Sunshine In My Soul



By the Rev. Lee Woofenden

Children's Sunday
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, May 17, 1998


Readings

Isaiah 60:1-3, 18-21 Arise! Shine! Your light has come

Arise, Jerusalem, and shine like the sun; the glory of the Lord is shining on you! Other nations will be covered by darkness, but on you the light of the Lord will shine; the brightness of his presence will be with you. Nations will be drawn to your light, and kings to the dawning of your new day. . . .

The sounds of violence will be heard no more; destruction will not shatter your country again. I will protect and defend you like a wall; you will praise me because I have saved you.

The sun will no longer be your light by day or the moon your light by night; I, the Lord, will be your eternal light; the light of my glory will shine on you. Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the Lord, will be your eternal light, more lasting than the sun and moon. Your people will all do what is right, and will possess the land forever. I planted them, I made them, to reveal my greatness to all.


Matthew 17:1-8 The Transfiguration

Jesus took with him Peter and the brothers James and John and led them up a high mountain where they were alone. As they looked on, a change came over Jesus: his face was shining like the sun, and his clothes were dazzling white. Then the three disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. So Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, "Lord, how good it is that we are here! If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

While he was talking, a shining cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased; listen to him!"

When the disciples heard the voice, they were so terrified that they threw themselves face downward on the ground. Jesus came to them and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid!" So they looked up and so no one there but Jesus.


Sermon

The sun will no longer be your light by day or the moon your light by night; I, the Lord, will be your eternal light. (Isaiah 60:19)

After a week and a half of clouds and rain, it certainly was wonderful when the sun finally came out last week! I don't know about you, but I found excuses to get out in the sunshine. On the day the sun finally came out, when I was here at the church I went out and changed the lettering on the sign board out front, and then strolled around the common a bit, stopping to talk to people. Back at home, Heidi and the boys wanted to be out in the sunshine, and so did the other children in the neighborhood. Who could resist?

The prophet Isaiah could not resist the sunshine. He wrote, "Arise, Jerusalem, and shine like the sun; the glory of the Lord is shining on you! . . . The brightness of his presence will be with you." Ah! He is talking about a different kind of sunshine! He is talking about the sunshine of the Lord's presence with us.

We need that kind of sunshine just as much as we need the light and warmth of the physical sun--and even more. Last week, when the long period of clouds and rain finally broke, and the sun started shining, it lifted everyone's mood. People were smiling and talking cheerfully, as the sun reminded us all that life can be beautiful. Just so, we all have our dark periods--those dreary, trying times in our lives that seem to drag on forever. We have our times of emotional clouds and rain. As those periods drag on, sometimes we begin to think that the sun is never going to shine again. We almost forget what it is like to be out in our shirtsleeves, enjoying the warmth and liveliness of a beautiful spring day in our souls.

But the prophet gives us comforting words: "The sounds of violence will be heard no more; destruction will not shatter your country again. . . . Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the Lord, will be your eternal light, more lasting than the sun or moon." Yes, in our times of darkness, there is a light that can take away the inner violence, destruction, and grief that brings us down. Our faith tells us that we will again feel the Lord's presence shining within us, that the Lord has the power to bring joy out of our struggles and our sadness.

I have not lived as long as many of you here in the church; yet I have felt the struggles and the trials of life. Something precious has carried me through those times--something that is available to all of us. That something is my religious belief, and especially my faith in the Lord Jesus. I feel truly blessed that my parents brought me up to have a strong faith--a faith that has stayed with me all my life. And I feel truly sorry for those who do not have this kind of faith to carry them through. I do not know how I would have made it through without the conviction that there is a loving God who cares for each one of us, and who can bring something good out of even the worst disappointments, struggles, and traumas of our lives. Even today, when I make mistakes; when I do not live up to my own ideals; when I seem to be missing the fullness and joy that the Lord has planned for each one of us, I know that the Lord is far more forgiving of us than we are of ourselves, and is always there for us.

As empty as life may sometimes seem, that emptiness can be filled with the light and warmth of a higher, deeper, and more soul-satisfying type of sunshine. The Lord's closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, felt that deeper sunshine in a very direct and personal way. They followed the Lord up and up the mountain, no doubt struggling and sweating with the steepness of the climb. They struggled up life's mountain just as we struggle to pull ourselves upward, to climb above the place we came from.

And there at the top of the mountain, the disciples saw the glory of the Lord! The man Jesus, whom they thought they knew so well, was transformed before their very eyes! He was no mere man; he was the divine being, the Lord God, come to be with them, to shed the light and warmth of God's presence on them. His face shone like the sun. Those who have nearly died, and who experienced something of the spiritual world before returning to their bodies, describe that light and warmth in the same way Swedenborg did. They say that the light in that world is pure understanding and knowledge, and the warmth there is pure love.

Love and understanding from the Lord is the sunshine that lights up our souls. There is nothing in this world that can compare to that sunshine. And there is nothing greater we can do for our children than first to open our own minds and hearts to the Lord's sunshine, and then to open up our children's hearts and minds to the divine sunshine as well. Amen.

Floating and Mouse Scripts
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Music: Pachebel and Me
1999 Bruce DeBoer