Good morning, Friends!
I want to say something very simple this morning. It’s so simple, that we often forget it – even though Jesus himself said these words to us, in the most famous sermon he ever gave.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before everyone, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
– Matthew 5:14-16
We are called – we are created – to be light-bringers. Jesus calls us “the light of the world”.
We’re meant to be like stars in the heavens. We’re supposed to be mirrors and reflect the light and love of God. We’re called to be lights of safety in a dangerous and violent world. We’re called to be lights of learning and lights of understanding in a world that doesn’t care about these things.
We’re called to be lights of reconciliation. Lights of God’s promises. Lights of healing. Lights of welcome and acceptance.
So often, the world sees Christians as judgmental, boring, exclusive, and hypocritical. The world today often sees Christians as keeping silent when people are suffering.
I hope that’s not the way we really are. I hope we’re not hiding under a basket. I hope we’re not afraid to share the wonderful love and good news Christ has given us. Our job is to shine, ever more brightly. We have a responsibility to bring light to the world.
That’s a pretty important message, and I could stop right there. But there are a few more things which might be helpful.
The first thing is, that it’s hard to share the Light, if we haven’t let the Light shine in us first. We can’t share what we don’t have ourselves.
So, our first task is to be open – to open ourselves to God, so that God’s light can find its way into us. If we stay closed all the time, if we try our best to stifle and put out that light, if our minds and our hearts are walled up with bricks and mortar, where are we going to be? We can’t share the love of God, if that love hasn’t been at work in us.
That’s an important point. The Spirit needs to reach into all the dark corners of our own lives. We don’t need to be perfect, but there’s a lot of ugly and useless stuff we carry around with us.
One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, says that we need to get rid of all of the radioactive toxic emotional nuclear waste that we carry around in our hearts. The fears, the hurts, the grudges, the insults and bad memories, all the things which tie us up in knots – Christ wants us to be free of them.
We have way too much fear in our hearts. We are way too afraid, so much of the time. When the Holy Spirit goes to work inside us, and the Light really begins to shine, our fear is cast out. It’s dissolved and washed away. Part of what we need to share with the world, part of what needs to shine in us, is what it means to live with love, and not fear.
It’s a journey. It’s an ongoing process. The Spirit comes back into our hearts, again and again. The Spirit keeps nibbling away at our fear, heaving big chunks of fear right out the window for us. And as we become free, the Light shines more clearly in us.
So, that’s my first point. We need to let the Light shine inside our own lives, before we can share it with anyone else.
My second point is like unto the first. We need to let God shine, and not just ourselves. We need to let Christ shine, and not just Josh or Butch or whoever.
That doesn’t mean that our self gets obliterated. We are always going to be ourselves. Our character, our experiences, our personalities – those things don’t go away.
But God is supposed to shine through us. We’re like stained glass windows – we color the light, but the light shines through us. Our lives are supposed to be transparent. If we paint over that glass, or if the light gets blocked by the way we act or speak, then the Light doesn’t get to do its job, which is to shine brightly into the rest of the world.
St. Patrick of Ireland once said, “Christ in every eye that sees me; Christ in every ear that hears of me; Christ in every tongue that speaks of me. . .”
When people see us, they should also be seeing Christ, through us and in us. Our kindness, our love, our patience, our humbleness, should all be a reflection of Jesus.
The next thing I want to say goes back to something I said a couple of weeks ago. The Light takes on its individual, unique color from the way that our gifts are used.
God gives all of us special gifts. Some of those are gifts mentioned in the Bible – things like wisdom, faith, healing, prophetic vision, discernment, and so on.
Most people have multiple gifts. My “gift set” is going to be different from yours. Some people are artists with paint, others are artists in the kitchen. Some healers work in the hospital, other healers work through prayer. Some people have the “green thumb” for growing plants, while other people have the gift of growing minds.
I’m sure you can come up with your own examples. The point is that we need to use them all.
One of my favorite contemporary Christian writers is a woman by the name of Diana Butler Bass. She quoted one of the early Christian leaders, a guy named Irenaus, who said, “The glory of God is the human person, fully alive.”
I’ll say that again, one more time. “The glory of God is the human person, fully alive.”
(A People’s History of Christianity, p. 36)
What would it be like if we were to live, with all the life and all the light that God gives us? What if we let God’s light shine more from our lives?
This is also true of everyone we meet. Whenever we meet another person, we need to realize that they are light-bearers, they are light-bringers. They are the light of the world, too. Part of our job is to recognize and honor the Light in each other, and to call that Light forth. Our lives are supposed to be both radiant and welcoming. Whenever we meet another person, they have a spark of that Light of God in them. They have something that we need. They have light that can help us.
I used to visit a friend of mine, years ago, in her office. She’s passed on now. She died after a long struggle with cancer.
The first time I visited Sue’s office, I noticed that, she had pictures of lighthouses, everywhere. She had framed pictures of lighthouses on her wall. She had big books of lighthouse pictures on her coffee table. She even had a lighthouse as the screen saver on her computer.
In some of the pictures, the weather was calm. In some of them, there were big storms. We can’t control the weather, my friend Sue said. What we need to do, no matter what, is to keep on shining. That’s our job. That’s our responsibility. We are the light of the world. That’s what Jesus says.
The last thing I want to say this morning, is that becoming a light-bringer, becoming more radiant, doesn’t happen all at once. It’s something that grows, with practice.
The early Quakers used to say, “Live up to the Light that you have, and more will be given to you. . .”
We won’t magically have the power of a fifty-thousand watt searchlight all at once. Most of us shine brightly for just a few moments, at different times in our lives. And most of us start out small. We may feel like a small candle, or like that lamp I started out showing you earlier.
What we have to do, is to use that light. Use what you have. Use whatever small piece of truth that you know. Follow those small leadings, even if they don’t always make sense. Listen to those whispers in your heart.
That’s how God often talks to us. God doesn’t always shout. Most of the time, God whispers. That’s why we pray quietly sometimes – so we can listen better.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve got a real thing about light bulbs. I get irritated when there isn’t enough light. In the two months since I arrived here, I’ve replaced the light bulbs in the front vestibule here at the meetinghouse, with ones that give three times the brightness, because dim light just bugs me.
I’ve replaced all the light bulbs over the platform up here at the front of the worship room. The old ones must have been up here for 20 years. When I took the old ones down, they were half-covered with paint.
In the last 3 weeks, I have personally climbed up on a ladder and replaced three cases worth of light bulbs here in this building. I asked one class leader why half the light bulbs in their Sunday School room weren’t working, and why they hadn’t asked to have them fixed.
She said, “Oh, we don’t mind. It really doesn’t matter.”
Well, it does matter. People shouldn’t have to sit around in the dark. We’re not that broke.
And I’ll tell you something else. If you want this place to grow, if you want new people to come in here, a building full of burned-out light bulbs and broken light fixtures is sending the wrong message. Nobody wants to be part of a church like that! Letting your light shine is a physical reality as well as a spiritual message.
I’ve replaced more than two dozen burned-out light bulbs next door at the parsonage. I don’t know how the people who lived there before managed.
When the Christmas season starts at the end of the month, I’ve already bought 25 new lights to go in every window facing the road. I want the whole neighborhood to know that we’re here, and to see the light of Jesus’ birth shining out to them. I counted up this week, and I’m on track to replacing or installing over 100 new lights here at Springfield before the end of the year.
George Fox said that God once told him, “If I did but set up one [person] in the same spirit that the prophets and apostles were in that gave forth the Scriptures, [that person] should shake the country in their profession for ten miles around them. . .” (George Fox, Journal)
One person, fully alive, radiating the love of God, letting it shine through them, is someone who’s going to be famous. People are going to flock to get to know that person, because people are hungry for the light. People want to know God better. And the only way most people are going to get to know God better, is through us.
Each of us is called be a light-bringer. God wants to let our light shine. Remember those quotation I shared with your earlier: “The glory of God is the human person, fully alive.” “Live up to the Light that you have, and more will be granted to you.”
Let’s take this into our time of open worship, and pray about it. Let’s try to remember these words, in the week to come.
It doesn’t matter what we do for a living. Jesus chose farmers and fishermen for his first friends. It doesn’t matter what our past has been, what mistakes we’ve made. All Jesus wants, is for us to be present and willing, here and now.
Be a light-bringer, in whatever way you can. Let your light shine. Don’t hide God’s light under a basket. The good things you do will be seen by everyone. And more and more people will come closer to God, till God’s light shines over all the earth.
Copyright © 2015 by Joshua Brown