SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
2nd SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
JANUARY 20, 2019
Title: “The Church: God’s Lampstand”
“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: This seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20
Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:16-20.
Our passage under consideration begins with a word which is used in a special way throughout the New Testament. The Bible speaks of the word mystery as of the seven stars and of the seven golden lampstand. The seven lampstand stands for the seven churches. One of the great titles of Christians is that they are the light of the word (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2;15). It is important for us to understand that the churches are not the light, but Jesus is the light. The churches are the vessels within which the light shines. The light of the churches comes from Christ. Reading Revelation is a difficult job.
We would go far astray in attempting to interpret the book of Revelation if we ignored the fact that the writers uses apocalyptic language to convey the great truths about the Lord Jesus Christ’s future work in the world. John uses “sign language” to describe events revealed to him by Christ that were beyond the imagination of the people of his day. Apocalyptic literature was often used by scriptural writers during times of great international stress. This was certainly the case when the Revelation was given to John. The early Christians were under persecution, and John was in exile on the isle of Patmos because of his faith. With eager longing he looked across to the mainland, where the churches were experiencing severe attack by forces of darkness. It is not incidental that his vision of the exalted Christ described in chapter 1 contains the image of the seven churches as seven lampstands with the triumphant Christ walking in the midst of them. The churches are described as precious, beautiful lampstands lifting up the light and dispelling the darkness.
The first thing we glean from this passage of Scriptures is the world is filled with darkness. Darkness is used many times in the Bible to depict many different situations. Darkness is a metaphor for such things as ignorance, failure, confusion, despair, loneliness, fear, disappointment, and death. Even in a world where knowledge is doubling about every five years, people still remain in tragic darkness. They continue to ask, “Where did i come from?” What is the real purpose for my being?” “What is to be my ultimate destiny?” Apart from divine revelation in the world, these questions cannot be answered. An attempt can be made however.
Jesus Christ came as the light of God into the world to dispel darkness. The prophet Isaiah had said of the time when the Christ would be born, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Matt. 4:16; cf. Isaiah 9:2 NIV). And it was by the light of a heavenly star that the wise men found the Christ child (Matthew 2:2). When Jesus was dedicated at the temple, Simeon proclaimed that the Christ has come as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to [God’s] people Israel” (Luke 2:32 RSV) John said of Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5 RSV).
It was not accident, with this prophetic background, that Jesus later declared, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 RSV). As God has led the children of Israel through the wilderness by a pillar of fire, so Jesus Christ came to lead people by means of divine light.
Jesus came to disperse the darkness about God and humanity, life and eternity. First Christ came to cause the darkness that beclouds the souls of people to disappear. He continues to light the way by providing guidance and answers for people who trust him. The light of the world comes silently like the sun each day. The Light of the World shines continuously like the sun century after century. The Light of the World comes in grace rather than on the basis of human merit just as the sun comes up graciously every day. The Light of the World comes powerfully like the sun to bring life, love, hope, and beauty.
Secondly, Christ came that those who dwell in spiritual death and darkness might have eternal life. This is to be found in Jesus Christ and in him alone (1 John 5:11-12).
Thirdly, Christ came as the Light of the World to reveal the way to abundant life. A full life is not found through going one’s own way or pursuing material gain; it is found only through Jesus Christ. People do not find real life by simply eating earthly bread. They find it as they take into their innermost beings the Bread of Life, “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This spiritual nourishment will provide them with all they need for abundant living. Having brought forth light into darkness, there is a need for the medium through which that light will be dispense. The church is the medium through which the light will be dispense.
Each church, like a beautiful lampstand, is to be a dispenser of the light that gives life to those who will respond to Jesus Christ. Within each church are individual Christians and congregations who are reflectors of the divine light.
Individual Christians and congregations are to serve the same function for Jesus as the moon serve as a reflector of sunlight. The sun is a tremendous source of heat and light while the moon is cold and frigid. Nevertheless, the moon does serve as a reflector of the sun’s light, providing illumination to those who live on the earth’s surface.
We are to reflect the unsetting light of Jesus Christ as he reveals the way to God and to abundant life. We are to reflect the unsetting light of Jesus Christ. Somewhere on the face of the earth at all times at all times the moon is reflecting the light of the sun.
We are to reflect the all-sufficient light of Jesus Christ, for he is sufficient to meet the deepest needs of all. We are to reflect the essential light of Jesus Christ, without which people dwell in darkness and death. We are to let Christ live in us in such a way as to constantly send forth the light of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Everywhere we see digital signs that convey a continuous series of messages. In a sense, this is a picture of what each church should be in its community. The light that shines forth must come from the love of Jesus Christ within us. And our individual lights will blend with the lights of others with whom we worship, work, fellowship, and minister. God wants us to send forth a radiant, cheering, helpful, benevolent, revealing light into the darkness of the world. You are God’s lampstand. Let it shine! Let it shine!