Summary: Walk in the Light
This is a true story – no I mean it, it really is true.
Warren had an MRI a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know if you have ever had one. I’ve had a couple. One a long time ago and one just a few years ago. They have gotten better. For the first MRI that I had, the MRI was this big tube that completely surrounded you. In the most recent one, it was a large ring that just surrounded the part of the body that they were examining. In my case, it was a knee.
In either case, you have to lay flat on an examination table. They put you in an awkward position, and you have to lay perfectly still. They dim the lights. I really felt as if they were putting me in a tomb – buried alive.
They often give you headphones and play music for you so that you will be more comfortable during this near death experience. That is what they did for Warren. They offered him a choice of musical styles. Did he want “Easy Listening”? How about classical? No, he chose inspirational.
I want you to picture Warren. My guess is that he was wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt. He is laid out on a table in the dark. They start pushing him into the tomb of the machine, and the music that is supposed to soothe him starts playing. Their inspirational song choice? It was “Jesus is Tenderly Calling You Home.” Warren was not comforted.
Our text today talks about light and dark and contrasts death and life. In fact, when I did Mildred’s funeral a couple of weeks ago, I used this text. I also used some of this sermon, so if you were at the funeral and some of this sounds familiar, you’ll know why.
Before I get into the text itself, there is some background that you need to understand.
Technically, the various heresies that are collectively known as “Gnosticism” didn’t emerge until the second or third century. Still, some of the ideas that developed into Gnostic thought are seen toward the end of the first century. They are addressed in Paul’s later letters – Colossians and Ephesians, and in the letters of John. I’ll be telling you about Gnostic thought as it developed, knowing that the readers of this passage from Ephesians would not have had a developed philosophy.
The roots of Gnosticism actually go back to Plato. If you took a college philosophy course, they probably told you about Plato’s parable of the cave. He asked his students to imagine what it would be like to be sitting in a chair at the mouth of a cave looking at the back wall. You aren’t doing this for an hour or even a day. Your entire life you are in that chair and can only look at the back wall.
Somewhere behind you, there is a fire. You can’t see the fire, but you do see the light on the back wall of the cave. From time to time, animals walk between the fire and your chair. You can’t see the animals, but you do see their shadows. Plato said, that you would naturally believe that the shadows are real and would doubt the existence of the animals, even though the opposite is true.
Plato said that we live in a sort of cave. We think that the things around us are real, but, according to Plato, they are not. He said that there is an ideal realm that is the true reality. The material world around us is just the shadow of that ideal realm and is inherently unreal.
The basic idea of Gnosticism takes this idea of Plato one step further. Instead of saying that the material world is unreal, the Gnostics say that the material world is evil. In their thinking, that which is spiritual has the same nature as God and is necessarily pure. That which is material, like our fleshly bodies, is inherently evil, while our souls are divine.
Gnosticism was condemned as a heresy based primarily on two issues, their view of creation and their view of the nature of Jesus.
If the material world is inherently evil, where did it come from? A perfect God certainly could not create an evil world. Instead, they believed that the true God created a secondary god – what they call a demiurge. This secondary god created yet a more inferior god. This continued until the being that was created was far enough removed from perfection that he could create the evil material world. In their view, the god of the Old Testament – the god worshiped by the Jews – is a very inferior god who is the author of evil. Gnosticism was inherently anti-Semitic.