Sermon delivered December 10, 2006.
A little girl was reciting scripture in front of the entire church. The great crowd made her nervous and her mind went blank. In the front row, her mother was almost as nervous as her daughter. The mother gestured, moving her lips, trying to form the words to help the girl but it did no good. Finally, in desperation, the mother whispered the opening phrase of the memorized Scripture passage: "I am the light of the world." Immediately, the child's face lit up and relaxed and a smile appeared on her face as she began with supreme confidence: "My mother is light of the world!"
The words the girl was trying to remember were Jesus' words in the Gospel of John: "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12). Jesus is the light of the world. When we are baptized into Christ, we become adopted sons of God and therefore children of the Light. In today's epistle reading St. Paul tells us to walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8-19). Note that St. Paul offers an exhortation; a directive on how we ought to live as adopted sons of God. Note too his implication that baptism is no guarantee that we will live out our adoption in a way pleasing to God.
Baptism sets on the right road. And while God created that road and guides us along it, we won't reach the place where it leads unless we walk it. Look at it this way: we are all citizens of the United States but our citizenship still requires us to be law abiding and patriotic. Merely calling ourselves American does not make us a good Americans. In the same way, merely calling ourselves baptized Orthodox Christians does not guarantee our lives are pleasing to God.
How do we walk as children of the Light in the way that St. Paul exhorts us? He provides some instruction in the verses immediately following.
To walk the Christian road we must obey the commandments of the Lord. This means that we must stay clear of sin and temptation, and when we do sin to confess it. If our eyes our set on Christ, then we will naturally fulfill St. Paul's other directives further on in the passage including "... be careful how we live" (v.15), and to "... make the most of the time" (v.16).
This new life is possible only through the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit given to us at baptism when God set us on the road that leads to Him. The Holy Spirit gives us life. It is nothing less than God's life given to us including the power not to sin but to walk in ways pleasing to Him.
"Do not get drunk with wine ... but be filled with the Spirit" St. Paul concludes (v.19). Drink the water of the Spirit and bathe in the light of Christ so that we may become sober and clean and fulfill our divine calling to be children of the Light. Amen.
Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews is the pastor of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fr. Andrews is the past president of Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association (MEOCCA), a volunteer chaplain with the St. Paul Police Department.