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The Light of the World

October 6, 2013

Sermon:  The Light of the World – World Communion Day

Text:  Matthew 5:14; John 8:12; Isaiah 51:4-6; Philippians 2:5-11


I am going to invite Xavier Tibu, Frank Chanes, Erica Chen, and Mum Stroup to come on the platform with me as I offer a communion meditation by committee.  These folks were born in other countries and have been learning the English language.

Dr. Neely:  Xavier, who is from the country of Cameroon, is fluent in two languages, both French and Bassa.  He is trying to learn English.  Xavier, what brought you to the United States?

Xavier:  I came to the United States for an education.  I can get more education here than I could receive in Africa.  After I finish school, I will go back to Africa to help people there.

Dr. Neely:  Xavier has been a Christian for a long time.  I think you said you had your first communion when you were fourteen years old.  You lived in Africa at the time.  Today you celebrate communion with us here.  We are grateful.

Dr. Neely:  Erica, you have come to us from mainland China.  How long have you been in the United States?

Erica:  Almost ten years.

Dr. Neely:  You told me about the day you accepted Jesus as your Savior, a day after your birthday, which is Christmas day.

Erica:  On the day after Christmas 2006, I accepted Christ as my Savior.  That was in Albany, Georgia.  I was baptized there.  I came to live in the United States because my husband was here with his family.

Dr. Neely:  We like for husbands and wives to be together. Your beautiful children have blessed us during numerous worship services here.  We are so glad you have joined our fellowship.

Dr. Neely:  Frank, you have an interesting story that starts in Cuba.

Frank:  My two uncles were very involved in the revolution there.  They helped Castro take control by overthrowing the military dictatorship.  Later Castro betrayed them and imprisoned one for twenty-five years and the other for thirty years.  I was a Baptist in Cuba.  I accepted Christ there in 1978. I have been in the United States twenty-four years.

Dr. Neely:  Frank and his wife, Patty, are members of our church.  Patty read the Call to Worship this morning.  Frank, we are very glad you and your family are here.  We look forward to celebrating communion with you this morning.

Dr. Neely:  Mum, your story begins in Cambodia.  You were a refugee, very much involved in the turmoil in Cambodia at the time of a dictator.  Your father was killed, but you and your family escaped to Thailand and lived in a refugee camp there.  How long were you in that camp?

Mum:  I believe it was about nine years.  Then I came to the United States when a church in Virginia decided to sponsor our family.  I was introduced to Christ by that church.  I was not a Christian at that time.  My husband introduced me to Christ again in 1997.  He and I were later baptized on the same day.

Dr. Neely:  You have celebrated communion many times in other places, and we are so glad that you are here today to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with us.  Dwight and Mum have a heart’s desire to begin an orphanage in her native Cambodia.  They have created a foundation to do that.  The deacons voted at their last meeting to direct the tithe on the building fund to that ministry so that they can build that orphanage.

Thanks to all of you for joining us today on this World Communion Sunday.

Patty read two passages of Scripture for us, one of which was from the Gospel of John.  In John 8:12 Jesus clearly says that he is the light of the world. He later added, “When I will be lifted up, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).  Jesus is not just the light of a few people, not just the light of those who are privileged.  Jesus is the light of the entire world.  John 3:16 tells us that God sent Jesus into the world because He loved the whole world.  Christians all around the world today will celebrate the light that is Jesus Christ.  Some of those believers will worship in secret, afraid of persecution, torture, or even death if discovered.  They, too, will take the same elements of the bread and the cup.

When Jesus gave the great address that we know as the Sermon on the Mount, he told his followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).  How can that be?  Jesus is the light of the world in the same way that the sun is the light of our universe.  We are to be light in the same way that the moon is light to the earth in darkness.  Our light does not originate with us.  It is reflected.  The light of Christ is reflected in our lives.

Many of you have heard me speak of David Tanner, who is now in heaven.  My personal philosopher, he used to stop by my house early every morning.  When David’s church built a new sanctuary, he wanted me to come to the dedication service.  He was so proud of his church but also somewhat apologetic.  He said, “We don’t have none of those windows with the people on them that the light shines through.”

David was talking about stained glass windows.  When you have a person like David Tanner, or people like Mum, Xavier, Frank, Erica, Alena, Alexander, Patty and yes, Edna Ellison, you do not need stained glass windows.  The light shines through these actual people.  Christ Jesus has called us to shine with his light.  On this World Communion Sunday, we celebrate the light of the world, Jesus Christ.  We also accept our commission to let the light shine in the darkness through us.

I want to share my favorite story that illustrates this concept.  At one particular intersection where many accidents had occurred, the railroad decided to post a flagman at all times.  When a train approached, this flagman was to step into the intersection and stop all vehicular traffic so that the train could pass.  At night, the flagman was to step into the intersection, hold a lantern high, and swing it back and forth to signal that traffic should stop.

A terrible accident occurred one night at the intersection.  During the investigation that followed, the flagman was put on the witness stand.

The attorney asked, “Were you present at the intersection on the night of the accident?”

“Yes, I was.”

“Were you the flagman on duty?”

“Yes, I was.”

“Did you know the train was coming?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Did you go to the intersection with your lantern?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Did you raise your lantern high and wave it back and forth?”

“Yes, I did.”

The attorney said, “No further questions.”

Years later someone interviewed this flagman who had by that time become a resident in a nursing home.  When asked if he had any regrets in his life, he answered, “Just one.  I told the truth to every question that lawyer asked me about the night of the accident.  The one question he did not ask was if my lantern was lit.”

We are the light of the world.  “Let your light so shine that others may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” (Matthew 5:16). We are to shine around the world, not just here.  I hope that you understand that Morningside is a global community.  People from all over the world are a part of this fellowship.  Our responsibility is to share the light of Christ with all who are in darkness.

We come to this table on this World Communion Sunday to celebrate with simple elements.  This is not Morningside’s table.  It is not a Baptist table.  This is the Lord’s Table.  If you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord, you are invited to take this meal with us.  Let’s continue our worship at the Lord’s Table.

The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread.  He blessed it and broke it.  He said, “This is my body, broken for you.”

Prayer of Blessing for the Bread:  Heavenly Father, I come to this table this morning very grateful for Your love and for the love of Your son Jesus Christ who is the perfect gift for us.  He came into this broken and imperfect world to have his body broken for us.  Father, I thank You for his coming to redeem sinners, to redeem all mankind, so that one day we can join him and all the saints of heaven for an everlasting life.  Father, I pray now that You will bless us and use us in ways that we can share the good news of the love of Christ with others.  Amen.

Fairest Lord Jesus,

Ruler of all nature,

O Thou of God and man the Son;

Thee will I cherish,

Thee will I honor,

Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

Jesus said, “This bread is my body, given up for you.”  Eat it as often as you eat it in remembrance of him.  Eat of all of it.

Prayer for the Cup:  Dear Lord, we come here to Morningside today, as do others in the entire world, to do as you instructed so long ago in that upper room.  You took up the cup and said, “This is my blood, shed for you.  Drink this in remembrance of me.”  Today we do that to remember the most wonderful gift ever given to anyone – our lives granted to us with the cost of your life.  We thank you so much for such a wonderful gift.  We ask you to help us to always keep it in our hearts.  How grateful we are for your amazing grace.  We ask these things in your name.  Amen.

Beautiful Savior,

Lord of all nations,

Son of God and Son of Man!

Glory and honor,

Praise, adoration,

Now and forever more be Thine!


Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  Drink it as often as you drink it in remembrance of him.  Drink all of it.

What a special day in God’s house this has been. I hope that you have felt the Spirit of Christ in this place.  My hope and prayer, as it is every Sunday, is that God has touched every heart in this place, including mine.

Maybe God has touched your heart in a special way.  Perhaps you have been putting off a decision that you know God wants you to make.  It might be a decision to go into full-time mission service or a decision to join this church.  For some of you it might be a decision to accept Christ for the first time.  You have heard testimonies today about what a difference Christ can make in the life of an individual.  It will make a difference in your life, too.  We invite you to accept the invitation of the Lord Jesus, to acknowledge him as your personal Savior.

Kirk H. Neely
© October 2013

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