ARISE AND SHINE

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					                         ARISE AND SHINE!
                             Isaiah 60:1-6
                  January 4, 2009 Epiphany Sunday
1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
    but the LORD rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 "Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;
    your sons come from afar,
    and your daughters are carried on the arm.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
    your heart will throb and swell with joy;
    the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
    to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
    young camels of Midian and Ephah.
    And all from Sheba will come,
    bearing gold and incense
    and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.


INTRODUCTION
       I do hope that you and yours had a most meaningful and
enjoyable Christmas! And I also hope you concluded it with the
attitude of a little girl named Natasha who was asked by her
grandmother, “Natasha, did you get everything you wanted for
Christmas?” She thought for a moment, then responded, ―No,
Grandma, I didn’t—but then again, it wasn’t my birthday.‖
       This morning, as we have crossed over the threshold into
this new year of 2009, I would like for us to ponder the words of the
Old Testament text for this Epiphany Sunday: “Arise, shine; for
your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon
you!” After passing through a most tumultuous year of 2008, I
cannot think of a more fitting passage for us to focus our hearts
upon as we begin a new chapter in the annals of time.
I. ARISE AND SHINE! – A CALL TO HOPE
        Some things you just never forget. In my early morning
stupor would come the sound of steps creaking on the staircase
leading up to my room. Then the squealing of the door hinges as it
slowly opened and a cheerful, gentle voice proclaiming “Rise and
shine! Breakfast is almost ready!” It’s funny how I can still hear
my mother’s voice as clearly today as I could 40 years ago. Then,
after doing a tap dance on the cold, hardwood floor as I hopped into
my blue jeans, I would be led downstairs by the aroma of bacon
frying on the kitchen stove. Another day, a day filled with
adventures and opportunities and life for a young boy had begun!
        “Arise and shine; for your light has come, and the glory
of the Lord has risen upon you!” These words were a similar
call to hope to the faithful remnant of Israel. Isaiah proclaimed that
a new day was dawning for God’s people, who had been exiled for
nearly 50 years in Babylon. In 538 B.C., King Cyrus of Persia had
defeated the Babylonians, and subsequently ordered that the
Israelite captives be released. And now they were returning to
Jerusalem, to home, to a new day filled with promise and hope.
        But mingled with this hope was a heavy dose of cold-
faced reality: The returning exiles found the city of Jerusalem in
ruins. Their Temple and their homes had been totally destroyed
and left to rot by the plundering Babylonian army. The city walls
were reduced to rubble. Over the ensuing years these proud
people would have to scrape out a meager existence from what few
crops and goods were available. They would have to deal with
rampant inflation and bitter disputes among their governmental and
religious leaders. Poverty, disease, death would shroud their daily
existence.
        Permeating this misery, though, was the abiding hope that
God had not and would not abandon them. “Arise and shine; for
your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!”
They clung tightly to the belief that where God is, there are light and
life and hope for the future. And slowly, but surely, they began to
rebuild their ravaged lives and their ravaged nation.
        Dave Dravecky, former pitcher for the San Francisco
Giants, was enjoying a Hall of Fame career until the day he was
diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer in his left arm. His professional
baseball career was soon over. After various treatments failed to
stop the cancer, doctors advised Dave to have his left arm
amputated.
        As Dave awaited the surgery, he was quite afraid. He felt
all alone. He also was concerned about his children and how they
would deal with the disfigurement of his new appearance. Would
they be scared or upset? Would they want anything to do with
him? A devout Christian, Dave poured out his fears to his Lord. He
prayed for light in the midst of that overwhelming darkness.
        The surgery went well. Two days later, Dravecky’s young
son Jonathan was the first to see him. Not only was Jonathan not
put off by his father’s new appearance, he wanted all his friends to
see his dad. These young boys saw the stump and the scars and
the sutures as being totally cool.
        Next, the Dravecky’s little daughter, Tiffany, came in.
She went straight to her father and gave him a big hug. Then, she
announced she was so happy his left arm was gone. Over the last
several weeks, the arm had caused Dave so much pain he had not
been able to hug his little girl. With that arm out of the way, Tiffany
could hug her daddy again.
        Dave experienced the light of God’s love through his
children during that awful ordeal. And that light gave him the hope
he needed to begin a totally new career and life.
        As we begin this new year, many of you are seeking to
rebuild your lives in the midst of the rubble of disease and struggle
and hardship and pain. The year ahead seems very uncertain and
foreboding. The word of the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel
is the same word of God spoken specifically to you: “Arise and
shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has
risen upon you!” Like Dave Dravecky, you too can fight back and
persevere for God’s light upon your life will never be extinguished.
He will see you through!

II. ARISE AND SHINE! - GOD’S CALL TO ACTION
        Yes, some things you just never forget. As a teenager, on
occasion, in my early morning stupor, would come the sound of
footsteps stomping on the staircase leading up to my room. The
entire room would vibrate, as if Godzilla was approaching. Then
the door to my room would fly open with a crash and a quite
irritated voice would proclaim, “I told you ten minutes ago—„Rise
and shine!‟ Now!!” And if I, in my dimwitted sleepiness, would
unknowingly utter some word of profanity or disrespect, my father
(who was a rather large man) would simply roll my lifeless body out
of bed onto the hard, cold floor.
        My father never placed a curfew on me at night. He
simply told me that I had always better be ready to get up and get
going on time in the morning, be it to school, to work, or to church.
And whenever I heard his booming voice in the wee hours of the
dawn, I knew it was already high to take action and get in gear for
the new day. Or else he would get me in gear!
        “Arise and shine; for your light has come, and the glory
of the Lord has risen upon you!” This is not only a call to hope
for the Israelite people and to you and me, it is also a call to
action. As God’s light has shone upon us, we are also called to
shine this guiding and redeeming light upon others.
        The Israelite people did not want to hear this. They felt
they had an exclusive relationship with the Lord. They wanted to
build walls around their faith and lives and forget about the rest of
the world. But God had a different plan for them. God was calling
them to be a light unto all nations, illuminating his hope for others to
embrace.
        And so it is with you and me. “Arise and shine; for your
light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!”
This is a command to each of us who would rather be passengers
than deckhands on the ship of faith. It is a call to be actively
involved in the lives of others, sharing the light of God’s hope.
        We live in a generation of people who are screaming for
hope, and yet we as Christian folk are stuttering. We too want
to build walls around our faith and lives, and shut out those who are
different from us. And yet, God’s light does not discriminate, but
rather seeks to eliminate the darkness in the lives of all persons.
      A professor of evangelism at Eastern Mennonite Seminary,
Art McPhee, once composed a very timely poem entitled “The
Gospel According to You”:
      The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are read
by more than a few,
      But the one that is most read and commented on is the
gospel according to you.
      You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,
      By the things that you do and the words that you say,
      Persons read what you write, whether faithless or true,
      Say, what is the gospel according to you?
      Do others read God‟s truth and love in your life?
      Or has yours been too full of malice and strife?
      Does your life speak of evil or does it ring true?
      Say, what is the gospel according to you?


        Jesus said that to “whom much is given, much is
required.” In this year of 2009, we have the commission to take
action, to be about the business of “shining”, of making sure the
light of God’s love in our lives impacts those around us at work, at
school and at home. There are persons all around us hurting and
searching for hope. And we have the light of God’s hope revealed
to us in Jesus Christ to offer them.

CONCLUSION
        “Arise and shine; for your light has come, and the glory
of the Lord has risen upon you!”
        There is a scene in the movie Apollo 13 where astronaut
Jim Lovell is asked if he was ever afraid. He said that he had been
afraid many times but one time sticks out in his memory.
        He was returning from a combat mission and couldn’t find
his aircraft carrier. It was dark, and because they were under
combat conditions, the carrier didn’t have any lights on. His radio
navigation equipment was of no use because they were under total
radio silence to avoid enemy detection.
        In a last-ditch attempt to determine his location, he
turned on his map light to see if he could calculate his position.
Suddenly an electrical short caused all the lights to go out on his
fighter jet.
        It was then that he saw it. In the darkness. There was a
luminescent glow. It was the glow of sea plankton that is generated
by the wake of a ship as it passes through the water. All he had to
do was follow this glowing sea plankton, like a “highway” to the
ship.
        Jim Lovell said, “You don‟t ever know what will
transpire to lead you home. If the map light had not shorted
out, I would never have seen the glowing wake.”
        Perhaps we at the beginning of this new year need to ask
God to help us to turn off all the maplights in our lives-the sinful
attitudes and actions that prevent us from beholding his guiding
light upon us as we journey through each and every day-and to
instead look for his light in our lives each day.
        He has given us an assuring call to hope and a commanding
call to action: “Arise and shine; for your light has come, and
the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!”
        May we walk boldly into this year of 2009, embracing
God’s light and shining this redeeming light upon all whom we
meet! Amen!