WHEN WE TRULY ARE THE CHURCH
Chuck Colson tells this story: "My mind goes back to a Christmas 20 years ago in Romania, when the country was still in the grip of communist tyranny.
The story begins with Laszlo Tokes, pastor of a fast-growing reformed church in the city of Timisoara. His powerful preaching had caught the attention of communist officials, and they began a strategy of suppression. They stationed police officers around his church, machine guns cradled in their arms. They hired thugs to attack him. Finally, just before Christmas, they decided to send him into exile.
But when the police arrived to hustle Pastor Tokes away, they were stopped cold. Around the church stood a wall of humanity. Christians from around the city--Baptist, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Catholic--had joined together to protest.
All through the day they held their post. As it grew dark, a young Baptist student named Daniel Gavra pulled out a packet of candles, lit one, and passed it to his neighbor.
Then he lit another. One by one the burning candles were passed out among the crowd. Soon the darkness of the December night was pierced by the light of hundreds of candles. When Pastor Tokes looked out his window, he saw a sea of faces lit up by a warm glow.
That night, he said later, was the 'turning point in my life.' He would never erase from his mind the picture of believers from all denominations joining hands in his defense.
Two days later, police finally broke through the crowd and dragged Pastor Tokes away. But that was not the end. The people now streamed to the city square and began a full-scale demonstration against the communist government.
Once again Daniel Gavra passed out his candles. Once again the night was lit by their glow.
Finally, the communist officials began to panic. They brought in troops and ordered them to open fire on the crowd. Hundreds were shot. Young Daniel felt a searing pain as his leg was blown off.
Yet the brave example set in Timisoara inspired the rest of the nation. Within days the entire population of Romania had risen up and the bloody dictator Ceausescu was gone. The churches filled with worshippers offering praise to God.
For the first time in half a century, the people of Romania celebrated Christmas in freedom.
In the hospital, Daniel Gavra celebrated while learning to walk with crutches. His pastor came by, offering him sympathy, but Daniel wasn't looking for sympathy.
'Oh, Pastor,' he said softly. 'I don't mind so much the loss of a leg. After all, it was I who lit the first candle.'
What a powerful image for us here in America -- the picture of a black December night lit up by the glowing testimony of God's people.
What mighty things the church could do today when it is truly is the church: when we stand shoulder to shoulder with all our brothers and sisters, ready to fight evil, prepared to give our limbs -- and yes, even our lives -- to light a candle in the darkness.
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise [not you, but] your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16
Related Sermon Illustrations
Contributed by John Hamby on Aug 11, 2003
How Do I Know He Lives? How do I know that Christ has risen? What proof have I to give? He touched my life one blessed day, And I began to live. How do I know he left the tomb That morning long ago? I met Him just this morning, And my heart is still aglow. How do I know the endless ...read more
Contributed by Chris Hodges on Jul 28, 2003
Consider this short poem entitled “Power of Words:” A careless word may kindle strife A cruel word may wreak a life A bitter word may hate instill A brutal word may smite and kill A gracious word may smooth the way A joyous word ...read more
Contributed by Bo Dunford on Apr 15, 2005
A wife went with her friend to the police station to report that her husband was missing! * When the policeman asked for a description, she said, “He’s 6 foot 2, has deep blue eyes, dark wavy hair, athletic build, well-groomed and sharply dressed, weighs 185 pounds .......” * “He’s ...read more
Contributed by Donnie Martin on Aug 10, 2003
True biblical worship so satisfies our total personality that we don’t have to shop around for man-made substitutes. William Temple made this clear in his masterful definition of worship: For worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; ...read more