The Light of Life
Genesis 4:3-7

Genesis 4:6-7

Happy April everyone!

I am so happy to see you here today.

As some of you may know, I have just returned from a visit to Australia.

I stayed with my sister, who has just moved to Brisbane.

They live in a house with a big wood deck that goes all around the house.

The house is on a steep hill in the countryside, so the wood decking actually looks out into a forest of tree canopies.

You can see all kinds of tropical birds in the tops of the trees, right there in front of you.

I recorded this quickly the day before we came back to Japan.

Because the weather is so good for most of the year there, people tend to spend a lot of time outside.

Like many people, my sister’s family actually do most of their cooking and eating outside on the wood deck.

We ate outside nearly every night – even when it rained.

It was so beautiful there, and I was together with most of my family.

Even though I knew that I was just visiting, it would have been so nice to just stay there like that.

It was a place that I just really wanted to be.

Actually, the reason I went to Australia this time was to visit my mother.

She has just moved 2000 kms from Melbourne, where I grew up, to live with my sister.

Mum has dementia, so it has been a difficult transition for her.

She is not only forgetful, but is continually confused about where she is, and why she is there.

Until recently, she had been living in her own apartment within an elderly care facility.

It would have been possible for mum to move into a different unit where she would have received full time care.

However, when my sister moved last year, it became possible for her to look after mum instead.

We felt very strongly that this would help mum to maintain a degree of independence.

But we also feared that if she had moved into full care in that facility, she would lose her remaining independence and her dementia would progress very quickly.

So, we believed that living together with family would provide her with real meaning and purpose for her life.

Now that she has moved, sometimes it is like there is a light shining in her mind, and she seems to be very clear, and understands things;

but at other times, her mind seems to darken.

At those times, she seems very frail and insecure.

She feels all alone, and frets that she can’t look after herself anymore.

At those times, she is confused and thinks she will have to move to get help.

She forgets that she has already come to live with her daughter.

It can be difficult to see this change in a person who had always been such a source of strength and security to everyone around her.

On the one hand, there is a feeling of helplessness, because we know that we can’t change her degeneration.

We can’t give her back her memory;

and we can’t stop her being confused.

However, it is very clear that there are things that we can do for mum.

When she is clear and understanding, we can celebrate life together with her.

We talk about what we are doing now;

and we remember memories of the past together.

These are times of joy, filled with thanksgiving for the life that God is giving us.

And mum has always been ready to express her gratitude to God.

However, when the lights in mum’s mind darken, we can still be there to comfort her.

We can hold her;

We can encourage her.

We can tell her that she is not alone;

gently remind her that she is surrounded by her loving family.

We can’t make her understand her situation;

but we can be there with her until that understanding comes.

In this way, many times, over and over again, we can shine a little light and help her to remember that she is where she actually wants to be.

We can help her to trust that she is, actually, in the right place.

We can all get confused;

We can be unsure of who we are.

We can feel in the dark about where we are supposed to be in life.

We might lose direction about what we are supposed to be doing.

In those times, gentle words of comfort might not bring immediate understanding.

They probably won’t lift the clouds of uncertainty or confusion straight away.

But just being with someone can help them through their time of trouble;

A light that shines into their darkness.

This light can bring comfort, hope and peace.

This light can give strength to wait, and then to move forward in life.

Last week was Easter.

An important Scripture that is often read in this season is from the Prophet Isaiah.

  • The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)

Isaiah described people who were walking in darkness.

Who were those people?

Why were they walking in darkness?

And what was this light that they saw?

The most direct answer is that Isaiah was referring to the Israelites.

This was the people to whom God had chosen to reveal Himself.

This was the people through whom God had chosen to reveal Himself to the world.

They were the people whom God had chosen to be His light.

And yet Isaiah declares that they themselves had been in darkness.

The Israelites thought that they knew who they were.

They thought that they knew what they were doing.

But they were actually walking in darkness.

What was their problem?

Isaiah tells us a little later on:

  • The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13)

On the surface, it looked like these people were very religious.

They seemed to know God.

It looked like they worshipped Him.

But in reality, their words were empty;

their actions were superficial.

Their religion was without faith.

It didn’t have anything to do with God.

God had called the Israelites together to be His own children.

But they didn’t know God as their father.

In the Bible, John tells us that:

  • God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5b)

God wanted the Israelites to know Him.

He wanted to shine the light of His glory through the Israelites.

He wanted to reveal Himself to the people of all nations.

But the Israelites themselves didn’t know Him.

And so instead of bearing the light of God’s glory in their lives, they were themselves walking in darkness.

It was about these people that Isaiah had declared:

  • The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)

What was this light that they saw?

To answer this question, I want to return to our story of Cain and Abel.

You remember that Cain and his brother Abel had brought offerings to the Lord God.

Abel’s offering was received, and he was commended as a righteous man, because his offering was based on his faith.

As we have seen, this faith focused on what God had done.

Cain and Abel’s parents were Adam and Eve.

And though God had created them without sin,

they chose to step out from the covering of God’s glory.

They sought to cover themselves with their own glory.

But as soon as they lost the covering of God’s glory, they were confronted by the shame, guilt and fear of their own nakedness.

They tried to cover over their sin.

But, the real problem was not their physical bodies.

Without the covering of God’s glory, it was their hearts, their souls, that were naked.

However, it was God who covered Adam and Eve with garments made from animal skins.

And it was God Himself who had sacrificed those animals to cover Adam and Eve’s sin.

So, Abel’s offering of a lamb showed that he understood the meaning of the sacrifice that God had made.

That sacrifice had been to cover his parents’ sin, and his own sin.

So, it was because of this faith in what God had done that God declared Abel to be righteous.

But Cain’s offering, as we have seen, showed that he did not understand what God had done.

Cain was like the later Israelites.

He thought that he knew God.

He thought that he knew himself.

And Cain thought that it was what he did that would make himself right with God.

So, instead of making an offering of thanksgiving for what God had done for him, Cain turned the spotlight to what he thought he was doing for God.

Instead of responding in faith for what God had already done for him;

Cain started to create his own religion.

Cain was not with God.

Cain was walking in darkness.

But God wanted Cain to turn his eyes, to turn his heart, to the light that God was shining into that darkness.

So God called out to Cain.

  • Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?

  • If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6,7)

God wanted Cain to know what Abel knew.

God wanted Cain to understand that God already loved Cain;

Cain was separated from God by sin.

But God wanted Cain back as His own family.

In a sense, it was like Cain was confused about who he was.

He wanted purpose and fulfillment in his life.

He wanted to know the feeling of acceptance.

But he didn’t realize that those things were already there for him.

Cain wasn’t alone.

God was there for Cain.

God Himself had already provided everything that Cain needed – everything that Cain really wanted.

Cain couldn’t barter, earn, or produce this for himself.

All Cain had to do was understand this;

All he had to do was accept it.

All he had to do was to receive it.

This is the light that God was shining into the darkness.

It is the same light that Isaiah spoke of.

It was the light that God would reveal in His Son, Jesus.

John tells us that:

  • In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

Jesus came to shine the light of God’s glory into our hearts.

He came that we might be covered with that glory.

Paul tells us that:

  • (But) God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

  • God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

If you ever feel confused about who you are;

If you think that you are in the dark about the meaning, the purpose of your life;

Look to the light that God shines into that darkness.

If you feel that you are a long way from God;

That your heart does not match the words that come from your lips;

See the sacrifice that God Himself made for you.

By trusting in Jesus, God forgives our sin;

God covers our naked souls with His own glory;

He makes us His own children;

He surrounds us with His love;

And He always, always, reminds us that He is with us!

There is one more thing that I would like to share with you about my mother.

It is true that she gets very confused.

It is true that she often forgets where she is.

She forgets what she is doing.

She even forgets who people are.

But there is one thing that she knows very clearly.

There is something that remains strong, even though she is growing weak.

In fact, as she becomes able to do less and less, her appreciation of this thing grows deeper and deeper.

It is her thankfulness that God’s gift of His Son, Jesus, was for her.

It is her understanding that she belongs to God.

In spite of her confusion, through her trust in Jesus, mum knows that she is not alone.

God Himself is the place where she wants to be.

Even though her mind becomes clouded and dark at times, her heart is always filled with the light of God’s love.

This light can bring comfort, hope and peace to each one of us.

This light can give us the strength to wait,

and it can shine on our path to lead us forward in life.

May your hearts always be filled with the light of the love of God in Jesus.

Father God,

We often spend so much of our time and energy in life doing things.

Sometimes we enjoy what we are doing, and sometimes it is like a heavy burden.

However, there is nothing that we can do that can replace what You have done for us.

So we thank you for giving us Jesus.

O God, You are so awesome.

We thank you that Jesus gave Himself to cover our sins.

We thank You for showing us how much You love us, for showing us how precious we are to You.

Please fill our hearts with Your love;

and help us to know the joy and the peace of being together with You.

Please help us to always remember, to never forget, that the place where we will find our joy and peace is together with You.