Sermon for 8th Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 11)

Text: Psalm 119:105 (in relation to Luke 10:38-42)
Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path.

Walking in the light

Australian Ivan Southall is a writer of novels for children. One of his books (Over the Top) tells the story of Perry Benson, an 11-year-old who's woken in the middle of a stormy night by his father. His mother is about to give birth and they have to get her to hospital. They live on an isolated property without electricity and without a telephone. What happens next is one mishap after the other.

Mr Benson goes down the dark path to the shed to get the car. Walking in the dark, he falls over Perry's billycart and hit his head on the rocks on the edge of the garden bed. He is knocked out cold. Perry and his mother manage to load the unconscious Mr Benson into the back of car. Then Perry's mother who hadn't driven for years tries to drive the car, runs off the drive way and gets hopelessly bogged.

Mrs Benson now decides that the only thing to do now is for Perry to walk to Mr Morgan's place, their nearest neighbour, who has a phone. Perry isn't too keen, not only because itís cold and stormy and dark, but because he's frightened of Mr Morgan. Mr Morgan and Perry's father didn't get on too well. But he has to go, there's no other way to get help. His mother encourages him to make the trip and tells him he'll be all right if he takes the hurricane lamp. So he goes into the shed out of the wind, lights the lamp and sets off for Mr Morgan's.

It's a scary journey for an 11 year old, even though it's not very far. His biggest worry was what he would do if the lamp went out. The night was so black. How would he find his way without the light from the lamp, not to mention how scared he would be?

As he made his way down the drive way, across the paddock, and past the big trees that made such big black shadows against the sky, his imagination ran wild. Were those giants closing in around him? Or did he see in the corner of his eye some strange creature hidden in the shadows? The wind was roaring and the rain was making a hissing noise as drops hit the hot glass of the hurricane lamp. The lamp was jigging up and down as he walked. "Don't go out, lamp." he kept on saying to himself, "If you do go out, I think I'll die."

The lamp doesn't go out, and he manages to climb the locked gate without dropping it. He gets to Mr Morgan's house. The baby is born safely.

Perry couldn't have made that journey through the storm in the dark without the hurricane lamp. Without it, he could have lost his way, or suffered serious injury stumbling along in the dark. The lamp enabled him to make the dangerous and scary journey safely.

Other lives were depending on that lamp too. His father was injured, and needed medical attention. His mother and soon to be born brother or sister could be in danger. To Perry and his family that night, the hurricane lamp was a real lifesaver.

This story about Perry and his lamp on a dark night provides an excellent back drop to the text. "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and guide to my path." In the middle of the night when everything is so black, in the middle of the storm when everything is so confusing, God provides us with a hurricane lamp - his Word.

What does it mean to walk in the light of God's Word?

Perry's hurricane lamp shone through the darkness and helped him to see the barbed wire fence, the broken tree limbs, the tree roots and all the other dangers along the way. Perry followed the beam of light and was comforted when he was most afraid. This is what the Word of God is for the Christian.

The Word of God can only truly be the Word of God in our lives when we take it seriously. The Word of God canít be a Lamp to guide our feet if it we donít use it. What good would the lamp have been for Perry if it remained where it was stored in the shed? How could it guide him safely through the dark? If our Bible lay on the bedside table unopened how can it be a guide for us through life?

Why am I making such a fuss over something so basic to our Christian faith?

I dare say that most people in our country have heard of the Bible, but the percentage of people who have actually read any part of the Bible would be very small indeed. If I took a survey of all the people who have anything to do with St Paulís, I wonder how many would have to admit that on an average they open their Bibles less than once a week.

Once we could assume that most people knew some basic stories from the Bible like the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, or events in Jesusí life. Today when we talk to people about the Bible, we canít assume anything. On one occasion, a mother was surprised when I told her that the story of Jesusí birth came from the Bible. She said, "I thought it was just one of those stories like, you know, Snow White and Cinderella".

Surveys have shown that for many Christians their weekly contact with Godís Word in the Bible is at worship services on Sundays, presuming they come to church every Sunday. The Bible has taken a different place in the lives of modern Christians. It has moved from daily use in the home to Sunday morning. How can God's Word light our daily walk if we donít listen to what God has to say to us as we negotiate the troublesome and scary road of life? To not read it, is like walking in the dark with an unlit lamp.

What is it that prevents us from making the Bible a greater part of our lives?
The first thing most people say is that the pace of modern life leaves little time for any reading, let alone reading the Bible.

This is nothing new. We heard the story about Jesusí visit with Mary and Martha. This followed immediately after the story of the Good Samaritan that highlighted the way we are to love and serve our neighbour. Jesus concluded his conversation with the man who quizzed Jesus about who is his neighbour by saying, "Now then, you go and do likewise."

Maybe Martha had heard the story as well. Jesus had come to dinner and she was now going and doing, just as he had said. She was putting into practice what Jesus had said and was showing her love for Jesus by cooking one of the best meals Jesus had ever had.

Maybe Martha was thinking that Mary had missed the point of the Jesusí Good Samaritan story. Loving your neighbour involves being active, doing something, and going out of your way to help. Mary is doing just the opposite; sitting in the lounge room, and taking it easy.

Martha comes out of the kitchen all steamed up. "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!" Jesus answered, "My dear Martha, you are upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary is taking the time to listen and learn from me."

I believe Luke, the gospel writer, recorded this event straight after the Good Samaritan for a very good reason. Life is busy. We are busy not only in the work place and in our homes but also in the church. Our faith and love lead us to serve God and others everyday of our lives. Jesus isnít upset about the fact that Martha is busy. Thatís good. But he is also saying that there is a time for being busy and a time for listening to God, reading his Word, giving the Spirit the opportunity to increase our faith and love for even greater works of service to others.

Stephen Covey wrote this. "People expect us to be busy, overworked. Itís become a status symbol in our society - if weíre busy, weíre important; if weíre not busy, weíre almost embarrassed to admit it. Busyness is Ö a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives." (First Things First, p. 33).

We can become so preoccupied with all the things that make up our lives, even committees and service toward others in the church, that we squeeze out of our daily program a time to spend hearing God speak to us through his Word and talking with him in prayer.

As Perry Benson walked along the dark road, he held his hurricane lamp high to guide him. He said to himself, "Don't go out, lamp. If you go out I think I'll die." He knew that if that lamp went out or he dropped it, he would be all alone out there in the pitch black stormy night. Every step of the way was guided by the comforting light of his lamp. Godís Word is a lamp to our feet, and a light for our path to guide us through the ups and downs, dark shadows and obstacles along the path of life.

In the Bible we read Godís Word, Godís powerful Word.
It is the same Word that created the world. God simply spoke and things happened.
It is the same powerful Word that stilled storms, cast out demons, healed the sick and raised the dead.
It is this same powerful Word that speaks to us and calms our fears;
comforts us when we are depressed and despairing;
forgives us when we our conscience hurts;
assures us healing power when we are sick and his presence when we are alone. Godís Word is more powerful than we often realise.
Unlike our words, Godís Word, the Bible, is his assurance that we are his beloved children and he is our loving Father and he will use all power in heaven and earth to help and protect us.

Mr Morgan came out on a stormy night to help his neighbour whom he hated. In Jesus and his cruel cross, we see our loving God who came out in the darkness and the storm to help us who were his enemies.

God's Word is a hurricane lamp that guides us to Jesus, our rescuer. Through his death and resurrection, he has overcome the darkness of sin and destroyed the dark powers of death and the devil.
Through him, God has brought us out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Jesus speaks to us through the Words of the Bible and reminds us that he will use his powerful Word in our lives today just as he did back in time when he said to sinners, "Your sins are forgiven" or to the sick, "Get up and walk".

With the lamp of Godís Word we can walk through the blackest night and the wildest storms, and find our way safely home... safely to our home in heaven.
In the light of the Word we can see our way through blackest of black sin in our lives that we might think is positively unforgivable. We see Jesus the only one who can save us and forgive all our sin. He has died so that we can be assured that our life in heaven is guaranteed.

Letís make it the prayer of everyone here this morning that the Holy Spirit give us the determination to set time aside each day to hear what God has to say through the Bible and through that reading and hearing grow closer to him and more sincere in our faith.
Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
22nd July 2007

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