Brandishing Weapons of Light – May the Force Be With You!
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
September 10, 2017
Scriptures: Matthew 18:15-20 CEB and Romans 13:8-14 CEB
We live in a world that can be more than a little scary. We often seek to arm ourselves against things, prepare ourselves for storms, floods, the loss of clean water, electricity, or to protect ourselves and our family from violence and loss. I’m not here to say that anyone shouldn’t. Recent weather-related occurrences both here and around the globe have shown us how vulnerable we are. Recent test missiles and bombs are making us all nervous. Scenes of looting after devastation remind us that we are not as secure as we may have thought; in a crisis, it seems that it’s every person for themselves.
Fortunately, there are millions of other people who would give rather than take in an aftermath. There are those who care, even though they have never met. There are those who would give, rather than kill to protect property. There are those who see the world as precious and creation worth protecting. They choose to live differently.
This is not to say that they don’t arm themselves and prepare for rainy days. They just live out of a different motivation – love of God and love of neighbor over love of things and money.
Our hope is that love of God takes precedent. When God in Christ Jesus is first in our hearts our motivation to honor, glorify and serve changes. It focuses our actions. When living in the light of God’s love, grace and forgiveness seem more available than when we are simply trying to follow the rules. Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore it fulfills God’s law.
Life is precious and sometimes fleeting. To treasure one another is our task – both friend and stranger.
The storms of life seem to keep rolling in. Danger and illness catch us and attempt to hold us. What weapons we have at our disposal can make all the difference. Having faith in God power – greater than any human power, gives us strength to face the day, to weather the storm – even if it means fleeing to shelter.
Our denomination’s website helps us understand these tragedies and tells us this about what John Wesley understood about the storms of life:
When tragedy strikes, it is common for us to ask why. We turn to our faith for answers, but answers don’t come easily. We wrestle with making sense of the suffering we witness, in light of our Christian faith. Questions are left unanswered. The tragedy is not explained.
In a sermon titled “The Promise of Understanding,” John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, says we may never know. He writes,
“[W]e cannot say why God suffered evil to have a place in his creation; why he, who is so infinitely good himself, who made all things ‘very good,’ and who rejoices in the good of all his creatures, permitted what is so entirely contrary to his own nature, and so destructive of his noblest works. ‘Why are sin and its attendant pain in the world?’ has been a question ever since the world began; and the world will probably end before human understandings have answered it with any certainty” (section 2.1).
The short answer is: We do not know why natural disasters and other suffering are part of our world.
Did God do this?
While Wesley admits we cannot know the complete answer, he clearly states that suffering does not come from God. God is “infinitely good,” Wesley writes, “made all things good,” and “rejoices in the good of all his creatures.”
Our good God does not send suffering. According to Wesley, it is “entirely contrary to [God’s] own nature, and so destructive of his noblest works.” Suffering is not punishment for sin or a judgment from God. We suffer, and the world suffers, because we are human and part of a system of processes and a physical environment where things go wrong.
God with us
“[God] hath expressly declared, that as his ‘eyes are over all the earth’ [see ], so he ‘is loving to every man, and his mercy is over all his works’ . Consequently, he is concerned every moment for what befalls every creature upon earth; and more especially for everything that befalls any of the children of men. It is hard, indeed, to comprehend this; nay, it is hard to believe it, considering the complicated wickedness, and the complicated misery, which we see on every side. But believe it we must” (paragraph 13).
This is good news. While we cannot fully comprehend the why, we know that God is with those who suffer. Note that Wesley says God cares for “every creature.” We are never alone in our suffering.
In our experience, we know that tragedies happen to Christians and non-Christians alike. As Jesus said, “[God] makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). The good news we proclaim is that God is with us through it all.
So what are the weapons of light? Hope is a powerful weapon in the face of fear and despair. Using our imaginations for good and creatively adapting to our situation is lifegiving.
Love that knows no boundaries gives us the motivation to keep reaching out, keep offering help and grace and forgiveness. The simplest act can be exactly what is needed in the moment. Nothing is inconsequential.
Faith is the key to unleashing the power that can move mountains. These three together are unstoppable. All are gifts from our Creator and Sustainer who walks the journey with us, always and all ways.
As we watch reports of the hurricanes, we may feel helpless, but we are not. We can pray and we can give. As we watch people we love laying in hospital beds, we can pray and be present with them. No one is ever alone and sometimes God needs us to be that physical presence of God’s love. We can stand together for those who are left vulnerable, raising our voices together on their behalf, sharing and caring.
May God have mercy on us all and arm us with the weapons of light – the light of Christ so that we are ever ready for what comes next – unafraid, trusting on God, filled with hope and love for all. Amen.