Light for the Nations Sermon - Summer SonShine #5
The Lord’s Future Reign
This is a vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2 In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of all—
the most important place on earth.
It will be raised above the other hills,
and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
3 People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
his word will go out from Jerusalem.
4 The Lord will mediate between nations
and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.
Revelation 21:1-2, 22-27; 22:1-5 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
SERMON “A Light to the Nations” August 4th , 2019 at Harbor Church
“No more night”
When visiting New York City, one of the first landmarks people want to see is the Statue of Liberty. Here is an interesting fact about that lady in the harbor. From that first day in the late 1800's when her light was first lit up, right up to that moment that the original torch was removed and placed in a museum in 1984, the lamp of liberty never went out, even in the daytime. Lady Liberty has always had her light shining. During World War II, all of New York City was under a blackout for security reasons, but they kept this little 60-watt light bulb glowing in liberty's torch. And the night all the lights went out in New York because of a power blackout, the light still stayed on because it's powered by electricity from across the river in New Jersey! As wave after wave of immigrants sailed into New York Harbor, they'd strain for a first look at that Statue, the symbol of the freedom , the promise of prosperity and hope that they had risked so much to find. And whenever they arrived, they saw the light of liberty. It was always, always on.
In both of our readings today, there is a future vision of a bright reality filled with hope and gladness. The light that is always, always on there emanates from the presence of the Lord God himself. Like the statue of Liberty and Ellis island, Isaiah says that “people from all over the world will stream there” But this heavenly light holds more promise than these American icons ever can or will. Here in the presence of the Lord, all the nations will finally find peace, God will be the great mediator, and the tools of war will be turned into tools for gardening. There will be no more darkness, no more night.
This is a word that we need to hear today, to be reminded of, because darkness still seems to abound:
Historians often quote these chilling lines from W. B. Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming,
" Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned ...."]
A war-weary world wants to believe the "blood-dimmed tide" has receded. But if the relative peace Americans currently enjoy tempt you to think global tranquility will descend like a spring rain in the new century, think again. America and a few other rich nations are oases in a global desert of poverty and conflict. World chaos remains a threat in the face of clear and present dangers.
Tensions are high with Iran once more as ships are detained or attacked in the Persian Gulf.
Millions of immigrants are displaced by regional conflicts.
Indonesia's fragile religious-ethnic fault lines have cracked open, threatening to plunge the world's largest Muslim nation into anarchy.
India barely contains its ethnic conflicts. Ditto for Pakistan, India's bitter enemy. Both have nuclear weapons.
North Korea still rattles its saber.
Territorial disputes threaten stability in and around The South China Sea
Up to 30 nations possess or are developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, according to U.S. defense reports. Meanwhile, rogue nations sell weapons technology to the highest bidder -- including freelance terrorists.
China, despite its vaunted economic progress, has millions of unemployed wandering the country in search of food and work. Tight news controls can't squelch reports of growing social unrest and violence.
Millions of Africans suffer staggering poverty and violence while living in anarchies that are "nations" in name only.
And closest to home in our own nation, we have had two more mass shooting in 24 hours.
Harvard's Samuel Huntington predicts the coming of a titanic "clash of civilizations" pitting people groups against each other. Sociologist Robert Kaplan warns of "unprecedented upheaval, brought on by scarce resources ... overpopulation, uncontrollable disease, brutal warfare, and the widespread collapse of nation-states and, indeed, of any semblance of government."
"Welcome," Kaplan says, "to the 21st century."
Such a potential future may sound bleak, but it isn't unprecedented. Hunger, disease and war are constants in human history but There's another historical constant as well: God reigns. "He is the God of history," writes John R. W. Stott. "History is not the random flow of events."
In the histories found in the Bible, in spite of wars, constant pressures -- even enslavement and captivity -- God enabled the Israel, his often-disobedient and reluctant priestly nation, to lift his name among the peoples of antiquity. The Canaanites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians all witnessed his power.
God used the Roman Empire, which savagely persecuted his children, to transmit the gospel throughout much of the known world. He used pagan, marauding Vikings to spread the Good News throughout northern Europe via the few Christian prisoners they didn't slaughter.
"The conquerors became conquered by the faith of their captives," observes missiologist Ralph Winter. "In God's eyes, their redemption must have been more important than the harrowing tragedy ... which fell upon God's own people whom he loved. After all, he had not even spared his own Son in order to redeem us!" In his time, Jesus faced the might of the Roman government and turned an ignominious death and apparent defeat into the promise of a resurrection and the hope of life eternal through a victory that overshadowed the cross.
Chaos may come, and violence rear its ugly head, but God is still redeeming His creation, turning adversity and hardship into opportunities and possibilities. This is what we must cling to in the face of uncertain times. This is the promise that we are reminded of in Scripture. And the promise that we read today is not only of a new heaven but a new earth as well. We don’t have to wait for the great hereafter for hope to be realized; we can begin to work towards it here and now.
Our readings today remind us of The way it’s “supposed to be” - of the original design of God for all of creation. The same divine presence that lit up the garden of Eden still shines in our world today. Indeed, the tree of Life from the original garden, mentioned in the very first book of the Bible is still around and mentioned in the very last book as well. Here we find the tree of life provides healing for the nations. We also find hints about what we can do as individuals and people groups, to pursue the peace and prosperity that God desires and intends for us all.
Worship. We will begin to move in better directions when people increasingly turn to and acknowledge the Lord. We people, the church of Jesus Christ, already know this. We know that
JESUS IS WHAT THE WORLD HAS BEEN SEEKING. That is the message we need to communicate to a world careening out of control. Look to the one who came to reveal the kingdom of God to all. We have an inkling of what life is all about. It is not about greed and lust and hatred and revenge. It is about concern for the least and the lowest. It is about simplicity and beauty and love. It is about nations beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. It is about lives of righteousness, harmony and peace.
Jack Jones was a Welsh coal miner's son. In his autobiography, UNFINISHED JOURNEY, he tells about a terrifying incident that occurred when he was a boy. He was in a mine shaft when something went wrong, and the men were obliged to find another way out.
They struggled through a labyrinth of old workings and a stagnant pond. Jack's father, one of the best miners and a devoted parent, took Jack on his back and led his fellow miners over dangerous ground.
In the foul air, the flames of their open lamps began to weaken. "Careful, son, you hold fast round Dad's neck," his father said as they reached the dark water. Slowly he was tracing his way through the murky water which was almost up to his chest.
Across the water, they started up a steep incline. "Won't be long now," he said. After they had climbed for some time, he stopped, knelt and pointed. "Look, son."
Jack saw what seemed to be a bright disc, about the size of a half dollar, on top of what appeared to be a distant mountain.
"That's what we've been looking for, son -- the light of the world. Come on!" And the light grew in size as they climbed their way to the world's surface.(1)
What a beautiful analogy of the world's situation today. Terrorism, religious violence, moral anarchy -- the list of concerns seems to go on forever. But it need not be that way. There is hope for this world. That hope is found in love for God and for our fellow human beings. We don't have to give in to the forces of darkness in this world.
And there is more:
Teaching. There is the humility that comes when we acknowledge God’s ways, when we turn to the Lord for instruction and insight into right living, in better ways to treat one another and the world in which we live. There is the meekness in asking God to show us the Right Paths to justice and equity for all.
There is the Mediation & Reconciliation that comes from God when we seek it. God has shown us how to be in a right relationship with Him and also with the whole created order. How to live in harmony with plants and animals, how to preserve the atmosphere that we breathe, and how to approach people from different cultures and ethnicities without rancor or prejudice. In our call to worship we described ourselves through the lens of the Bible’s words as a royal priesthood and a holy nation. As priests and priestesses of our faith, it is our responsibility to be in right relationships with all others, to demonstrate the love of God to all, even to those most strange and different from us. And it is up to us to be a holy nation as well; divine ambassadors of a holy kingdom that knows no national boundaries and doesn’t draw lines over which others may not cross.
Ploughshares Ministries in Simsbury Bob Evan’s spent much of his life traveling overseas teaching conflict resolution and mediation strategies to world leaders and heads of state. One person making a difference.
Another organization working in a similar way is called Mediators Beyond Borders International. (MBBI) works to bring mediation and peace skills to communities around the globe so that they can, in turn, build a more peaceable and peace “able” world. To this end, MBBI organizes initiatives to address three essential objectives: Capacity building, promoting mediation through advocacy, and delivering consultancy services. Here are some of their suggestions about what we can do:
Express yourself through Writing and creative media
- Write a blog about promoting peace
- Write articles for a newspaper/newsletters
- Post on social media promoting peace
- Write to your politician/representative
- And closest to home, lobby your legislators for sensible gun control laws based upon you own personal convictions and ideas for solutions.
- Create artwork or write a song with the theme of peace
Join in action groups
- Attend a peace rally
- Invite a peace speaker to your event, workplace, and/or community
- Visit museums and cultural centers in your city
- Volunteer with the Peace Corps
- Take interest in your city, attend council meetings
- Start a collection to donate to a charity
- Organize a community project or Participate in something like the Peace initiative events like we had on the island last Armistice Day
Pursue greater understanding of different cultures
- Study nonviolence, ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution), Conflict Management, Conflict Resolution, Peace studies
- Learn another language
- Make a personal commitment to nonviolence
- Attend a meditation or conflict resolution training
- Listen with the intent to understand
14.Read books about peace
- Say “I am sorry” and build bridges instead of walls
This is just a start, some ideas to help you consider what you believe Gos is personally calling you to do to promote peace in our world.
“it only takes a spark, to make a flame that’s growing,
And soon all those around will warm up to its glowing…”
People of God, we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation . By our faith in action, we can be a part of the Peace that God desires to spread around the world. Believe that Jesus is the light of the world, and we can be a light for the nations, amen.