The investigators sifted through papers, through recorded public comments; those were telling but they wanted to go deeper. They started digging deeper looking for those who saw, spoke, interacted with, or lived near Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27 years old. Investigators were thorough from the start interviewing witnesses that ran the gambit from the person that provided her coffee in the morning, to old romantic interests, from friends and family to foes. Everyone had a voice, no one was excluded. As they started to put together files on the life of Meriam she sat in prison pregnant, her husband feeling helpless saying, “All I can do is pray!” Investigators were trying to answer a very simple, and yet a seemingly allusive question: “Is this woman a Christian?” The answer would carry very real and permanent consequences. The charges were simple- “She was being charged with apostasy: Turning from Islam, accused of being a Christian with a death sentence hanging in the balance. It is a wild story, one that maybe you assumed was from the 1st century, a story from church history, and yet remarkably, this is a story from May of 2014 in the African nation of Sudan. Not the distant past but nearly a current reality!
I want you to start reflecting on the same question investigators asked about Meriam, “Are you a Christian?” You are obviously inside a church, sitting in a pew, subjecting yourself to a sermon, but beyond this hour of your life, if you were arrested and accused of being a Christian- would there be enough evidence to convict you? If someone dug through your schedule book, your check book, listened to what you said or watched what you did—what would the file tell? Jesus made a priority out of the answer saying—whoever confesses me before men, I will confess before my Father in heaven, but he who refuses to confess me before men, I will refuse to confess before my Father in heaven. Today as we continue in our sermon series called Mark My Words, Jesus reveals through word pictures and parable what being found guilty should look like in our text from Mark 4:20-35—all in hopes that we would be found Guilty of being a Christian now—so later we can be found Innocent before our Judge in Heaven.
Jesus, after giving up the parable of the four soils which we have talked about before, reveals that some people are simply sitting in darkness—Lightbulb in a Carton (Mark 4:20-25) 21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? In other words, what would be the point of sitting in darkness with a stockpile of bulbs in the closest. 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” 24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The heart of the matter isn’t just having the capacity to produce light, but on actually being able to see. Jesus brings it even more home for us; not talking about light bulbs, but about the presence of God in our lives which should produce a light that stands out from the worlds darkness.
During the Second World War, German paratroopers invaded the island of Crete. When they landed at Maleme, the islanders met them, bearing nothing other than kitchen knives and hay scythes. The consequences of resistance were devastating. The residents of entire villages were lined up and shot. Overlooking the airstrip today is an institute for peace and understanding founded by a Greek man named Alexander Papaderous. Papaderous was just six years old when the war started. He home village was destroyed and he was imprisoned in a concentration camp. When the war ended, he became convinced his people needed to let go of the hatred the war had unleashed. To help the process, he founded his institute at this place that embodied the horrors and hatreds unleashed by the war.
One day, while taking questions at the end of a lecture, Papaderous was asked, “What’s the meaning of life?” There was nervous laughter in the room. It was such a weighty question. But Papaderous answered it. He opened his wallet, took out a small, round mirror and held it up for everyone to see. During the war he was just a small boy when he came across a motorcycle wreck. The motorcycle had belonged to German soldiers. Alexander saw pieces of broken mirrors from the motorcycle lying on the ground. He tried to put them together but couldn’t, so he took the largest piece and scratched it against a stone until its edges were smooth and it was round. He used it as a toy, fascinated by the way he could use it to shine light into holes and crevices. He kept that mirror with him as he grew up, and over time it came to symbolise something very important. It became a metaphor for what he might do with his life. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world–into the black places in the hearts of men–and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life. Robert Fulgham, It Was On Fire When I Laid Down On It
In the midst of this life, we don’t always see the full shape of the mirror, but our job is the same, to reflect the light of God into the world. Too often though, as Christians, we are caught with the power to produce light, like a new light bulb in a carton, and instead give off no light. So many Christians are reluctant to be identified by their faith. A light can’t force someone to go the right direction, but it allows them the clarity to make a better choice. Our lives show other people how to find God and how to live for him. When we pull away from our faith, instead of shining we are shielding God’s light, covering it with a bowl: complacency, resentment, embarrassment, hard heartedness, disobedience, we could keep going. Just like the shooter who walked into Emmanuel Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC…He was in the midst of a bible study for an hour, maybe hearing the words that would lead to eternal life, hearing about the light of the world, hearing about peace, instead consumed by hatred he killed 9 people, some may focus on the racial element, but I will tell you right now, it goes deeper, he killed 9 of our brothers and sisters. Yet, from the darkness of death and destruction, comes the heart of light—unity, white and black marching, love which conquers hatred.