Third Sunday after the Epiphany

3rd Sunday after the Epiphany

January 26, 2020

Matthew 4:12-25

“Light For The…Closet?”

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 4.

I ever tell you about what happened back in 2017 after Hurricane Irma? I might not have, since I was at home recovering from my knee replacement. After Irma, my house was without power for a week, and at night it got dark. One night I felt my way through the darkness into the closet where I keep the candles. Sure enough, there they were, right where I had left them when I moved in. So I took a match and lit all three of them.

“Wow…how great it is to have light!” I said out loud, and then spoke to the candles. “Just wait till I get you out where you’re really needed! I’ll put one of you on the kitchen table so I can eat. I’ll put one of you on the table next to my chair so I can read. And I’ll set this one in the living room where you can light up the whole area.” Sure…I felt a bit foolish talking to candles, but what are you supposed to do when the power goes out?

I was turning to leave with the large candle in my hand when I heard a voice,

“Hold it right there.” I stopped. Somebody’s in here! I thought. Then I relaxed; highly unlikely anyone slipped in without me knowing it. I started walking again. “I said stop!” “Who said that?” “I did.” The voice was near my hand. I looked at the candle I was holding. It was burning a strong, golden flame.

I lifted up the candle to take a closer look. You won’t believe what I saw. There was a tiny face in the wax. (I told you you wouldn’t believe me.) Not just a wax face that someone had carved, but a flesh-like face full of expression and life. “Don’t take me out of here!” “What?” “I said, don’t take me out of this closet.” “What do you mean? I have to take you out. You’re a candle. Your job is to give off light. It’s dark out there. I keep stubbing my toes and walking into walls. You have to come out and light up the place!” “But you can’t take me out. I’m not ready,” the candle explained, “I need more preparation.” I couldn’t believe my ears. “More preparation?” “Yeah, I don’t want to go out there and make a bunch of mistakes or offend anyone. I’m reading the new bestseller on responsible use of light in an ever-irresponsible world “That really sounds inter-” I caught myself saying. What am I doing? I’m in here talking with a candle in the darkness!

“Fine,” I said, “You’re not the only candle in here. I’ll just blow you out and take the others!” Then I heard other voices. “We aren’t going either!” Apparently, I had a candle mutiny on my hands. I turned and looked at the two other candles; each with flames dancing above a miniature face. I was beyond feeling awkward about talking to candles.

“Look…you are candles and your job is to light dark places!” “You may think we have to go, but I’m too busy.” “Busy? You’re a candle! Listen, I appreciate what you guys are doing, but for goodness’ sake, you have been in here for 3 years!

“And what about you,” I asked the last candle, “are you going to stay in here also?” The last candle said, “I’d like to help, but lighting the darkness is not my gift. I’m a singer. I sing to other candles to encourage them to burn more brightly.” The candle began a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” and the other two joined in, filling the closet with singing. I shouted above the music, “Come on, you guys. There’s plenty of time for this later. I’ve got a darkness crisis on my hands out here.” They wouldn’t stop. I put the big candle on the shelf and took a step back and considered the absurdity of it all. Three perfectly healthy, capable candles singing to each other about light, but refusing to come out of the closet and give light where it was needed. Ridiculous. One by one I blew them out.

I walked back out in the darkness, bumping into one of my heavy kitchen chairs. What was up with those candles, right? Then I remembered. They’re church candles. I had bought them back in Minnesota at a garage sale from a church that closed down because no one wanted to do the ministry of the church. That’s when I finally understood.

In our First Lesson for today, Isaiah spoke of a people who walked in darkness, but have seen a great light (verse 2). In today’s lesson from Matthew 4, Matthew re-states that same prophecy. We are those very same people. We are the people of God upon whom His light has shone. In and through that light we have seen the great merciful works of God at work in our lives and in the lives of others. We are called to witness to the source of our light. We have been called to witness to the One who calls us to repentance for our sins against God. We have been called to witness to the One who calls us to follow Him in discipleship as He called those fisherman as His disciples. We have been called to witness to Him who is the light of the world and how His light changes lives; it sure changed the lives of those epileptics, paralytics, and possessed people that Jesus healed. And you know full well how Christ Jesus has, by faith, changed your life for the better. You are His light in this dark world in an ever-darkening age; we are the light amid the crisis of darkness in our world.

Are you, then, content to allow your light to shine in your closets? In just your homes or around here? Around the table at dinner time? We often fail to tell others about Jesus because we worry our human failings or that we might offend so we stay silent. We excuse our silence by telling others we aren’t ready. We justify “staying in the closet” by rationalizing that it’s Pastor’s job to tell people about Jesus, not ours. There are far too many Christians today who do not confess Jesus Christ to a very dark world. I ask you…what is more ridiculous? Talking candles at my house…or keeping totally silent about your saving faith in Jesus Christ?

Today’s Gospel lesson reminds us that “(Jesus) went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread.” This is the same Jesus who lived and died for you and the forgiveness of your sins so that you might have the promise of eternal life. Are you helping that fame to spread even further? What possible excuses are keeping your light in the closet, and not allowing it to shine for Him in the world around you where YOU are really needed? My friends, be His light. Live by His light. Reflect that glorious light so that all might be saved and coming to a knowledge of His saving truth.

Amen.