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Lent 4B Sermon
John 3: 14-21
11, 2018


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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

Okay, I don’t usually do this in my sermons, but I am going to ask for a show of hands this morning: who here likes Daylight Savings Time? Anybody? Notice I didn’t put my hand up. Losing an hour’s sleep this weekend with all of the other activities going on is not good. Studies show that tomorrow – the Monday after the spring ahead time change – will be the highest rated day for traffic accidents and the lowest rated day for efficiency at the workplace. It may not seem like much, but it takes us a while to catch up from this shift in our lives. It’s bad enough for us adults, but I remember when we had young kids – it was even worse. I have never understood why we do, “Daylight Savings Time!”

So, I did a little research this week. According to webexhibits.org the main purpose of DST is to make better use of daylight. What does that mean? We change our clocks going into the summer months to move an hour of our daylight from the early morning to the evening. If you look at the charts for sunrise and sunset times in Columbus, on the day with the longest amount of daylight, June 21, the sun will rise by 6:03 a.m. and will set at 9:04 a.m. If we did not set our clocks ahead, the sun would be up by 5:03 in the morning, and would set around 8:00 p.m. It seems like a waste to have it sunny while I am still in bed for another hour or so! And we would not be able to enjoy the evenings as long as we are able to without the light lasting as long as it does with DST.
I guess what I am saying is that when we get past the loss of an hour sleep, I kind of like the fact that we are using light in a better way with the time change. The light will be around longer during our waking hours than it would without the change, and I don’t know about you, but walking, driving and many other activities are so much nicer and safer in the daylight than they are at night.

Our Gospel lesson is set within a conversation that Jesus is having with one of the Pharisees named Nicodemus. The Pharisees have already begun to plot against Jesus, but Nicodemus likes what he hears and sees in Jesus. So under the cover of the night, he comes asking about eternal life. You may remember the beginning of their conversation when Jesus says you must be born again, and Nicodemus misunderstands him, thinking he has to re-enter his mother’s womb in a literal re-birth scenario. But Jesus is talking about a spiritual rebirth – being born from above or being born of the spirit, something we all have associated with Holy Baptism. As part of this conversation, Jesus shares a wonderful promise, that we have some to know as John 3:16 … the most famous single scripture verse in the Bible. Jesus makes the connection between the scene from Numbers 21 where Moses lifted up a serpent in the wilderness so that people who were bitten by fiery serpents might be healed, to the future scene where he will be lifted up on the cross. This is God’s way to heal and save the entire world, through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus goes on in this interaction to talk about light, which is why I wanted to talk about DST in the first place. According to Jesus the light has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than light because of their evil deeds. He goes on to say that light exposes the deeds of people, no matter if they are evil or done in God. That’s one use of light, to expose the truth about things around us.
As we have discussed the “I am” sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel, last week our topic was, “I am the light of the world.” We discussed how Jesus as light of the world exposes the truth about both human beings, and about God and God’s nature. About human beings, he exposes the truth that we are sinful people; given our own option, we would rather live in our sins rather than repent. We are unable to turn our lives around on our own. We need God’s power to repent. And the truth about God is that God is persistent in his love and mercy and grace for us. He is persistent to the point of giving his only begotten son so that all who believe in him will have eternal life. The light shows us that God’s preference is that the whole world enjoy the salvation that is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ. That is the heart of the gospel message of our Christian faith.
Many people look at the cross as a necessary evil in Jesus’ mission in the world – a dark place in his life. To be sure, it was a dark scene, but according to this passage it is just as holy as the empty tomb. As light of the world, Jesus exposes God’s ways in dealing with the powers of darkness on the cross just as much as in the resurrection. The light of Jesus shows us that God’s ways aren’t to come win with wrath and vengeance, slaughtering those whose deeds are evil. God’s ways are to show perfect sacrificial love to the world. God does this knowing that the powers of darkness will not have the final word, but that resurrection and new life will.

I like this imagery, and I like the way it lines up with the new season of DST that begins today. If the main purpose of this time change is to maximize the presence of daylight in our lives, we can say that the main purpose of Jesus as light of the world is to help us recognize the power of God in our lives – not only in the joyful moments of new life, but also in those times when people suffer and die because the power of evil appears to have won the day. The light keeps on shining, and rather than becoming lost in the despair of the cross, we can look with hope and expectation for God’s power for resurrection to come. With more and more light shining every day, we are reminded of the promise of eternal life for all who believe.

So, I hope you will endure this momentary loss of sleep with me as something to put up with for the gift of light that we can enjoy during our waking hours. Maybe you will have time for a quick nap this afternoon to help you recover. And I hope that you can see and believe in the cross as the way that God has shined his light into the dark places to expose them, and not to give creation over to them ... because as we turn the corner to the home stretch of Lent, we expect soon to celebrate the resurrection with rejoicing and praise. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.