“Leave Your Light On For Me”
Fifth Sunday of Epiphany
February 9, 2014
First Christian Church
This past December, a party was thrown in my honor.
A few weeks earlier, I left my job as Communications Specialist for the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. My job had been eliminated due to budget cuts. It was hard to leave that job, but at least I knew there was another job waiting for me at a big Methodist church down the street.
About a few weeks before I left, I got an email from a retired Presbyterian pastor. She is the head of the Presbytery’s Taskforce concerning persons with disabilities. I had done some work for the over the years and the whole group felt I needed a proper send-off.
Now, here’s something you need to know about me: I don’t care much for being the center of attention and I really don’t like surprise parties. I’d rather not be the man of honor if I can help it. Being a somewhat private person, I don’t like to be the focus of the event. But I knew that the people who planned wanted to say thank you to me, so gritted my teeth and moved on.
I found out that the event wasn’t so bad. I had a good time, they even sang me a song. The good words I heard from people reminded me that I had made a difference at the Presbytery over the years.
Our text today continues in Matthew and in the Sermon on the Mount. In this passage Jesus talks about light and salt. Now, Jesus never says, “do this and you will become salt and light in the world. Instead, Jesus says “you are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” Like last week’s passage, the temptation is to look at these as rules. “Does doing x mean I can be salt?” “How can I be light?” No, Jesus just says it to those around him; “You are the light of the world.” “You are the salt of the earth.”
How do you feel when you hear that? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it bothers you. We look at ourselves and remind ourselves of all the things we can’t do. We can’t be the light of the world. At least not without some training. But those words remain: we are the light of the world.
I’ve been doing some thinking of what it means to be a church. I know the church isn’t a building, but a people. But what is the importance of a church? Why do they matter? I’m still doing some thinking and reading about this, but I’m starting to think that local churches matter because they are small examples of God’s coming kingdom. They should be examples to the rest of the world of what God’s way is like. In short, they are to be light and salt to their local communities.
First Christian-Mahtomedi is called to be salt and light to the communities around us. Actually we are salt and light to the surrounding community. The only question is if we are willing to live into being salt and light.
Here in the suburbs of St. Paul, there are people living in darkness. There are people dealing with abuse or addiction. There are others dealing with depression or another mental illness. There are others looking for a home or for their next meal. There are young mothers trying to figure out how to take of their children and kids who have been kicked out of their homes because they are gay. There are the elderly who feel that no one cares about them. There are refugees from a distant land who don’t know the language and have to face a different culture alone. We, the gathered church are called to go out and be light to these people and many others. They need to know that they are also the light of the world, that they are loved by God.
During my time at seminary, I remember taking my first worship class and having to watch a video on the importance of baptism. Since this was a Lutheran seminary it was talking about an infant baptism. The video, which was full of people wearing really bad 80s clothing went through the steps of baptism, including the part where the newly baptized child is given a baptismal candle. One of the child’s adult sponsors gives the candle to their parents and uses these words: “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Does that sound familiar? It comes from verse 16 of our text. The parents are called to help raise this little one in the understanding that they are light and should share the light with others, giving glory to God. Baptism reminds us that we are a light to the nations, called to be light to others and glorify God.
This community called First Christian has been light in welcoming immigrants from Vietnam and other lands. We have been light in feeding the poor, in teaching Sunday School and serving as deacons and elders, in helping the homeless to find a home and in welcoming others in the fellowship of our monthly potluck.
You are the light of the world. You are the light of the world. You are the light of the world. Do you believe that? Do you believe that in Christ we carry God’s light?
“Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Let it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen.