Rise and Shine! (And Give God the Glory!)
A sermon based on Acts 13:44-52
Sunday, April 24, 2016 – Easter 5C
The proverb found in Proverbs 27:14, "If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse," comes to mind when I think back to my childhood days and recall my mom throwing open my bedroom door and singing loudly to a tired little boy just trying to get a few more winks of sleep before having to get up and get ready for school, "Riiiiise! And shiiiine! And give God the glory-glory! Riiiiise! And shiiiine! And give God the glory-glory! Rise! And! Shine! And! Give God the glory-glory, children of the Lord!" Then she'd add, "Seriously, Robert, rise and shine. It's time to get moving."
In a sense, that's what we hear God telling Paul and Barnabas in our text for this morning. He wanted them to rise and shine—to be a light for the Gentiles (or non-Jews). And he wanted them to get moving, not to stay in Pisidian Antioch for more than a short time, but to go elsewhere to carry the light of the Gospel to others—to Gentiles.
And God tells us what he wants us to do as well. He wants us to rise and shine and he wants us to get moving. He wants us to give God the glory for rescuing us by the light of the Gospel. And he wants us to give God the glory as we get moving and try to rescue others with that light.
This morning we hear the results of Paul's sermon in Pisidian Antioch (which we heard last week), which (ironically) took place one week after he preached there. The events are recorded for us in Acts 13:44-52…
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
I. Rescued by the Light
Adrian was out hiking in the woods with his kids. And they were having a great time. They had so much fun, in fact, that Adrian completely lost track of the time. Before he knew it, it was time to head back or they would be caught out here in the dark. He gathered up the kids and got them moving right away.
But Adrian, being unfamiliar with these woods, took a wrong turn and went down another path. Then trying to correct himself he added a second wrong turn. And soon, before he knew it, a deep darkness settled in the woods. And he had failed to bring a flashlight.
What was he going to do? The kids were getting tired and now scared. And if he were being honest, he was a bit scared too. Would they spend their night out here—and without a tent? How would they ever get back to the car?
Even though Adrian knew that it would panic the kids, he couldn't help it. He was starting to panic himself. So he let out an angry and frightened cry of frustration! Aaaaaargh!!!
And later he would thank God that he did. Because it after a few more minutes of panic, he heard a cry back. "Hello? Is someone out there?" And then Adrian saw the light. Another hiker was still on the trails. But he had a flashlight! Maybe he knew the way out of these woods!
Sure enough Adrian met a man named Aaron who approach him and said, "Everything okay? Anyone hurt? Good. Get a little turned around out here? Need some help? There's only one path that goes back to the road. Come on. I'll show you."
What relief Adrian felt! He'd been rescued by someone with a light!
In a way, Adrian's story is similar to our own. We were once lost in the darkness. Not literally, but spiritually lost, groping around in the darkness, trying to make sense of life, trying to make sense of the pain and the panic and the frustrations that we faced. We were so hopelessly lost that we were doomed to spend not just a night, but an eternity in hopeless darkness.
But we were rescued.
Isaiah prophesied about Jesus (in Isaiah 9:2), "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." And when Jesus came, he said of himself, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
The Light has come to rescue us! The Light of the World has saved us from eternal darkness.
"Rise and shine and give God the glory?" That's exactly what Jesus did. He rose to the occasion of leaving heaven to live a humble life on earth, even under his own law. And he was a shining example as he kept it perfectly. But he was more than just an example as he kept the law perfectly in our place. He literally rose when he was raised up on a cross to pay for our sin. And he shined victorious over sin and hell. And he literally rose when he came back to life and shined in his resurrected glory on Easter morning.
"Rise and shine and give God the glory?" That's what Jesus was all about: bringing glory to God by rising and shining and rescuing us from the darkness of death and hell by his life, death, and resurrection.
And thank God that he didn't stop there, but that he also sent a messenger to you to tell you about it—some parent or pastor or teacher or friend, some Paul or Barnabas—to illumine your path by sharing the Gospel with you so you see Jesus for who he is: The Light of the World, the Light even for us Gentiles, the Light that bring salvation to the very ends of the earth!
Because someone has shared that message with us, Christ now shines to us, not as a faint, dim light that guides us as we walk out of our problems, but as the rescue light that found us when we were lost, that saved us from sin, death and hell! Now we know that we have been "appointed for eternal life," and that heaven is our eternal address, that we have been rescued, and that we will be brought safely home!
Now be glad and honor the Word of the Lord! And one way we honor it is to read it and learn it and know it better. But another way to honor the word is to know it better, not just to know it better for ourselves, but to better share it with others. Now we shine that same light to others to help find them…
II. Rescue with the Light
Aaron was out hiking in the woods. And he was having a great time. He was enjoying his hike so much fun, in fact, that Aaron completely lost track of the time. Before he knew it, it was already getting dark! It was definitely time to head back to the car. Thankfully he brought his powerful mag light. Otherwise he might get caught out here in the dark. He gathered up his gear and got moving right away.
But as he was hiking in the dark, shining the light on the path in front of him, he heard a strange noise. It wasn't an animal. It sounded more human. It sounded sort of like an angry and frightened cry of frustration! Aaaaaargh!!!
What to do? He was already late and wouldn't be home when he told his wife he would be. If he went in the direction of the cry he'd be even later. But, still, what if someone was hurt or in trouble. He shined his light down a different path and went in search of the cry.
And later, he would thank God that he did make that decision, because it wasn't long until he found them—a man named Adrian and his two kids, terribly lost and scared in the dark. What relief he saw on the man's face and on the face of those poor kids! He would lead them to the road and to their car. He would help rescue them.
In a way, Aaron's story is similar to our own. We have the light. We know how to navigate through this life with the light. But we're not content to be only concerned about ourselves. We use the light that we have to help rescue others.
You see, we aren't called to be just lighthouses beckoning everyone to come see our our light, just don't get too close. No! We're called to be the rescue party that goes to find others, taking the light to them, just as Jesus found us!
Will it be inconvenient? Of course! Might others talk abusively against us? Sure! Might they even stir up persecution against us and even expel us from the region. Yeah, it's possible. But we will rise to the occasion and we will shine in those moment of truth as we live for Jesus, not our own personal comfort, confident that if those things happen, God will work them all for his good purposes.
Just look how Jesus used abuse and persecution for his good purposes with Paul and Barnabas. He used that persecution to drive them to preach to a new group of people. Their plans were frustrated. Some relationships were cut off. They were forced to relocate. But it was God's way of letting them know to get moving—to go somewhere else with the light of the Gospel, to go to the Gentiles.
It's almost certain that in our lives, some of our plans will be frustrated. It's almost certain that some of our relationships will end. And it's not unlikely that many of us may someday relocate to a new residence. But God will use those circumstances to create new opportunities for us to rise and shine the Gospel in the lives of others. Maybe it's his way of saying he wants us to get moving.
Maybe God will allow you to lose your job so you can be a witness to a whole new set of co-workers somewhere else. Maybe God will allow you to end up in the hospital so you can share the joy you have in Jesus with the doctors and nurses. Maybe God will allow a breakup so that he can bring a new boyfriend or girlfriend to faith through you. Maybe he will allow you to endure persecution or pain so you form new friendships and shine the light of the gospel to someone new.
And so, confident that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him," (Romans 8:28) we will rise to the occasion and shine with the light of the Gospel, that others too may know the Light of the World who no darkness can overcome. (John 1:5 NIV)
You know, Jesus didn't just say, "I am the light of the world," in John 8:12. He also said in Matthew 5:14 and 16, "You are the light of the world… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
So, it's not just a catchy "get out of bed song." It's our motto: as we, "Riiiise and shiiiine and give God the glory-glory!" We give him the glory for shining the light of the Gospel in our lives and rescuing us. And we give him the glory as we shine that light in the lives of others. So rise and shine! And give God the glory-glory, children of the Lord! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.