“Glowing In The Dark”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – April 8, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 133; John 20:19-25


    The title of my sermon for Easter Sunday was, "What If People Do Not Believe?"  It appears that we are faced with the similar theme this morning with Thomas, the only disciple that was missing from the group when Jesus appeared to the disciples.   He would not believe his fellow-disciples when they told him what he missed.   

    Thomas was vehement in his disbelief.  He said, "Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe." (John 20:25b) 

    I deliberately cut-off the storyline of our lesson. Not everyone living around us has a positive storybook ending like Thomas experienced later on when Jesus finally appeared to him. (John 20:26f).  

    This morning I want us to focus on how to live among others who do not value our insights, faith, and the resulting perseverance to experience life with enthusiasm regardless of what is happening to us. 

    It is one thing for us to understand that people do not mature in spirit at the same pace.  It is quite another thing to live peacefully among them when such people are moody, unhappy with their lives and have developed a temperament that can become emotionally unstable.

    John Wesley, the founder of our denomination, had a method for keeping believers focused on their role in the world.  He had his members give testimonies of how their spirits glowed in the dark during the week. They spoke about their responses of forgiveness, kindness and compassion toward others when it may have been undeserved. 

    The practice was stopped when Wesley realize that their testimonies were becoming a game of one-upmanship among his members. This rivalry was similar to the experience of Jesus' disciples when they argued among themselves over which one among them was the greatest. (Luke 22:24f)

    This struggle among the disciples should give all of us hope. According to Luke, this rivalry broke out at the last supper that Jesus and his disciples would eat together.  They had been with him for three years, and the message of being of service to one another had not been learned.  There is hope for us when we fail at delivering a loving presence when an opportunity presents itself.

    Earlier in my ministry, I occasionally attended worship services where testimonies were part of the experience. People said things like, "The Lord spoke to me the other night."  "God answered our prayers." "God has blessed us with a precious bundle of joy.  Her name is Rebecca." "Isn't God good?  God is good all the time!"

    Many of us have heard people say similar words.  There can be little doubt that such words are sincere and come from their honest feelings.  During these testimonies, people were telling others how God has played a major role in their lives for years.  Their words represented their perceptions of the nature of God.  Basically, they are preaching to the choir.

      My comfort levels were challenged when I heard such testimonies.  I felt more compassion for people hearing these words that had not been singled out by God for direct communication or for blessings.

    I knew of mothers who carried their babies for nine months only to lose them at their birth. There have been parents in my memory whose children died of a brain tumor or another form of cancer within the first eighteen months.  

    They did not get the house of their dreams. At the last minute, some purchaser offered a higher amount and was willing to pay with cash.  How many spouses initially believed that God had to send them a partner for life and the marriage did not work out?

    Should we be assigning to God all the wonderful experiences and opportunities that have come to us?  Some Christians automatically make this assumption.  Athletes point to the sky or cross themselves when they score points for their team. They want to give God the glory for their team's victory. 

    Sometimes our successes come to us because we are humbly glowing in the dark.  We realize that it is our expression of faith, our talents, and abilities that have created the successes in our lives.  This understanding is not taking anything away from God. God created all of us with this potential.  

    Praising God for every blessing can cause us to develop a lot of assumptions and expectations about the nature of God that are not true for a lot of other people.  This is not the way others choose to understand God.  If the statistic is true that one third of Bermuda's children are being abused, think of what such abusive behavior does to children's trust of others or to block their understanding of what authentic loves feels like.

    Last Wednesday, a number of people all over the world took notice of the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  King's death should remind us that God does not have favorite people. Just as God gives the sun and rain to the just and unjust people alike, so life's fortunes and misfortunes come to people without divine intervention.

    What gives us the ability to glow in the dark when others find that so difficult?  What enables us to provide a humble visual testimony that teaches others how making better choices helps them to create a worthwhile destiny?

    In our lesson this morning, Jesus said something that is often misunderstood by Christians.  Jesus said to his disciples, "If you forgive people's sins, they are forgiven.  If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."  (John 20:23) What was Jesus saying?   Jesus' statement about forgiveness was teaching his disciples how to glow in the dark.

    When we withhold our forgiveness from people, our response has nothing to do with them.  It has to do with our holding on to something very hurtful that is causing us to smolder with resentment.  Jesus may have been reflecting on his words, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." He remained a role model of what he was asking his followers to do until his death.

    This was an example of Jesus glowing in the dark in the midst of his excruciating pain.  His words of forgiveness had nothing to do with those mocking him at the foot of the cross.  It had to do with Jesus' attitude toward them.

    Glowing in the dark takes place when our life-enhancing energies radiate from the spirit within us, when our words support and encourage the lives of those around us, and when we do not personalize anything that is happening to us. We celebrate the feel-good happy moments alongside our accepting the painful and devastating moments of which some phases of our lives are filled.

    Last week I was discussing with a friend the experience of a man who glowed in the dark.   He was a wealthy businessman who shared over half of his accumulated wealth with those stricken by the Chicago Fire that destroyed much of the city between October 8-10 in 1871.  He had many businesses along Lake Michigan that were a total loss.

    When the dust had settled, he sent his wife and four daughters to Europe for a vacation.  He stayed behind due to a business matter and told them he would join them in a week.  His family's ship collided with another ship and sank in four minutes. Only his wife was rescued from the frigid water.

    The grief-stricken father and husband followed through and boarded another ship to meet his wife.  As his ship was passing over the coordinates where his four daughters drowned, Horatio Spafford penned these words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul.

    Easter morning is a glorious time when Jesus demonstrated that life continues.  When we are celebrating such an intriguing, mysterious event, we should not allow Jesus' appearances to the disciples to overshadow what he experienced just prior to Easter morning.         

    Jesus' prayers were not answered when he asked God to allow his ministry to continue. He was betrayed by a trusted disciple. He was tried and found guilty of blasphemy by a court that wanted Jesus silenced. He had the skin on his back ripped open by the lead pellets at the end of leather straps of a whip as a Roman marksman delivered forty lashes.  He was crucified between two thieves. 

    To make his experience even worse, Jesus was mocked by the religious authorities who were standing at the foot of his cross.  In spite of what life had thrown at him, Jesus glowed in the dark by uttering words of forgiveness.  

    Jesus was able to let go of everything that was happening to him because his spirit was not influenced or impacted by politics, by the abandonment of his friends, or by nails driven into his body.  He could say with confidence, "My ministry is finished!  Father into your hands I commend my spirit."

     It is well for us not to hold God accountable with what is happening to us.  We can choose to become what we believe is a creative part of the created order, but we cannot influence the Architect.  Dr. Luke wrote in his second Book of Acts, "God does not need anything that we can supply by working for him, since it is he himself who gives life, breath, and everything else to everyone." (Acts 17:25) 

    When we glow in the dark, it is by our choice that we do so.   This is the way Jesus wanted us to live among others who may not care whether or not God even exists. Their earthly experience is all that they know.  Jesus wanted us to become their light in the darkness that they are experiencing.

    What will be forever hidden from us is how the Architect will influence others by how we choose to live. God can invisibly shape human history by the glow of just one person.  In fact, he did so over two thousand year ago. 

    God's loving patience with humanity will not yield simply because billions of people remain spiritually blind.  Time is on God's side.  God also knows how he wired us at Creation. In time, the scales will fall from our eyes because love is the only energy that works both here and in the world all of us will eventually enter.



Loving God, thank you for your guidance as we live during some very challenging changes in our world. We are grateful that Jesus’ disciples remained together after his death even when fear filled their minds.  After they experienced him alive, with great energy, they scattered in all directions to change the world-view of individuals and governments. They were successful because they never gave up hope that their ministry was unfolding according to your will.  Help us to rid ourselves of the cocoons of yesterday’s responses and learn to use the wings that will carry us to become your creative instruments for humankind’s destiny.   Amen.



Loving God, we thank you that we live in a period of history where we have time to dream, to write, to travel, to enjoy the natural beauty of our island and to enter our house of worship.  We pray that more of us will choose to use these moments well.  We could just as easily use this same time to worry, to fret, to lament over the unfairness of life as we cast our eyes toward Heaven and ask for deliverance.   What so many people need today is deliverance from themselves when their spirits cease being anchored and nourished by your daily presence.

We thank you that you have given us the freedom to decide how we wish to spend the gift of our lives.  We are also grateful that Jesus came into our world to help give substance, meaning, and purpose for our journeys here.  His ministry was filled with his life-enhancing lessons, healing and sowing seeds that will guide us with all that we need to know to live in heaven today. During his crucifixion, Jesus was still teaching witnesses what love looks like. Death could not prevent him from returning to his followers as he offered them more guidance for going into the world and glowing in the dark.

Inspire us to realize, as Jesus did, that we are not finished giving expression to our purpose and mission on the earth until we draw our last breath.  We are thankful that we have been able to brighten up the corner where we live during 178 and a half years of our church's history.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray. . .