On this week’s Sunday night livestream you will have noticed Andrew standing in front of the stained glass window which has featured in recent weeks at the end of our service. Now completed with a wooden frame around it, it is mounted in the outer vestibule of our Greenock church. It depicts a scene overlooking the Clyde and is ablaze with the rays of the sun. It is looking very beautiful, with the vestibule around it painted white to match the white and black floor, and it gives you a little glimpse before you can actually see it on the happy day when we are back at church. A memorial to Miss Elizabeth Taylor, one of our founders, it has engraved on it lines which she loved and wrote in an extract at the beginning of her Bible, from Myers’ poem St Paul:
So even I, and with a heart more burning
Faint for the flaming of Thine advent feet.
Quite coincidentally, the theme that I have for today is to do with light. What triggered the thought in my mind was two stories that I read in the autobiography of Elizabeth Sherrill, All the Way to Heaven. Many of you will have read it, but some may not, and the stories, which are really wonderful, bear repeating.
The first one concerns a married man with a young American family, whose little boy of five was knocked down and killed at a toll crossing. The father had had a difficult childhood, and having a family of his own had transformed life for him. Not a believer, he was in absolute agony over the death of his son, and he wanted revenge on the driver. The latter was a 15-year-old boy who had stolen his mother’s car keys and was now in prison. This father was pacing up and down the floor outside his bedroom in the darkness of the night, absorbed in his agony and wanting all kind of vengeance. Suddenly into that hallway there exploded light. It was powerful, it was radiant, it was life-transforming – and he knew that that light was Christ. In a moment the hurt of his childhood was healed, and all his bitterness towards the young man went. He and his wife took the young man under their wing, and he became like a family member in their home. This remarkable story illustrates the power of the light that was the Lord Jesus Christ.
The other occasion that Elizabeth Sherrill relates was concerning her own husband, who had just acknowledged that Jesus Christ was the Son of God about 48 hours before this experience. Immediately afterwards, due to be operated on the next day for a tumour in his neck, he had asked the rector in their church to pray for him and felt a tremendous searing flame go through his body. After the operation he was lying in the Intensive Care Unit in intense pain – because he had nearly died on the operating table. They discovered that the tumour had turned to a mere cinder. What had caused the trouble on the operating table was that his lungs had collapsed. But as he lay in intense pain there came striding in to his room the Lord Jesus Christ, and He came in the form of light. And all that John Sherrill could do was to pray for others in the unit, whose suffering was immediately relieved; his pain seemed irrelevant before that light.
God is light. Christ said: ‘I am the light of the world.’
We are invited to walk in the light. I think that many people, and perhaps many of us who have had any kind of revelation of God, in our spirit or with the naked eye, know that He is light, and it is what our hearts cry out for. That light is a wonderful light. It’s a light that brings warmth. To produce light without heat is something that even today we have not discovered. When I was a student I remember reading of the ancient Babylonians (and, I think, Egyptians) that they could produce light without heat, and I remember being told that we cannot do that. That was about fifty years ago. Nowadays we’re nearer it – but still can’t quite do it.
But the light that is Christ you would not want without heat. There’s a warmth in His light. There can be a dazzling ray brighter than the noonday sun. It can be a searing flame that reveals sin in us. But there’s always a warmth in it. He comes in His mercy and His grace with the warmth of that light that shines into our desolation. Light shines through best in the darkness. Some museums have gemstones where you can only see the gems glowing in the dark. And oh, how the glow of the radiance of Christ shines when He comes into our darkened, desolate hearts. For what is darker or more desolate than an unredeemed soul, an unredeemed heart? And in He comes. When we cry out to Him He draws near, and He pours in the warmth of His own being, His own presence, His own love, and He shines within us.
For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
It’s that light that lit the whole world that comes into our darkness, into our desolation, into our need, and into His world. I spoke very recently of the Covenanter who asked that God would throw His cloak over him, and the cloak that He throws over us is the one that our first father lost in the garden of Eden. He was clothed in light. It is wonderful when Christ draws near and we find He is embracing us in light. He chases away our darkness, fear and anxiety – He chases away all thought except of Him, and we are wrapped in a cloak of safety, in a cloak of light that was our first inheritance and was lost and that Christ has won again for us. He is the risen Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings.
And His Name be blessed.
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Struthers Memorial Church is a registered Scottish Charity No. SC 006960 | Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee incorporated in Scotland Company No SC335480 | Registered Office: 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, PA15 1SH.