February 2, 2020
What is a shadow? According to Merriam Webster, it is “the dark figure cast upon a surface by a body intercepting the rays from a source of light” or “partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body.” But it can also mean “a source of gloom or unhappiness”. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shadow)
If the groundhog sees his shadow today, he fearfully runs back into his hole hoping that in 6 more weeks the season we all pray would pass sooner will finally be over.
What other types of shadows have we recently seen that might cause us to fear and wish that the season that they cause to hover over us would soon be over?
There is a website entitled “The National Interest” and on it is a page that lists the top 26 threats to our national security. This is a page that anyone who does not have a deeply rooted faith in Christ should never read! And it doesn’t even mention the increased threat of military retaliation due to President Trump’s decision to kill the Iranian major general, Qassem Soleimani. The shadows cast across our country due to threats of military action, disease, environmental issues, cyberattacks, terrorism, and extremism in various forms can fill us with anxiety, fear, and depression if we allow them to block the light of the Son, and cast a shadow on our beloved country. (https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/these-are-top-26-national-security-threats-facing-america-40412)
But what about your own shadow? Does the shadow of your past continue to haunt you? Does it make you fear for the future and afraid to come out of your hole? Some past events, such as those witnessed while serving in the military during a war, can cause what is known as PTSD, or post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Those affected can suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety that makes everyday life a struggle.
Many of us struggle with guilt over things we have done or said in the past, some of which might have adversely affected someone else’s life in addition to our own. The shadows cast by our personal sins often make us fearful of pursuing future relationships, jobs, or activities that remind us of our past mistakes.
Whatever shadow you might be facing, whether it be one of fear for the future, regret over the past, grieving a recent occurrence, dealing with illness, or stressing over something related to your job or schooling, there is someone who is there to help you face it, and of course that is our Lord Jesus Christ. He faced all of the same shadows that you are, and even more (Hebrews 4:15). I am reminded of the shadow that fell upon the land from noon until 3:00 p.m. as he was crucified. And yet it was because of what happened on that cross, and Christ’s glorious resurrection on the third day, we can put our guilt behind us; because God’s Word says He will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more, for He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (Hebrews 8:12, Colossians 2:14). We can face our fears without worry or anxiety, because the Bible reminds us that Jesus has overcome the world, and the one who is in us now, the Holy Spirit, is greater than the one who lives in the world. (John 16:33, 1 John 4:4). And even if we are walking in the shadow of death, as David wrote in the 23rd psalm, we need fear no evil, for God is with us.
But there is still one more shadow I would like to mention today. And that is the current shadow being cast by our beloved church. I don’t mean by our individual church, but by our denomination. The division within the United Methodist Church is casting a very dark shadow across the message that we should be sending out into the world. News reports are being published and aired all over the world concerning steps being taken toward separation, which will again be voted upon at General Conference in May. This battle between Traditionalists and Progressives has been raging for years. Leaders within both groups are pulling at members to choose. The apostle Paul witnessed such actions in the early church and appealed to his Christian brothers and sisters to strive against it. He spoke of it in our first two Scripture readings (1 Corinthians 1:10-13, Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-14), saying such division displays immaturity and prayed for the day when the church would be united. And I appeal to you also, in the same way that Paul did in our third Scripture reading (Philippians 2:1-2,14-16a), to “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (vs. 2). Some claim the differences are irreconcilable. But the apostle Paul even had a solution for that. In Romans 14 he said we are to “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters” and asked us why we judge our brother or sister or why we treat them with contempt. “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” And he appeals to us to “stop passing judgment on one another”. Instead, we are to make up our minds not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. Can’t we do that without a complete and total separation? How are we displaying the love of Christ to a lost world if we cannot even love our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died?
And so I implore all of you, to pray for each other, our church, and our denomination. And above all, share the love of Christ with everyone, whether you agree with them or not. Shine the light of Christ so brightly that the shadows may forever be banished, and the long winter finally end. Amen.
"My Feet are on the Rock" (I Am They) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uYiHiJTN6Y
"Broken Hallelujah" (The Afters) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fo3DudOzV4k