A light-bringing church

Good morning, Friends!

A couple of weeks ago at worship, I asked a question. I described some of the different things we’ve done together during the past four years, and then I asked, “What do you want to do next? What kind of things are on your hearts? Where do you feel God is leading us?”

It turned out to be a pretty exciting morning. People shared all kinds of dreams, and we’re already starting to put some of those dreams into motion. If you read the newsletter that came out this week, we’re starting at least four new adult activities this fall.

Paulo Barata has already started giving guitar lessons. Paulo was a professional musician for many years. We all enjoy his beautiful music, and he wants to share that joy with people here at Springfield. So he started giving group guitar lessons, every other week . See Paulo if you want to join!

Tom Terrell’s class meets on the first Sunday of every month, and it’s starting up again next week. Tom’s idea was for a looser type of class than the traditional Sunday School, a group with room for discussion and participation. It was very exciting last year – the class talked about all kinds of topics, and most times they had at least 20 people there.

Times have changed, and a lot of people can’t be here every single Sunday. It’s also hard to hold events in the middle of the week, because schedules are so busy, and because some people don’t like to drive out at night.

This year we don’t have the money in our budget for a choir director, but everyone loves singing! So we’re going to try having a new kind of choir. Starting on the second Sunday of the month, anyone who likes to sing is invited to come and sing. We’re going to start with hymns and simple pieces, and maybe we can sing at worship once a month. We’ll see how it goes, but I really hope you can join us.

Once we started talking about doing some new things, Kelly Olmeda said that she’s been wanting for years to have a group to study a book that she really enjoys. It’s called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and it’s about how to fight back against how complicated our lives have become.

Kelly’s group is going to get together on the third Sunday for the next few months, and they’re going to read the book and watch a video together.

One month the focus is about simplifying your life by giving stuff away – 7 things a day for 7 days in a row! Another month the focus is on food. Another month, the group agrees to wear the same 7 pieces of clothing for a week – don’t worry, clean socks and undies don’t count!

But you get the idea – simplify, and feel free from the pressure that society puts on us. Turn off your TV and social media for 7 days. Waste less. Buy less for a week. It’s a game, but it’s a cool game, and Kelly’s really excited about it.

On the fourth Sunday, I’m going to lead a Bible study for people who want to learn more about the Bible, but can’t come every week on Wednesday night. And instead of reading slowly through the whole Bible, from beginning to end, we’re going to look at the big picture.

What are the big ideas we find running all through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation? What are the things that keep turning up, over and over – things like how is God the Creator? We’ll look at all the places the Bible talks about that. Are we responsible for each other? What does salvation mean at different times in different parts of the Bible? Things like that.

So – first Sunday – Tom Terrell’s class. Second Sunday – choir and singing. Third Sunday – Kelly Olmeda leading a new book study about 7. Fourth Sunday – Bible Study – join us if you can!

There’s other new things starting up, too! Marcy Shipwash is starting a new children’s church next week. Some people are starting new ministries that they’ve been wanting to try for a while. The doors are unlocked, we can try some new things, we can have some fun around here!

In the middle of all this, I want to remind us of what our basic job is. Last week we talked about being an encouraging church. This morning I want to talk about another thing that Jesus talked about.

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

One of the things I wish people would say about Springfield, is that this is a church that brings light to everyone. I wish that everyone who comes here would leave saying, “I feel better because I came to Springfield Friends. I feel like my day is brighter because I came here. I feel like my whole week is going to be better!”

I wish that people would come here and say, “I felt the love of God, shining out of this place. I felt people listened to me. I felt people cared for me. I felt these are people who are going to be here for me.”

Springfield sits up on top of a hill, and everybody in town sees us, and sees our sign as they come up the road. Springfield has been here forever, and most people in the community know our name.

But do they see the life here at Springfield? Do they feel the love here in this place? Do people see a light shining out of our fellowship, a light like a beacon on a hilltop?

Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hilltop can’t be hidden. Nobody takes a lamp and hides it under a bucket. Do they? Have you ever seen anybody do that? Take a lamp, and put a bucket overtop of it? No, of course not! You take a light and you put it up on a high place, and the whole house is filled with light. Let your light shine, so that people will see what you do and give thanks to your Father in Heaven.”

Our job is to be light-bringers. Our job is to share the light of Christ, and hold it up high, and make this part of the world a brighter place, because of Jesus’ message.

Every place we go, our job is to bring more light. Here at worship, in our small groups, in our families, at home, at work, in the community. We bring more light, wherever we go.

Jesus himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. . .” (John 8:12)

In one of the Psalms of the Old Testament, in Psalm 119, the writer says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. . .”

Sometimes it can feel like the world is such a dark place. We turn on the news, and it’s so depressing. We look around us, and people are acting wrong and treating each other badly. There is so much to get upset about.

And in those dark places, it feels as though God is like a light, shining down in front of us, to guide our next step. We may not be able to see far into the future. We may only see a few steps ahead. Could be all we know is what to say to help the loneliness or pain of somebody, for the next five minutes.

But God is like a light for us, for just the next few steps. Maybe we can’t solve all the problems of the world today. But we can help, just a little bit. We can say, “I believe that God can help us here. Let’s pray for a minute, together.”

That offer is like bringing light into darkness. It’s like giving somebody their faith back.

The problem isn’t that the world can be a dark place. It’s always been that way. The problem is that the world needs more light-bringers. Our job, the job of every Christian, is to bring light, wherever we can, in every way that we can.

Some people bring light with music and art. Some people bring light with truth and justice. Some people bring it with healing. Other people bring light with acts of giving and kindness.

Just this week, I was standing in line at a supermarket. I was getting some things to bring home. The lady in front of me was a little bit older, and she was in trouble. She couldn’t get her basket unloaded. She would take things out, then hesitate, and put them back, and then take them out again. She had trouble reading the numbers on the different bills in her purse.

She knew there were people in line behind her, and she was anxious and embarrassed as the line got longer and longer. I don’t think there was anything really wrong with her, she was just kind of rattled and confused.

But the cashier couldn’t have been nicer. The cashier was differently abled herself – she had to work in a chair. She was patient. She helped the woman get her things straight, she made sure the lady knew that her change was right, and she made sure that the lady got all her bags loaded into the cart.

And all the people waiting in line behind me, the people who were getting fidgety and upset because they’d been waiting a couple of minutes longer – everyone in that whole line, smiled and relaxed. Just by being a Christian, just by being a light-bringer, she helped that whole end of the store have a better day.

I moved up and started unloading my stuff onto the belt, and I said to the cashier, “You know, that was really nice of you. You didn’t have to do all that.

And she smiled and said, “I know. But I like to help people!”

She was a light-bringer.

This is not a new idea. Our grandparents and great-grandparents used to sing a hymn, which was very popular for a lot of years. It was called, “Brighten the corner where you are,” and the theme of the song was that maybe we can’t fix everything in the world – but if we can bring a light into just one dark corner, then we’re doing our job as Christians.

The song said,

Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Does anybody here remember that hymn? It’s not in our hymnal any more. I wish it was!

One of the things we need to remember, is that before we try to spread some light in the world, we need to let God’s light shine into our own lives, first.

We need to know that we are loved and forgiven and accepted. We need to know in our hearts that Jesus loves us. We need to have a sense that God can do great things in peoples’ lives, that God can move mountains, and that we can pray for God to help us.

If we want to help somebody, if we want to be a light-bringers, we need to have at least a little experience with that light, ourselves.

I told people at the last Friends meeting where I served, that I’m a light junkie. I love sunrises. Nothing lifts me up, like waiting for the dawn, and seeing the sun lift into a new day. I love watching the moon and stars at night. I love watching them reflected on the water. I love candles, and campfires, and fireworks, and fireflies down by the woods on a summer evening.

I just love light, in almost every form. I go nuts over rainbows. The leaves in fall are my favorite time of year. I love light, because every type of light reminds me in some way that God is here.

I think that a church should be a place of light, in every way. The first year I came here to Springfield, there were burned-out light bulbs, all over the building. I went on a rampage to bring light back into Springfield – I replaced more than 100 light bulbs in my first three months here, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

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 start out small. We may feel like just a small candle.

What we have to do, is to use that light. Use what we have. Use whatever small piece of truth that we know. Be like that cashier lady at the supermarket I told you about. Follow those small leadings, even if they don’t always make sense. Listen to those whispers in our hearts.

That’s how new things get started. People decide today’s the day they’re going to bring some light into the world. Today’s the day we’re going to brighten the corner where we are.

We’re going to do one thing, we’re going to take one step, we’re going to say one kind word, we’re going to light one candle, and put it up on a higher place.

Every single day, I talk with someone who’s discouraged. Almost every day, I meet somebody who’s afraid. I’m sure you do too!

We have so many opportunities, every day, to be light-bringers. We can make somebody’s day brighter. We can help people to have more faith. We can welcome people, and make them feel accepted. We can thank people, and make people feel their life is worthwhile.

Every time we do that, we’re pushing back against the darkness. We’re pushing back against despair and pain.

The person who greets somebody at the front desk of the hospital is just as important as the person who preaches on Sunday. The person who leads a Scout troop is just as much a minister, as the person who teaches a Sunday School class.

I always like to say, “In God’s economy, nothing good ever gets wasted.” There is no gift that’s too small. There is no prayer that God ignores. There is no light that isn’t a reflection of Christ, who is the Light of the world.

Let’s be a light-bringing church.

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