Epiphany 3: “Brokenness, Darkness, Division”
January 26, 2020 – Isaiah 9:2-4
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Metaphorically speaking, take a look around you at the world. What do you see? Do you see sunshine or clouds? Do you see people helping each other out in love or do you see people backstabbing and hurting? Do you look at the government and see the safety and security they bring to your life or do you all the issues and divisions they cause? Do you see the world around you as generally good or generally bad? Do you see light or darkness?
Inkblot Test (Mental State)
In a lot of ways, the way you are answering these questions for yourself is like an inkblot test. Do you know the inkblot test? It is a somewhat abstract black picture that a psychologist will show you and ask you what you think it is. Some might see it and see a butterfly. Some might see two people fighting. Some might see an evil face staring back at them. The idea is that the way you view the picture will reveal your mental state and how you view the world around you.
Modern art, that really abstract stuff that looks like a preschooler did it, is so popular because people are encouraged to see what they want to see in it. In a way, the picture takes on whatever meaning they want to give it. The picture represents the beholder’s mind and people don’t love anything more than themselves.
What’s the Truth?
What about truth, though? Is the world actually good or bad? Whether you see one thing or another does not change the truth about what really exists. You can be in such a dark place and only see bad and the world going to hell in a hand-basket, but that’s not the truth. The truth is that there is good in the world. There is health, and light, and unity.
If you’re the person who always looks on the bright side and always sees the positive and ignores the negative, you’re also not seeing the truth. The truth is that there is also bad in the world. There is brokenness, darkness, and division.
Brokenness, Darkness, Division
We pray week to week for people who struggle with broken bodies. We see the millions of people with broken spirits who don’t attend church and have no hope. We see the darkness of evil in the world when people hate each other and speak poorly about each other. We see the darkness of depression which clouds over so many people. We see division in Christianity. People ask, “Why isn’t there just one big church?” “All denominations are essentially the same, right?” “I don’t like the church because people are so mean and unwelcoming.”
Our Own Problems
The fact is, all these problems are our problems. These problems are caused by our own sin.
God does not cause our bodies to decay, get sick, or die. Our sin does.
God does not take away our faith in Him. Our sin does.
God does not cause evil or mental health problems. Our sin does.
God does not cause division. Our sin does.
All of these problems are caused by sin. The worst part? These problems are not problems we can fix. Can you stop sinning? Can you fix sin?
Others (You Can Stop Sinning)
Some, with the best intentions, want you to believe you CAN stop sinning. Some have been convinced they can stop sinning and want you to believe it also. Some don’t want you to completely trust in Jesus with your problem of sin. Instead, they want you to trust in yourself to stop sinning. This teaching leaves you without Jesus and damned. It fails to accurately see the truth about the situation. It fails to see how we are totally and helplessly sinners.
Our epistle talks about not following after people like Paul or Apollos. Some would look at this and say we shouldn’t call ourselves Lutheran because it is taking on a divisive name. Pauls’ point isn’t about not calling yourself by a different name. His point is not about following Luther, or Calvin, or Baptist theology, Pentecostal theology, or the Roman Catholic church. Paul’s point is we need to follow Christ.
Why? Christ isn’t divided so why is His church? Because there are those who take Christ’s name but don’t follow Him. There are those who divide the church by not trusting in Jesus and relying on Him alone for the massive problems in the world that we have.
All the massive problems in the world are not problems you can fix. Can you put band-aids on them? Sure. Fix? Not a chance.
Only God Can Save the World (But Doesn’t Make Sense)
Only God can save the world. Our oppressor is sin. Only Jesus could break the beating stick of our oppressor. (Is. 9:4) Only Jesus could rescue us.
Only Jesus’ death and resurrection saved the world. In the end, Jesus’ fix will be seen in its fullness.
Jesus’ fix – to the world – looks ridiculous. How could someone who was killed defeat anyone or anything? (1 Cor. 1:18). How could anyone, without making a decision or mastering their sinful desires beat anything? To the world, Jesus’ victory doesn’t make sense. But to us who are being saved by Jesus alone, hearing of Jesus’ fix is the power of God that saves us.
Remember the question at the beginning? When you look around at the world, what do you see? What is the truth about the state of the world? The truth is the world is completely covered in brokenness, darkness, and division. But that’s not all. The truth is at the same time Jesus brings healing, gives faith, works evil for good, and brings people together in Church, unified, around His table to receive over and over again THE fix of sins forgiven and hope for the world to come (Matt. 4:23).
The truth is there is both darkness and light, but the light of Christ will always overcome the darkness of our sin.
Now, we live as a light of hope to a world covered in darkness. We are united in the truth about Jesus who saves us all on His own. When we are divided by the lies and the brokenness may we find unity in the truth about Jesus. May we live on earth now, as we will live together forever in the resurrection – completely unified around our King and our God. May that message of Healing, Unity, and Light keep us strong in our faith as we live out our Christian lives now and into eternity.