’ words in the previous verse to be a promise of life after death, here we have a promise of life without death.

How do you define death? No pulse? No breath? No brain activity? The medical definition seems to keep on moving. Many people view death as something final, the end of our existence. The body stops functioning beyond the point of repair or revival. It decays. There is no person left with whom to communicate or relate. He is dead.

Do you remember the warning God gave Adam and Eve about the forbidden fruit before the first sin? “The day you eat of it, you will surely die.” But they don’t choke on the fruit and buy the farm. Adam lives another 930 years! Was God lying? Did he change his mind?

No. Spiritually, biblically speaking, death has more to do with our relationship to God. After the fall Adam and Eve’s trust in God turns to terror. Their confidence turns to shame. They don’t run to embrace him in love. They run to hide from him in fear. They even dare to blame him for their sin! Ever since, fear and shame and even blame have infected the lives of their children, leaving them dead in their trespasses and sins.

Faith in Jesus brings us unending life even now. “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Our pulses may stop and the monitors may register no brain activity anymore, but by forgiving our sins Jesus has given us a restored life with God that keeps right on going even after the body stops.

Remember poor Lazarus in the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus? His body dies, but angels come and they escort his soul to heaven. Remember Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross next to him? “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Those who live and believe in him have never lived closer to Christ than when they leave their bodies behind. Their souls rest in the peaceful country above where there is no death. All that is left for Jesus to do is to raise their bodies and gather them above.

That is no hoax. Nor is it a matter of mere curiosity, a story that amazes for a minute, and then we can go back to what we were thinking about before. Jesus IS the Resurrection, and he is our promise of life that never ends.

We Will Live

grave flag

John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”

We like to pretend that death doesn’t scare us very much. We bravely make out our living wills. We glibly talk about do-not-revive orders. Maybe it’s true that pain is even scarier than death to most of us.

But if we are okay with death, then why does the healthcare debate stir such passions? Why is healthcare so expensive, such a valuable commodity, in the first place? Why will we pump our bodies full of poisons, tolerate unrelenting nausea, and watch all our hair fall out to keep the cancer at bay and eke out a few extra months of life? Why do we never tire of adding safety devices and safety laws to our cars, homes, and communities? We have no choice but to tolerate death. We are fooling ourselves if we think we embrace it.

And we know that all the medicine in the world, all the safety devices we can invent, and the strictest laws we can pass will never abolish death. Eventually they all fail. None of them get at the root of the problem. But we don’t like to think about that.

That’s why we still need preaching that not only identifies sins, but also makes the consequences clear: “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.” “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink…”

This is why Jesus’ resurrection is not just a curiosity, a passing interest. Jesus was dead. The sinless Son of God lay motionless in a tomb. His was no near death experience. The diagnosis was not “mostly dead,” like the one Miracle Max gives to the hero Wesley in The Princess Bride. Jesus was utterly dead. Our sins killed him on the cross. He died for no offenses of his own. He made our sins his own, and then he died for them. For us he suffered the consequences. For us he removed the penalty. And having solved the problems of sin and death at the root, he took his life back again. He left the tomb a new man. He left sin and death nothing but faint ghosts of the enemies they once were.

That’s why Jesus says not only, “Look at me! I am alive again!” He also promises, “I am the resurrection and the life!” He is also our resurrection, a source of life after death to everyone who believes in him. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” Death may hold us longer than it held Jesus: about half a weekend. But even if thousands of years pass, in the end it is going to lose its grip on us just as it lost its grip on him. We will leave our tombs as new men and women. We will leave sin and death behind like old clothes we have shed and thrown away.

Then we will live. This is more than the ability to wake up, breathe, see, and move again. We will live as God had always intended in the first place. We will be more than a slightly improved version of ourselves before death and resurrection. C.S. Lewis illustrates: “God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better, but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game.”

You will be you, and I will be me, but transformed. In comparison what we have now can hardly be called life. Then we will live truly, because Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

Better than Treasures

King Tut

Hebrews 11:26 “He (Moses) regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”

What do we regard as treasure? One of my seminary professors pointed out that when we are willing to give something a major portion of our attention, time, money, and witness, and when we expect in return to find help, satisfaction, fulfillment, and a cause, we have discovered much more than a treasure. We have something that is threatening to become our god. Based upon the financial advice shows I hear on talk radio, based on the never-ending talk about the economy and the stock market on the news, we Americans still like the old-fashioned kind of treasure–money itself.

But treasure also takes more subtle forms in our lives: our families, which Jesus specifically warns are not to become more important to us than him; or hobbies, which easily dominate our attention, time, money, and witness in exchange for help, satisfaction, fulfillment, and a cause. Again, the danger is that by treasuring these things we elevate them to god-status in our lives.

What did Moses regard as treasure? Did you see the King Tut exhibit when it toured the United States? Maybe you have seen pictures. King Tut was not the richest of Egypt’s kings, nor was he the poorest. The stuff they buried him with is worth about $650 million. His tomb gives us some idea of the treasures of Egypt Moses might have enjoyed.

But Moses’ faith led him to give up those treasures for even greater riches: disgrace, insults, for the sake of Christ. It wasn’t the mean words Moses valued so highly. It was their association with Christ. Moses understood that mocking, insults, and disgrace from the enemies of God was one of the clearest signs that you were on the right track. Think about it: what would it say about you if drug lords, communist dictators, or terrorist masterminds could do nothing but sing your praises? One might wonder whose side you are on. If they insult you, that is probably to your credit.

Moses wanted to be on the side of Christ. He knew him only as the voice from a burning bush, and a promise of salvation handed down through the family from one generation to the next. We have faith in the Christ who already joined our human family on earth. We believe in the Christ who carried our sins to the cross, slowly suffered their consequences, and rose three days later to give us forgiveness and life. It’s the same Christ of course–Moses’ Christ and ours. We just know so much more about his love for us.

He is the Christ who tells us, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man…For that is how their fathers treated the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23). But “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Whose side are we on, anyway? We don’t need to antagonize those who don’t like or don’t care about our Jesus. But if living for him means letting go of some earthly treasure and bearing insults, that is a trade worth making.

Christ offers more than insults. Moses was “he was looking ahead to his reward.” A number of years ago a preacher reviewed the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection in his Easter sermon. He concluded that if he was a betting man, he would stake his life on it. But that makes it sound though there is a risk involved, though odds are favorable. God’s promise of eternal life is not a matter of favorable odds. Our reward in heaven is a guarantee.

That’s why Moses endured disgrace. That’s why Jesus’ apostles chose death by crucifixion, beheading, even being skinned alive rather than denying the Savior whose blood had bought them. I don’t know what Christ might ask us to suffer for him here. But faith puts future reward ahead of present pleasures, and knows that we possess the greater treasure.

Faith’s Choices

doors in line

Hebrews 11:24-25 “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”

Moses was living the dream if you lived in 1450 B.C. He lived in a palace. He was a respected member of the royal family. He had money and servants. He drove a sporty luxury chariot. But faith led him to make some different choices.

Moses’ dream life allowed him easy access to sin. Wealth and position always do. Royal courts have long been known for their sexual license. Moving in royal circles also has a way of creating the illusion that you are wise and important and worthy of your every desire. It is okay if you step on the little people. It is okay if you take what you want. It is okay if you think you are a god. After all, you’re you.

Like all sins, the sin of pride can only be enjoyed for a time. Eventually somebody or something sticks a needle in that overinflated ego and lets out the air, even if it is death that must come along to show you how important and godlike you aren’t. But it’s fun while it lasts.

You and I aren’t royalty, as such, but if there is a downside to our high standard of living, it is also the easy access to sin, isn’t it? Pornography can be had in private and for free on the internet. If teens want to risk destroying mind, body, and life with drugs, they have more disposable income and more disposable time than any young people in history. You don’t have to be royalty to live in the delusion that you are so wise and important and worthy that you are practically a god. It’s a 21st Century epidemic.

These were not the choices Moses made. His faith-informed choice was mistreatment along with the people of God over sin. You know the history. God’s people, the children of Israel, had been forced into slavery. The Egyptians found them repulsive because they were shepherds. Maybe they smelled too much for the refined and civilized Egyptians. They weren’t as good as native Egyptians, so forcing them to labor and treating them like they were nobodies, barely human, seemed appropriate.

This was the life Moses chose–not the privileges of the royal court with its access to sinful fun, but to be denied basic human rights by associating himself with a persecuted minority. What was he thinking?

By faith, Moses could see who the real royalty were. These people who smelled like the sheep they took care of, who came home at the end of the day caked in mud and dust from their brick-making jobs–these people happened to be the sons and daughters that the King of kings and Lord of lords had claimed for himself.

Of themselves they were no better than the Egyptians. They had a strong stubborn streak. They lacked anything like courage. They were given to whining and complaining. Their ancestors could be flaky, mean, and conniving.

But purely by his grace, these were the people God made his own. They heard and believed his promises. They lived by the forgiveness of their sins. They were keepers of an ancient secret about a Savior who would come to make their relationship with God right and give them life that never ends. That’s where Moses wanted to be.

Don’t misunderstand the author of Hebrews. Moses wasn’t choosing to be something God hadn’t already made him. Moses wasn’t choosing to come to faith in the true God. That had already been given to him. Now that he had faith, he had some choices to make. And with God’s help Moses’ choices were informed by faith.

I am writing to people who also have choices to make. You and I face those choices every day. I’m not talking about becoming believers. If you are reading this, God has likely given you that already. “By faith Moses…” made his choice. By faith, you can, too. You can stick with the people of God, the people who are forgiven, the people who know his grace. You can be the precious and dear child God has claimed for himself.

And then you can lose your job or be denied promotion because you won’t lie for your manager. You can sit alone in the school cafeteria because you wouldn’t back down on the truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven, or sex before marriage is wrong, or God created the world. You can make faith-informed choices and accept the mistreatment that comes when you refuse to sin.

But you are still one of God’s people, and nothing, not even royalty, can be better than that.

Seeing God

Jesus glasses

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Jesus Christ, the Lord of love, the Lord of life, the Lord of salvation, is the substance of Christian teaching. If you do not find that gospel ringing from the pulpit, find someplace else to worship. If your children do not have that gospel shining on them in their Sunday schools, find someplace else to send them.

Though it can involve hard work, when we let the substance of that gospel light shine on us and others, we have reason to trust in its success. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

God’s word contains unquestionable power. We need look no further for proof than the fact that we are able to read these words, or see anything at all. The light that fills your room, the light that emanates from your computer or phone screens, exists as the result of God’s Word. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” And God said. God speaks. It happens. The light shines out of darkness. Creation sings the success of God’s word.

God speaks again, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” And it happens. A new and greater light shines in our hearts, and we see in a new and greater way. Faith comes flooding in, and we know. We know what we are looking at when we are looking at Jesus. We have “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In the face of this man, who gave his life to free us from sin, we see our God. We see his glory. We see how much he loves us.

The success of this gospel can’t be proved by mere numbers, whether the positive figures on a balance sheet, the numbers in attendance at Sunday worship, the baptism count on a mission field, or the scores on a test of Bible knowledge. A changed heart isn’t always as evident as we might like even in a changed life. But something shines, something burns in a heart that wasn’t there before. A child of God knows Jesus, just as we have known him. In the light of his face, another soul has come to see and trust their God.

Let Them See!

Eyeglasses Exam

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Long before God gave Moses the 10 commandments, he wrote his law on mankind’s hearts. In many ways this understanding of God’s will becomes skewed, but all people have some ability to distinguish right from wrong, even if they choose not to follow it.

You can’t say the same thing about the gospel, the good news about what God has done to save us. The only way people can know that is if someone tells them. Paul once asked the questions, “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” And the answer, of course, is: “They can’t.”

But the veil over the gospel is more than this. It is not mere ignorance. It is an inborn inability to understand. It is a default setting in the human heart to reject God’s offer of free grace. We are preprogrammed by sin to find the extreme measures our Lord took to save us unbelievable. The veil over the gospel is so heavy that even within Christian churches it is difficult to maintain the truths of the gospel. Almost two decades ago a survey of one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world found that one third of its clergy don’t believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. If the Gospel is so veiled to those who claim the name Christian, little wonder that it is veiled to the rest of the world.

What happened? Paul explains, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” Don’t misunderstand. “The god of this age,” is not the God of Scripture. This is “god” with a little “g,” a god in name only. This is the chief of the fallen angels, the devil, who holds the majority of this world’s inhabitants under his spell.

He has blinded the minds of unbelievers by creating literally thousands of competing, false religions. Each has its own twist on “We make salvation the old fashioned way. We earn it.” The light of the gospel struggles to shine where faith, forgiveness, and heaven are turned into a “do-it-yourself” project.

He has blinded the minds of unbelievers by creating a class of people who believe themselves so enlightened, so educated, that they don’t need things like faith, forgiveness, or heaven anymore. They follow a sort of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” theology: “So be good for goodness sake.” Any concern for morality is nothing more than a concern for making our lives here as happy as they can be.

The god of this age spreads his blindness like a disease. It is catching. We should not assume that we are immune to the struggle. We need to bathe in the light of the Gospel ourselves, long and often. You know that people who don’t get enough sunlight develop a deficiency in vitamin D. That can lead to many other health problems. People who don’t get enough Gospel light develop a faith deficiency. That can lead to even more serious problems. In some cases, it is spiritually fatal.

In order to let that gospel light shine, it is vital that we understand its substance. Paul has also described that here. It is “…the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The most important thing about Christ, his true glory, is not found in the power by which he controls the weather, heals diseases, and feeds the thousands. It is the gospel, the story of Jesus’ self-sacrificing love to save us.

Just days before Jesus went to the cross, he told his disciples, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds…Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” And John comments, “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die” (John 12:23-24, 31-33).

Crucifixion and death don’t look very glorious, but Jesus’ saving work is his true glory.  That is the substance of the gospel, the light that needs to shine from the Church’s pulpits and classrooms. Let the people see!