Changing the Darkness to Light
“Changing the Darkness to Light”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Third Sunday of Epiphany
January 22, 2017
Readings: Amos 3:1-8, Psalm 139:1-12
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
We come to reflect on the love of God and His compassion. He will not give up on us, will not forsake us nor allow the enemy to gain victory over us.
We go back to the very beginning, when God created everything in perfection. Man didn’t struggle but dwelt securely in the perfection of God’s creation and His provision. In spite of this, man failed when he disobeyed God and in so doing, he handed over the perfection of God’s creation to the enemy. Thereafter, the enemy became the ruler of the world and perverted God’s perfect creation. The enemy’s character is evil, death his goal. God’s character is good and in His goodness, He gives life. Then God had enough; He would no longer allow the enemy to rule. He sent His Son; He gave Him up and the Son left His home in heaven with the Father so He could come and save mankind from the enemy. Jesus Christ had to be separated from the Father so He could become one of us and restore us to the Kingdom of God. God’s provision for man and all of creation is complete.
In Epiphany, we are made to understand that God is with us. This is the first thing we are taught in the calendar year. God will never leave us nor forsake us. We may reject His love, and many times we do this because of ignorance, but that won’t change His commitment to us. He gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us so we can be empowered to overcome anything that comes against us.
We see this in today’s Gospel. In the last two Sundays, we talked about the baptism of Jesus. When John saw Him coming to him, he proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This proclamation tells us that Jesus is the One who will bring us out of darkness and slavery. This utterance of John was from God Himself. The heavens opened up and God spoke, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased”. At that time, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and rested upon Jesus. Since then God has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell on all flesh.
For two Sundays, we read how John proclaimed that Jesus is the Lamb of God. This reminds us how God provided a lamb for Abraham’s offering, and in so doing, He delivered Isaac from death. In the Passover, the Israelites ate the lamb and this gave them strength for their flight out of Egypt; not one among them was feeble. These were proclamations of what Christ would come to do for mankind. He is the Lamb of God who gives life and strength to man.
In today’s lessons, we see that John had been taken into custody, imprisoned. We must understand that with God, everything happens for a reason. It was after John was imprisoned and beheaded that Christ began His public ministry – a proclamation that with Him, all things have become new. Jesus was telling the enemy that his dominion is over because He, the Christ, had come to set man free. When Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, he left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum. The people of Capernaum were living in darkness. They were without God who is the light. Jesus went there and settled in the “darkness”. When we’re living with our parents, there’s a temptation to be totally dependent on our father/parents. Christ left that temptation and went on His own. Up until this time, there’s no record that He did this.
Isaiah 9:1-4 “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them….” When Christ comes and wherever He is, darkness will flee. Sometimes when we struggle, we feel that everything is against us. But we should realize that God is always with us and for us, and therefore, nobody and nothing can be against us. “You shall multiply the nation; You shall increase their gladness…” When Christ comes into our hearts, His presence will remove our oppression and depression and replace them with joy and peace. “They will be glad in Your presence….” Because Christ now dwells in us, there should be such great rejoicing in our hearts that we don’t come into His presence with sadness and a heavy heart. We should come to church with great rejoicing and not with heaviness in our hearts. We come with joy and excitement because God has set us free. “They will be glad in Your presence as with gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor….”
In the Gospel, Christ left Nazareth to go into Capernaum where “the people were sitting in darkness”. He went into the darkness so He can pierce it and change the darkness to light. He did this for the people of Capernaum; He did this for us. He went into the darkness to conquer it and He did this for us. Today, we as His Church should change the darkness into light. The Church should be filled with evil people so we can bring them to the light. We’re here to heal, set people free and deliver them from oppression. This is the reason why Christ went into the darkness. This is now our responsibility – to bring the light of Christ to the world; to change darkness into light. We’re here to use what God has given us in behalf of others, to set them free.
From then on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. As He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He came upon Peter and his brother Andrew, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, all fishermen, and said to them, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”. He called them to follow Him; to do the things that He would do and live as He lived. This is the same call that He gives us today. He called and named us from our mother’s womb; gave us our responsibilities even while were still in the womb. Our names should reflect these responsibilities. This calling is a privilege that is not just for our benefit; we are called to make others experience this great love of God for man.
Matthew 5:23 “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” Galilee was a place of darkness, and Jesus went around that region, not only to teach and preach the good news, but also to heal every sickness and disease among the people. Sickness is not just physical; it can be sin, fear, a lack of understanding, and depression. This, too, is our responsibility – to bring healing to those who are sick and oppressed.
This is what God is teaching us at the beginning of the calendar year, and in the coming months, as we go through the calendar year, He will equip us to do His work. The enemy has no right to oppress us; to come into our hearts. That place is reserved for the Holy Spirit; we are God’s temple. Don’t make room for the enemy in your heart. We should leave no room in our lives for anyone but God. We must be what God created us to be. The world is hurting, crying out to know the love of God. This is our task. I told our priests that they should not preach what they haven’t experienced. I tell you the same today. Don’t preach about the love of God until you have experienced it; until you’re living it.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 tells us that there should be no division in the Church. We are only one Church. We are of Jesus Christ. He is the One who died for us; the One who leads us, and we follow Him. There is only one Church; it is not divided. We are one Body with many parts. We don’t have the whole truth, but the Church as one Body has it.
As we reflect on Epiphany, Christ wants us to understand that we are not alone. We don’t face the challenges of life alone. God is with us. He won’t fail us nor forsake us. This is the plan of God. He chose you and empowered you to bring this great news to the world. The day will come when we will stand before the Judgment seat of God. He won’t ask about our salvation because that is Christ’s work and He has accomplished it. The question that will be asked of us is what have we done with our salvation? Christ put His preaching to action – he healed and set people free. We should do the same.
God is with you! Walk in that truth with faith and you will have no need. Most of what we think as needs are actually desires. We will have no need because God supplies all of them. He will not fail us.