God's Word: Showing Us The Way - Psalm 119:105-112
How many of you have ever tried to walk across the room in the dark? It could be a room we’re very familiar with and think we can do it without a problem. How does that usually work out for you? A stumped toe? A busted shin? A bruised waist? A broken bone? All possibilities if we try to navigate a space without turning on the light—running into things we cannot see because we do not know the safe path through the room. I’ve done that very thing many times in the fellowship hall just down the hallway, as I try to leave at night to go to the parsonage. For some reason there is a light switch at the hallway door, but not by the door on the far wall where I go out to get home. If the fellowship hall is empty, it’s no problem. If it has been set up the same way for weeks or months, it is not a problem. However, if it has been rearranged for some special event, then on more than one occasion where I have tried to navigate in the dark, I have run into tables and chairs. Again, that is with a room that is somewhat familiar. How many of you would try to walk through a room you’ve never been in before without turning on a light of some sort? Most of us would at least turn on a flashlight, or maybe use our cell phones (as I have in the past) as a light source, if there was no light in the room itself. To walk into an unknown room blindly is to risk not only bruises and breaks, but to put one’s life in peril, an unknown room in the dark could contain anything from broken or missing flooring, traps, or someone lying in wait to get us.
Each day of our lives is like walking into a dark room. Every decision we make is like taking a step into a dark room. Many days of we are walking into familiar rooms—day to day activities that we could almost navigate in the dark. Getting up, having breakfast, brushing teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed, going to school, work, the grocery store, or church, having lunch, going back about our daily tasks, heading home, having supper, doing a little more work or spending time with family or kicking back with a book or a television program and relaxing before having that late night bowl of ice cream and heading to bed. Day in day out that is our routine, and like a room always set the same, like I said, we feel like we could make our way through it without turning on the light. However, sometimes someone rearranges the room. A knock at the door, an old friend has come by asking for help. The phone rings, the doctor’s office needs us to come in right away our test results are back. At work, the boss says, “Close the door behind you and have a seat…as you know, we’ve been having to make some cuts.” We get a text message from our spouse or child telling us they are on the way to the emergency room (if you think no one is that thoughtless to send the news in that form, ask my wife). We’re driving home and notice police cars surrounding our neighborhood, and on closer examination, they and fire personnel are surrounding our home. A sibling or parent calls and says, “I need to tell you about ‘Daddy.’” Someone has taken our very familiar room and rearranged the furniture. Navigating it in the dark could prove dangerous.
Sometimes the rooms we are asked to walk into are dark and unfamiliar from the start. I’ve shared this story with many of our Bible Story groups, but I’ll share it with y’all this morning, because I received a phone call in my second appointment that was like walking into an unknown room. I was in my fifth year of ministry, my second full-time, serving out in the small town of Rich Square. I was in my office one evening when the phone rang. It was a familiar church member.
She said, “My husband and I would like to ask you a favor.”
“Our daughter’s softball coach has been arrested and taken to jail. He is under a suicide watch. We would like you to visit him tomorrow.”
I knew this coach. He was a teacher and the softball coach at the local middle school. He had helped us a few months back, serving as a much needed chaperone on our youth group trip to Kings Dominion. I had never been on a jail visit before, this was going to be a dark room. “Why was he arrested?”
“He has been charged with having an ongoing sexual relationship with one of his players.” Boom, the room was pitch black. Child abuse of any sort is one of those areas that in the past had quickly shorted out my ability to think and respond as a disciple of Christ and the idea of sexual abuse made it that much worse. Adding to that were the fact that this man accused of having this relationship with a young girl had just helped me supervise a group of youth, and the girl he was accused of having the relationship with, she had been on the trip. I was at a loss. I didn’t know how to respond. I did not want to tell the church member there was “no way in ‘you-know-where’ that I would make the visit,” and yet I also did not feel like I could quickly tell them I would go, because everything in me was recoiling from the situation. I took the easy out, “I need to pray about it.” They said they understood, and we ended the phone call with a few pleasantries. I went to sleep praying for God’s guidance and woke up praying for God to reveal to me what I was supposed to do.
My routine at that point in my devotional life, I was in a covenantal devotional partnership with a colleague. We would choose a book from the Bible and a devotional book, read a selection from it each morning, journal our response, and then share our response. I sat down that morning to do my devotional reading with the previous night’s phone call still on my mind, weighing heavy on my heart, actually distracting me from the focus of my devotions. However, I was determined to be faithful. I opened up my Bible to the reading for that particular day. It was the Gospel of Matthew.
Any guesses where this is going?
In fact it was Matthew 25:31-46.
That passage need refreshing for any of us?
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
What are we facing in our lives right now? Have we been asked to walk into a dark room we have never walked into before? Has something come up where our familiar rooms have been rearranged? How will we decide what to do? Where will we find the light to guide us?
The Psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” He rejoices in God’s Word being the guiding force in the decisions he makes, in how he deals with life’s difficult situations, in how he escapes traps, in how he lives out each day.”
God’s Word is the light…it has always been the Light. God spoke and His Word created Light. His Word made flesh—His Son Jesus Christ—Is the Light of the World…and it is His written Word that the Psalmist declares to be lamp and light.
As Christians, particularly United Methodist Christians, we declare God’s Word, these Holy Scriptures, to provide for us the guidance we need to live out our lives as Disciples of Christ. What we are to believe and how we are to live are contained right in these sacred words. It is not a book to be worshipped, only God alone is to be worshipped. It is not the book that saves us, Christ alone saves us. However it is in these words that God shines light into the darkness of our lives and guides us in how to worship, how to experience the salvation that Christ has bought for us and brought to us, and how to live out our lives each day in response to that salvation.
How do we respond to that friend asking for help?
1st John 3:17 – “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s good and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?”
How do we respond to the job layoff?
Matthew 6:31-33 – “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’…your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
How do we respond to the news of illness or death or loss of our home?
John 14:18a and Matthew 28:20b ‘I will not leave you orphaned,” “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
How do we respond against those who will attack us because of our faith?
John 16:33 and Matthew 5:44-45 – “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” “…I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven….”
Are we in the dark about anything?
Then let us allow God’s Word to be the light for our path and the lamp for our feet…
For we have the Word of God from the Word of God…Thanks be to God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen.