The 24th Sunday after Trinity–14 November 2021
I am not a big fan of horror books and shows, but I have seen enough to know that a common theme in horror is darkness. You’re trapped in a dark space and there are monsters roaming about and you are frozen in the fear that they will find you and devour you, and there is no chance of escape. You can only await your certain doom.
More terrifying than any horror story is the reality in which we once lived. We were conceived and born sinful and were under the power of the devil. Our doom was to be a feast for the devil’s devouring and to be lost forever
in the darkness of everlasting condemnation. But the Good News is that God has delivered us. As St. Paul writes: at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8). St. Peter also proclaims: you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). And in today’s Epistle, we hear the fantastic news that [God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Pastor Korcok was once part of a Canadian Forces delegation traveling to the Netherlands for that country’s 75th anniversary of liberation and he saw for himself how grateful the Dutch people still are for being liberated by the Canadians in the Second World War. The greatest liberation, though, is God delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. This is the best news we could ever receive. And when you have such news, the only proper thing to do is to hold on to this Good News with all your heart until the day you die.
Listen again to St. Paul: At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8). Here we have the worst possible news and the best possible news. The bad news is that you were conceived in sin and you entered the world belonging to the devil’s domain of darkness. The Good News is that now, by God’s grace, you are light in the Lord.
The domain of darkness is a place of death. As a citizen of that dark domain, you were born spiritually dead—dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and completely unable to fear, love, and trust in God. The domain of darkness is a place of evil; thus, you were born with the ability only to do evil, to do what displeases God. The domain of darkness is a place of ignorance; thus, you were born ignorant of the one true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You entered this world as a citizen of the devil’s dark domain; thus, you were born dead to God, capable only of evil, and ignorant of the one true God. Oh yes, you were darkness, and great indeed was your darkness!
But then something amazingly good happened to you. While you were still dead in your trespasses, God, being rich in mercy and because of the great love with which He loved you, God made you alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4, 5). You were born dead to God, but God made you alive in Christ. You were born evil, but God made you holy in Christ. You were born ignorant of the one true God, but God revealed Himself to you in Christ Jesus.
How did God do this great and precious work of making us alive in Christ? How did God change us dead, evil, and ignorant creatures into His beloved children? The answer is found in our text: God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. There is an incredible amount of Good News packed into this single sentence.
The first bit of Good News is that your salvation is God’s work—God has delivered you—and because your salvation is God’s work and not your own, you can be certain of your salvation. Salvation is never an “inside job”, something that you accomplish through your own strength. Rather, salvation is always an “outside job” in which God comes to you to rescue you! It matters not whether we think or feel that we are saved; what matters is that we trust that in Christ Jesus, God has done everything necessary to save us!
Another bit of Good News is that the work of your salvation has already happened. St. Paul speaks of salvation as a past event—God has delivered us. Oh, it is true that you still suffer attacks from the devil, the world, and your sinful nature. But, trusting in God to keep His promise in Jesus, you can already say, “I am saved.” Your salvation has already taken place. The price for your salvation has already been paid for by Jesus on the Good Friday cross. And in Holy Baptism, God saved [you] through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on [you] generously through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6). In Baptism, God saved you. Your salvation is a past event. And yet, it is more than a past event. Your salvation is a present reality, a reality which you live out each day by returning to your baptism in repentance, by confessing your sins and trusting God to forgive you for Jesus’ sake. And your salvation has a future dimension, as you wait with hope for the full consummation of your salvation, as you yearn for the day when your Lord will rescue [you] from every evil deed and bring [you] safely into His heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).
Yet another bit of Good News can be found in the verbs of our text: [God] has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Sin had disqualified us from God’s favour forever. But then, God overturned sin’s disqualification. Through the redemption won for us by Christ our Saviour, God now has qualified us to receive the full inheritance by making us His saints in light, which means we are no longer in darkness, no longer separated from the God of love and mercy.
And there is a second wonderful verb. God has delivered us. “Deliver” is a strong word of great force. Just as the Canadian liberation of the Dutch people involved great sacrifice, so God’s deliverance of us required the forceful act of sending Jesus, His only-begotten Son, as the sacrificial Lamb of God, who would crush the head of Satan by dying on the cross in our place so that we may be saved. God, in His grace, has delivered you from the devil’s domain of darkness. Yes, Jesus came into the world as light, so that whoever believes in [Him] may not remain in darkness (John 12:46).
And finally, there is a third verb for us to consider. God has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. Some years ago, there was a powerful spring flood that tore a house from its foundation. A news team filmed the house floating down river to a new location. That image is a reminder of the true nature of Baptism. We see a baby being baptized and we think “how cute”. But really, Baptism is God’s forceful act of wrenching a sinner out of the devil’s dark domain and in that baptismal flood floating that sinner down to a new location, a new kingdom. This new kingdom, to which we now belong, is not a kingdom of death, evil, and ignorance. Rather, the kingdom of God’s beloved Son is a kingdom of life, holiness, and the knowledge of the one true God. Our Lord Jesus has redeemed us; by His death He has paid the price for our salvation, and in Him, we have the forgiveness of sins.
In his catechism, Luther reminds us what a wondrous thing God does for us through Holy Baptism: Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. That is what your life is all about—God delivering you from the devil’s domain and giving you forgiveness and salvation, thereby transferring you to the kingdom of his beloved Son.
Yes, at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk [then] as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). Your calling as a child of light is to hold on to the Good News of salvation in Jesus with all your heart until the day you die. In all your struggles, remember this: Jesus has won for you the victory over death and the grave. After paying for our sins on the cross, Jesus rose from the dead. He rose from the dead and death can no longer touch Him, which means that death can no longer harm and keep down those who are His. Death cannot keep you in its grasp, for you belong to Jesus. Oh, you still have to physically die, but death cannot overwhelm you, death cannot hold on to you, for you have a Saviour who is mightier than death, a Saviour who has overcome sin, sorrow, pain, disease and death. And He promises to be with you always. As you struggle against sin, sorrow, suffering, and finally death itself, your Saviour Jesus will strengthen you with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, [so that you give] thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
What a gracious, loving Saviour we have. He does not abandon us to our sins; nor does He send us away from Him to struggle with our troubles alone. Rather, Jesus has delivered us from the domain of darkness and has brought us into His kingdom of light. He comes to us in our weakness and He holds onto us, keeping us safe in His love. And then He gives us the strength to hold on to Him with all our heart until the day we die. Yes, in the midst of our struggles, our Saviour gives us a great and mighty promise: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). O Lord, help us, Your needy children, to walk and to live in Your Light for all eternity! Amen.