“One if by land, two if by sea”
By Rev. Tom Tuura
Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church
2021 Theme: "You are the Light of the World"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1860 poem, “Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride” published in the Atlantic in 1861, some sixty-five years after the famous “midnight ride” warning the colonists that the British are coming, tells the story of communication and strategy at the beginning of the war based upon a signal of light.
According to Wikipedia, it was mid April 1775 Revere had instructed the sexton of the old North Church, to send a signal by lantern to alert the colonists of the movements of the British troops. In what is well known today by the phrase “one if by land, two if by sea”, one lantern in the steeple would signal the land route while two lanterns would signal the route by sea.
So at this point in our nation, we see how light was used as a signal in the critical strategy of the formation of our very nation over a year before the declaration of independence in July of 1776. Shining the light required bravery, and critical information on which lives depended. The one who hung the light was a simple sexton for the church by the name of Robert Newman, a forgotten name, one of the millions of unnamed faithful light bearers in the battle for freedom and against darkness.
When the Lord laid this theme on my heart last December, I thought it would be a nice positive theme, to carry us into the future with a nice uplifting message. After our 150th anniversary--after Covid, we were ready for a nice positive theme. Let’s just slip the lever in gear, let out the clutch and ease on down the road. That’s what we all want. That was December. Now it’s July, I didn’t realize it would be what follows. In fact I was concerned how I could spend a sermon or two let alone a year thinking about being light of the world.
We are not called merely to hold a light, but to be a light. In order to be lights, you have to have an identity as a light. What I mean is a light is a specific thing, it is not a structural part like a steel beam, a 2x4 or nut and bolt, for example. In our world today, lights are essential. Not only are they beautiful, and decorative, as in our homes, and during holidays, they are critical as necessary tools for functioning in our world today. Their use in industry, travel and navigation are examples. What began as lights in the sky for marking time, on the fourth day of creation, (Gen. 1:14-18) is now the warning light notifying us of a message on our devices.
You can’t be lights of the world in the sense of Christ’s Words on the Sermon on the Mount, if you don’t want to be. The biggest reason we are not lights of the world, is we don’t want to be. Interestingly Jesus alludes to that in Matt. 5:15 saying, “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand”. This is the indictment, like I said, few are prepared to be this light, nor want to be.
Have you ever been in pitch darkness? I mean an environment where there are no lights whatsoever? I remember doing maintenance on steam pipes in the tunnels of our school. There was no electricity, and all I had was my little mini mag light. But it was enough in complete darkness. Lights are essential. A light stands out in the darkness. That’s when it’s most important. Perhaps one reason why we don’t appreciate the light is because we don’t see the danger of the darkness—thick, heavy black darkness.
Light is used by God, even as we mentioned over the children of Israel in the wilderness. Luther was nearly struck by lightning, a very interesting phenomenon, or coincidence which changed his course of life from an unknown, but probably wealthy comfortable lawyer, to a history changing reformer who didn’t collect a penny from all his writings.
This is the prayer of the Psalmist, “Oh send forth your light and your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.” Jesus continues with these two words “light” and “truth” as recorded in John 3:21, “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Do you find it interesting that light and truth go together? That’s why that discourse from our Lord in John chapter 3 is so important. It is interesting how according to this passage that men can love darkness. Our Lord even goes further to say that they hate the light. The reasons, “...because their deeds were evil” and as for the hatred of light “...lest his deeds should be exposed.” So its really very simple, even a child can understand these reasons.
We are commanded by our Lord to practice the truth, by coming into the light, allowing our deeds to be clearly seen.
Not just shining the light, or holding the light, but being the light in a dark world of woe and harm is what we are called to do.
Repeating the good advice from last month...
Here’s a good plan for fighting “muddy” temptations.
1) Admit using imperfection, unfinished-ness and messiness as an excuse. Call it what it is. You are not alone.
2) Seek out a trustworthy person to confide dark sins of weakness.
3) Bring sin into the light where it weakens. Sin dies in the light. Go ahead and make that awkward confession to trusted ears. Get used to awkward.
4) Real, physical change is a must. Flee temptation. (This is critical--the primary reason of continued failure). Follow Matthew 18:8 (quoted above) “If your hand or foot causes to sin, cut it off.” This is not literal amputation, but a real concrete effort. Make use of whatever tools, physically move, Break up! Drop friends, whatever is needed to be successful. Note: Jesus puts a limit on the action. Use only what change is necessary. A house fire only requires you to get out of the house, but you must get out—not just move to a room that is not on fire.
Speaking of fire, being a light is now possible. Obedience for the cleansed Christian feels great. Sure beats, wet muddy shoes. This whole discussion by the way, is what the Bible calls sanctification. And when future puddles sneak up, our Lord is glad to see you in the washtub scrub brush in hand. Shine on.
That’s my view from the Blackberry Patch Pulpit