5th Sunday after the Epiphany
February 9, 2020
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon is today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew chapter 5.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Have you tried to buy light bulbs lately? It’s a nightmare! Not only do you have to find the right wattage AND the right base type, you also have to know the right color! There is clear glass, daylight, warm, cool, soft white, or bright-white. There is fluorescent, halogen, incandescent and LEDs. Yeesh. Who would have thought providing light could be so difficult. Exactly!
That thought occurred to me in hearing again the words of Jesus to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” How much and what kind of light have we shined lately? While that question may make us squirm a little, a quiver in the old faith liver, God’s Word today isn’t an indictment, but it’s really good news. It doesn’t say we should be light, or we must shine brighter, or God will replace us. Jesus is the light of the world; we are the light of the world, so we who follow Jesus brighten up the world with “light living.”
Light is a powerful image in scripture. When God created the world, the first command was “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3). Three days later, he created the sun and moon and stars to provide light by day and by night. The sun and moon are still doing their jobs, of course, but there’s a job they can’t do.
I don’t like dark rooms, unless I’m sleeping of course. If a room is dark, there are several ways to bring light to it. We can open the shades or curtains if it’s daylight. We can flip a switch and let electricity light the room. We can light a non-talking candle (3rd week in a row for that joke). We can fire up a flashlight or lantern from our emergency hurricane supplies. There are lots of ways to light a dark room.
But there’s only one way to pierce the darkness of sin and unbelief. God turns the lights on by bringing us to faith in Jesus. Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8/9), and this Light scatters that darkness. When Jesus said to the disciples “follow me,” his Word turned on the lights for them. They were changed. And we are changed; Jesus changes us. In Baptism, we are taken out of the kingdom of darkness. We are made followers of Jesus, who is the Light of the World. Eph 5:8 says, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Easier said than done.
Light can be painful. Ever had that glaucoma test done at the eye doctor? Afterwards, the light really hurts your sensitive eyes. Or maybe you’ve been awakened from dead sleep by a bright light. It’s too much! “Turn it off!” we cry. That was how many reacted to Jesus when they heard him speak; it was too much…“turn it off!” That’s a natural reaction. Sin loves darkness. 63% of rapes/sexual assaults occur at night; vehicle theft occurs 72% of the time at night. Sin loves darkness, but we are the light.
Jesus had a unique plan to drive out darkness. Remarkably, to turn on the lights for us meant that Jesus, the Light of the World, would be snuffed out like a candle by the powers of darkness. On Good Friday, it looked as though they’d succeeded. His lifeless body was laid in a cold, dark tomb. There are no windows in a tomb, for the eyes of the dead cannot see light. But in the bright light of Easter, Jesus threw open the door of grave and death! He’s opened wide the doors and windows to our graves, too, promising that even though we die, yet we shall live (Jn 11:25)! We will dwell with him in eternal light forever (Rev 21:23)! That’s cool…but it also changes us.
Followers of Jesus do not just believe differently than others; we live differently. Our lives are designed to have tremendous impact in the world. Truth is, if we can’t be easily distinguished from unbelievers, it’s either because they’re becoming like us or we’re behaving like them – and only 1 of those is a good thing. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works,” Jesus said (Mt 5:16). A covered lamp is a waste of light, and so is concealed faith.
After all, “You are the light of the world.” That is blessing and responsibility. Following Jesus is not just for our personal benefit; eternity is not some perk you earn in a faith reward system. It calls us to be the HOPE of the world. It’s easy for us to complain that things are going from bad to worse and that evil seems to be spreading everywhere. No doubt, Jesus could see that also in his time; there is nothing new under the sun. But instead of hand-wringing and finger-pointing and complaining, we can be the light in the darkness; make holes in the darkness wherever we go. God’s people are God’s force in the world, a force to be reckoned with, but sadly at times we have become a force to be ridiculed.
Most would consider a mission trip to Haiti to build a school a good thing. But seriously…how many of you are thinking “overseas mission trip” at this point in your life? But what about helping All Faith’s Food Bank? What about having devotions with your kids or grandkids or bringing them to church when they come to visit the area? How about holding your temper, or not lying, or forgiving, or confessing your sins and asking for forgiveness instead of blaming or excusing. THAT is being the light of the world.
Last month I was having dinner downtown and there was a woman sitting all alone at a nearby table. I could feel the sadness radiating off of her. I thought about reaching out – being the light of Christ – but I didn’t. and she left, no better than when she came in. I had a chance to be the light of the world to her and I missed that chance and her sadness and loneliness haunt me still. When we love as God loves, people will take notice and lives are changed. That may well lead others to see a light of hope at the end of the tunnel of darkness. That hope, that light is Jesus. May someone this week, or this day, see the light of Jesus in your Light Living and give thanks to God as a result.