Summary: We are promised "no more night": no more blind thrashing about, unable to see where our lives are going; no more mistrust; no more incompleteness. Sermon for Remembrance Day, when we celebrate members who have passed away in the previous year.
Several Saturday nights ago I just was not satisfied with my preaching preparation. Somehow the message had not quite gelled, and I knew there were many improvements I needed to make before Sunday morning. But by then it was late, after a busy weekend, and I decided, hey, so what, it’ll be all right. Let me wrap this up, watch a little TV, and go to bed. I’ll fix it in the morning. I turned in about midnight.
But once I got to bed, I tossed and I turned, I squirmed and I fidgeted. Muffled grumbles came from somebody on the other side of the bed. Down on the floor just beyond my feet the dog growled. Obviously my restlessness was disturbing everyone else around me. I got up and drank some juice, then came back to bed. More tossing, more turning, more restlessness. I just could not get to sleep! Now let me inform you that not getting any sleep is not a good thing for pastors on Saturday nights. Pastors don’t get your privilege of rolling over in bed on Sunday morning and declaring that nobody down at that church cares whether I come or not! Pastors need to be alert and focused on Sunday. Got to get some sleep!
Well, the harder I tried to sleep the more my eyes stayed wide open. The more anxious I became about not sleeping, the more clear it became that I was not going to sleep. Actually, I did sleep just a little, but the next thing I knew it was three o’clock, and, awake again, I became aware of why this was happening: my mind was still working on that sermon. My brain was buzzing through the Bible, trying to get it together. There was to be no such thing as rest as long as there was a task not yet finished. No such thing as sleep as long as there was work yet to do.
In other words, if you have work to do, important work, there will be no more night for you. If you have important work yet to do, God’s work, the night is not a night of rest but a night of toil and restlessness until it is done. The night is long when the task is not finished.
By the way, I did get up, I did rewrite the sermon, and I did get through that Sunday. I will leave it to you to guess which Sunday that was!
If you have important work to do, God’s work, the night does not mean rest. It means anxious labor, restlessness, and feverish labor, until the night is over and the work is done.
That simple observation helps me understand why John speaks of the heavenly city as one in which there is no more night. There is no more night because earthly labors are finally complete, and the air is cleared of anxiety. No more night because that terrible incompleteness, that awful dissatisfaction that we feel, nearly every day of our mortal lives, is finally resolved. No more night. No more anxiety. No more struggling to do the impossible. No more battling with the limitations of the flesh. No more night.
Let’s work with that image, and see what we can find out about what it is going to mean to live eternally in the place of God’s eternal day. And let’s see if those we remember today might serve as guides from our restlessness into their rest, from our incompleteness into their wholeness.
First, I see that “no more night” means no more thrashing about, blind to what we are doing or where we are going. “No more night” means no more being blind about where our path is taking us.
Obviously, we are hampered at night because we don’t have enough light to see well. We stumble in semi-blindness. That Saturday night, when I got up to get my little glass of juice, not only did I wake the wife and stir the dog, I got myself pretty riled up when my bare foot came down on a doggie treat that was not supposed to be on the floor! I probably said some things that could not have been used in that as yet unfinished sermon! But because it was night, I hit the obstacle and caused myself pain.
But we are in the night. We cannot see the truth. We are blind to seeing ourselves. We live in the night; that means we are unable to see what our own issues are. Many of our most serious anxieties are born out of our inability to see our own selves. I become more aware every day that just because we have training and education and all sorts of skills, that does not mean that we understand ourselves. Not at all. The poet Robert Burns said it in familiar lines, “Oh, would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.” But we don’t have that gift. We are blind to our own inner realities. We are in the blindness of night.