This week my family watched a Disney animation about the story of Rapunzel. And in their version of the story, Rapunzel's hair has a life-giving quality so powerful that a woman kidnaps her as a baby, pretends to be her mom and locks her in a tower so she can use Rapunzel's hair to be her personal fountain of youth.
And so the whole story revolves around Rapunzel's desire to leave the tower, in conflict with her guilt from disobeying the woman she thinks is her mother.
Throughout the film, the mother breaks out into songs trying to guilt and scare Rapunzel into staying in the tower. And Karie and I started to laugh at some of the lyrics because they sounded like the way we as conservative Christians sometimes think about the world- outside the walls of our church and our home and our Christian school.
We know it's a dark and dangerous and scary with all sorts of threats to our safety and security as God's people. And it can be very tempting for us to think "Maybe God wants us to build secret towers with 300 foot walls to hide our kids and ourselves from the rest of this God-forsaken country."
But is retreating to a tower a good idea? Do you think that's how God would have us to respond to the darkness and godlessness in the world around us?
In v. 12, we see the word "wherefore" pointing back to the previous verses. Because Christ was obedient to His Father, Paul is going to call us to be obedient. Because Christ is exalted as Lord, Paul is going to call us to submit to His Lordship.
So what better way to be obedient and submitted to the rule of Christ than to hole ourselves up in a hidden tower where we have no contact with the outside world? Wouldn't that be the easiest way to live a life of obedience to God?
In AD 270 a young Egyptian named Anthony decide to do just that. He sold all he had and went out into the desert and started what we call in church history-the Monastic movement.
Many sincere Christians were so fed up with the hypocrisy and the worldliness of the Catholic Church that they hid themselves away in monasteries, thinking the way to best obey God is to be away from people. Some even took vows of silence where they would go years without talking to others.
But is this the way God wants us to obey Him?
And the answer is "No."Sure God wants us to be "blameless and harmless" look at v. 15... "the sons of God, without rebuke (that means above reproach)," but look at that next phrase "in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation."
We're not to be of the world. But we are called to be in the world, in the middle of a crooked and perverse world.
What's interesting is that the thing that draws Rapunzel out of her tower is that she wants to see these floating lights. Every year on her birthday, in memory of their kidnapped princess, the people of the kingdom send flying lanterns up in the sky. It's a beautiful sight.
I did some research and apparently a Chinese military strategist invented these sky lanterns in the 3rd century. They're constructed from oiled rice paper in a bamboo frame with a small candle or fuel cell that heats the inside of the lantern causing it to rise like a hot air balloon.
Sky lanterns are still used to this day at festivals to light up the night sky.
If you look at the rest of v. 15, you see that Christians are not called to be monastic recluses, holed up in hidden towers. Instead we are called "to shine as lights in the world."
This evening we're going to see 3 ways we can be bright lights in a dark world.