Our calling as Christians is to be Lamplighters, poking holes in the darkness.
Years ago I had a funeral for a young woman who died near Spokane; her parents and family lived here. (a relative of Connie DeBoer.) I don’t remember her name. She loved sunflowers. The family honored her by providing a sea of sunflowers for the service. There was a hitch in the paperwork ~ the day of the funeral the death certificate was not ready and the body could not be buried. The family was fine with having the service and burying the casket later after the state authorized the burial.
At the end of the service everyone left but the funeral director and me. The funeral director got a call and had to leave; I volunteered to baby-sit the casket till the funeral director could return. Along comes a car and stops a few feet from the graveside. “oh, no” I thought. “Somebody missed the service.” A young man got out. Obviously he was a friend or relative because he had a bouquet of sunflowers. I told him the details of the service to give him an idea of what he missed.
Then I asked him what his relationship was to the woman. A surprise to me, he said, “I’m not related, I read about the service in the paper, saw how young she was, I felt I needed to come, so I stopped at the grocery store and saw sunflowers and brought them to put on the grave.”
The man paused, and asked me a question, “Do you really believe in heaven?” Instantly I knew God had arranged this meeting. “Absolutely I do” I said…and for 20 minutes we talked about heaven, eternity, faith in Jesus Christ. This young man was afraid of death. He was afraid of dying, mortality, he was afraid of nothingness. I’ve never seen him since, but I have often prayed that God used me as a link in a chain to bring him to faith in Jesus Christ
We live in a world that is afraid, afraid of death, craving for meaning. For you who have faith in Jesus Christ, you are called to poke holes in the darkness of death. The good news of Jesus Christ illuminates the darkness of death.
Proclaim good news in the darkness, peace, good tidings, salvation. Lamplighters are called to proclaim to a dark and hurting world, “Your God reigns.” God is in control. The ancient cry of the watchman is most needed in a dark and fearful world. The good news of Jesus Christ lights the darkness of death, lights the darkness of depression, lights the darkness of doubt, lights the darkness of confusion, lights the darkness of fear, lights the darkness of a meaningless future.
Maybe you need holes poked in your own darkness. READ Is. 52:8. Maybe you have a wall of fear that is keeping the Lord at a distance, keeping you from being a FROG, Fully Relying On God., Depression that stifles you, a fear of death, confusion. Listen/// for the voice of the watchman/lamplighter. Do you need some holes poked in the darkness? Here’s a preview of the good news in two weeks, Easter Sunday: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! Now that’s a gigantic gaping hole in the darkness!
What’s with the talk about feet and watchman and shouting? In ancient times walls were built cities for protection. Watchmen were stationed on the walls. The people to whom Isaiah directed his prophecy of Is. 52 were no longer in Jerusalem. They had been in Babylon for 70 years. But they knew the stories of old, like the story of 2 Sam. 18, 500-600 years earlier, when Israel was in a civil war. King David was anxious to hear news of the battle. David sent a watchman to watch for a runner. First one runner was spotted, then a second runner. The first runner was recognized by his running style as Ahimaaz. He arrived with the good news, “All is well, praise the Lord your God who has given you victory over your enemies."” The second runner brought the bad news that David’s son Absalom was killed.
In Isaiah’s prophecy, he only tells of the Good News of victory. The first runner punched a hole in David's darkness with his words, "All is well." Sometimes we need holes poked in our own darkness, other times we are called to be the lamplighters, poking the holes. We poke holes in the darkness of life when we bring good news.
The truth is each of us is a herald. Either we broadcast good news, or bad news. Either we poke holes in the darkness, or we become part of the darkness.
In the Bible Study Thursday a few of us sat huddled in a cold building with no lights, we read Ps. 47:6-7, five times it says to SING praises to God. I brought up the topic of singing as a rich expression of our faith. Two of the people told of family members who no longer sing much because they used to sing quite enthusiastically as kids, then one too many adults said they were too loud, they were off key…
this world has too many second runners who bring bad news. Our calling is to be lamplighters, punching holes in the darkness. Isaiah penetrated the gloom when he described good news with the words, "how beautiful"
When does good news become beautiful? Good news becomes beautiful when it is shared. READ Is. 52:8-9. A crescendo of good news builds in this scripture. As the lamplighter makes his way along the street, one lamp turns into two, three, and soon the whole street is lit for travelers in the night to make their way. In the same way, first a single runner brings good news, then the watchman anticipates good news, followed by all the watchmen lifting their voices in Is. 52:8, which leads to the people “bursting forth in song.” If you punch enough holes in the wall, soon the wall falls. If you can punch enough holes in the darkness of depression, the darkness of death, the darkness of negative thinking, the darkness of discouragement, the darkness of confusion, the fear will fall away.
Lamplighters are looking to light up the whole street! Our goal is for people to see the fullness of the Lord Jesus Christ! READ Is. 52:10. Punch enough holes in the darkness with a message of hope and the wall will collapse. May ours be a vision of wholeness, a vision of transformation, a vision of great expectation because we serve and awesome God that is offering salvation to all people. READ Is. 52:1l.
It starts with punching holes in the darkness. It ends with people walking in confidence. READ Is. 52:12. The Lord will be before you blazing a pathway of safety and behind you protecting you. This literally came to fulfillment in the days of Nehemiah during the Babylonian captivity when the King’s winetaster, name Nehemiah, boldly approached the king asking if he could return to Jerusalem. Read the book and you will discover the King of Babylon not only said yes, but he provided safe passage, letters giving Nehimah authority and blessings to rebuild Jerusalem. This scripture is still coming to fulfillment whenever the discouraged finds a measure of hope, whenever a captive finds freedom and is liberated from the paralyzing darkness of doubt.
Our calling as Christians is to be Lamplighters, poking holes in the darkness.
Hazel never considered herself to be a lamplighter. She loved to sing, but couldn't carry a tune in a wash bucket. That didn't bother her; she sang anyway. She sang in the choir until they asked her to please praise God in some other capacity. Out in the congregation she still sang out, often leading the less musical congregants to be either sharp or flat.
Sixty years old and on a fixed income, when Hazel's rent went up she was forced to move into a run-down apartment in a tough area across town. She sold her car and rode the bus. One man in her building scared everybody. He seemed mean and a little crazy. Hazel was afraid, but nothing would keep her away from singing on Wednesday nights at her church.
One Wednesday as she returned late at night, she saw someone waiting in the shadows. She was terrified. At first she thought it was the crazy man in her building but a second glance told her the figure was different. Someone was waiting in the shadows. Hazel had no place to run and no one to call for help. She walked through the front door, and started singing as loud as she could: "When you walk through a storm, keep your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark." She forgot most of the words but picked up at the chorus, "Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone." She walked right by the man in the shadows, up the stairs and into her apartment. As she closed the door behind her she was trembling, but she was safe. Much later, she calmed herself enough to sleep.
The next morning she found a note slipped under her door during the night. It read:
Dear Lady: I don't know who you are, but I want to thank you for singing to me last night. I was ready to cash it in -- to take my life. Then I heard you singing out there in the hall. It sounded like you didn't have a care in the world. You got me to thinking about never walking alone. You saved my life. I'm going home to start over. It's time for me to go back to my parents and let them know I'm okay. I'm leaving today. I just wanted to thank you for your song.
The writing was almost illegible, but the signature was clear. It was written by the crazy man who lived in the building. He hadn't been in the hallway the night before, but he had been listening. Hazel never suspected that her song would poke a hole in anyone's darkness.
We are all called to be lamplighters, poking holes in the darkness. The Lord has a mysterious way of using our light -- our songs, our words, our joy, our message of salvation -- to penetrate the dark corners of other people's worlds, to bring a message of peace, good news, salvation. Poke enough holes, and the wall of darkness will come tumbling down so there will be an entire choir of singers. And the greatest message of all: “Your God Reigns.” Poking holes in the darkness. Maybe it’s you that needs a few holes poked to penetrate the confusion, the lack of vision, the hopelessness. Our calling is to be lamplighters, bringing to a dark and confusing world the message of salvation which is found only in Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Note: inspiration for sermon from Peter J. Flamming's book, Poking Holes in the Darkness, 1992.)