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    Jun 11, 2017

    CSI: Fire and Light (Through the Dark)

    Passage: Psalms 119:105

    Speaker: Michael E. Karunas

    Series: God

    Category: Faith

    Sermon Delivered at Central Christian Church June 11, 2017 Rev. Michael E. Karunas Text: Psalm 119:105; Exodus 13:17-22 CSI: Fire and Light (Through the Dark)

    CSI stands for Crime Scene Investigation, a popular TV show for the last decade or so.  On CSI, crime scene investigators solve mysteries.  They take ordinary, everyday evidence – that doesn’t initially seem very significant (like footprints and fibers) – and they prove it is in fact greatly significant.  They start with things that can be seen and use them to discover truths that can’t be seen – at least not by the natural eye.  Our new sermon series for the next 6 weeks is also called CSI.  But our CSI is “Christian Symbols Interpreted.”  Each week, we we’ll look at a Christian symbol that we see on a regular basis in worship at Central Christian and talk about what it means in a way that helps us experience God’s grace and love more fully. 

    I’d like to begin today by stating three (3) important things about symbols in general.  First, all symbols have multiple meanings.  Consider the American flag.  It can symbolize sacrifice on Memorial day, but also freedom on Independence Day.  Or resistance and rebellion on Independence day.  Or loyalty and courage on Memorial day.  You get the idea.  A symbol never has only one meaning.  Just because the flag represents freedom, doesn’t mean it can’t also signify resistance.  Now, in our sermon series, we will focus primarily on one way to interpret Christian symbols (primarily for the sake of time), but just because we emphasize one way of interpreting, doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do so.  Which leads us to the second truth about symbols.  They are, like art, subjective.  What you see in a piece of art might not be what I see, but it doesn’t mean either of us is wrong.  Symbols are not about being “wrong.”  Symbols are about using every-day, ordinary things to gain access to extra-ordinary things.  And that leads us to #3: Christian symbols give us access to God in ways that are not possible without the symbol. 

    Our first symbol is fire – and the light that comes from fire.  Where do we see fire and light in our religious life at Central Christian? (Think candlelight) On Christmas eve – when we light candles and sing Silent Night in a darkened sanctuary.  On All Saints Day – when we light candles in memory of lost loved ones.  At our 8 and 10:30 services, we see firelight carried by the acolytes into the sanctuary as we begin worship and out of the sanctuary as we end it. 

    One of the traditional meanings of light and fire is… God’s presence.  We light candles to remind us that God is here.  And whenever we really want to be reminded that God is here – on days like All Saints Day when we’re grieving - we light candles.  Another traditional meaning of fire and light is… hope.  The prophet Isaiah said “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  Light signifies the hope that the darkness will end.  And Jesus said (in JN 8:12) – “I am the light of the world” – reminding us that he is the embodiment of our hope. 

    But today we want to think of fire and light as signifying “Deliverance” – God’s power to lead us through something.  We have two scriptures today and our first is just one verse from Psalm 119.  Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the bible (176 verses).  It is longer than 25% of the entire Gospel of Mark and longer than the first 17 Psalms all put together.  So instead of reading the whole thing (you’re welcome), we’ll just focus on one important verse.   Read Psalm 119:105

    Psalm 119 was written by someone who had suffered.  We’re not sure why, or what kind of suffering they endured, but we know they’d been humbled in life.  And we also know that they never gave up on God.  Verse 107 of Psalm 119 says, “I am afflicted, but your Word gives me life.”  This person trusts in God especially when it didn’t seem that God was there or in control.  And the reason they have this trust in God is because of verse 105 – our verse today – God is a lamp that goes before us to give light to our path.  It gives us the power to make it through the dark. 

    Lamps in the ancient world were oil pots (made of clay or possibly metals, like copper or bronze) that you could hold in your hand.  They were the most common way of seeing after the sun went down.  And there’s a famous story Jesus told about these oil lamps.  10 bridesmaids were waiting at night, each with an oil lamp, for the groom to come and take them into his wedding banquet.  While they were waiting, 5 of the bridesmaids ran out of oil and their lamps went out.  While they were gone, retrieving more oil, the groom came.  But he couldn’t take them into the banquet because they weren’t there.  And one point of the story is that we have to be careful, because our oil can run out.  But Psalm 119 reminds us that God’s lamp never does.  God’s light is always there.  It is reliable.  And it is always prepared to lead us through the dark. 

    This is what we see in our second scripture today from the Old Testament book of Exodus.  The people of God had been held has slaves in Egypt for 450 years (this was about 1800 years before the time of Christ.  But God used a man named Moses to lead them out of slavery – and out of Egypt –toward a Promised Land (their new home).  Now, the most direct route to that promised land was ENE.  But this would have taken them through the land of the Philistines (a strong, warrior-based people.  This would have been dangerous.  So God led them in an ESE direction – a very round about way.  This was the lesser of two evils, but it was still difficult.  Because it led them directly into a wilderness; a desert.  And it’s easy to lose your bearings and sense of direction in the desert.  It’s easy to become lost; or discouraged in the desert.  It’s tempting to quit and give up in the desert.  And so this is what God did for the people as they journeyed.

    Read Exodus 13:17-22 

    God led the people with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  I don’t know what that looked like exactly.  (Here’s one artist’s rendition).  But the point is that God was reliable and never left them.  Even when it may have been darkest and the people loneliest, they were not lost or hopeless, because the fire and the light was a sign that God was there in the light; leading them forward by the light; guiding them through the dark with the light. 

    Light and fire signify that God is with us always.  Especially in the dark.  When life is hardest and most difficult; or loneliest; or scariest, God is there.  Now God’s presence with us in the dark may not make the darkness disappear.  And the journeys in that darkness, we will have to make.  Meaning, there will be periods of darkness we will face in life.  But God promises to be there; to make that journey with us; leading us and guiding us as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path; as a pillar of fire through the places and things that cause us to be the most scared, worried or anxious.

    So whenever you see candlelight – whenever you light candles – on Christmas eve or All Saints Day or any Sunday or in any worship setting – remember that it is a sign of God’s promise to lead you through your loneliness, your grief, your hopeful expectations that haven’t yet been realized, or through whatever else your darkness signifies for you.