Monday, February 10, 2020

This little light of mine

Here is Intern Lori Fuller's sermon from February 9. 

I apologize in advance for my terrible, terrible singing but how many of you know this song” This little light of mine-I’m going to let it shine. Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine??
We don’t want to end this with my not so beautiful voice so let’s all sign it TOGETHER one more time!

“This little light of mine—I’m gonna let it shine. Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Much better…at least I think so?! Maybe I’m not the best judge when it comes to that! Ha! I’ll leave that up to the professionals like Joan, Bobby, and the amazing choir we have. 
Watching everyone sing this song…I could see smiles…people resonate with this song. I’m guessing some remember when they were signing it themselves a child, or signing it to their children/grandchildren, and so on.
This got me thinking…. I wonder how many of us really think about what we sing. What is “this little light” that we sing about? Are we really determined to let it shine? How do we do that? How do we make sure that others can see that little light? Am I ready to have that little light of mine shine really EVERYWHERE I go?
In order for the light to shine, it is like we need to have darkness around us and perhaps even inside of us. We certainly do not have to look far to find darkness in our world.
The Bible says that, when God created the world, it was veiled in darkness—until God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. Today, the darkness seems to have the upper hand again. It dominates in more and more lives, and in more and more communities and nations and regions of the world.
In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, from the sermon that Jesus preached on the mountain, Jesus addresses the problem of darkness and light. He also speaks about salt and the lack of it. What is the context?
Jesus singles out certain kinds of people who enjoy God’s special favor. What kind of people does he talk about? They are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted because of righteousness and because of Jesus.

Now on the other hand, what does our society say about these people? They say, “These people are losers, pitiful losers! They are good for nothing, other than to be trampled upon!” And that is what often happens to such people. People like this are crushed under the feet of those who run to stay in the competition and to reach the finish first. They are abused by those who love power and influence.
But it’s not the end thankfully….What does Jesus say to those people? 

“You are the salt of the earth!” “You are the light of the world!” “You have a special mission. You are making a huge difference to the world around you.”

Jesus first uses the image of salt. It is an image that may not be so quite clear for us right away. What could Jesus mean? Let’s explore this a little more…
Well, in those days, salt would mainly be used in common life for two purposes.
The most common was to season food, to make it tasty and pleasant to eat. When we add salt to the food in the right amount, not too much and not too little, salt can make more noticeable flavor of meat or fish or vegetables. That’s why we add salt to our food.

But in earlier days, salt was also used a lot to preserve food. There were no fridges or freezers many years ago. The way to preserve meat or fish for long periods of time was to treat it with huge amounts of salt. As a result, the meat or fish stayed good and eatable for months on end, even during the hot season.

Because of these two ways in which salt was being used—seasoning and preservation—it was often used as a metaphor for wisdom. On the one hand, wisdom brings the best out of our knowledge and our capacity. On the other hand, listening to the voice of wisdom and acting accordingly can help preserve society or even save lives. Therefore, wisdom is like salt.

That is how also Paul understood the metaphor of salt. He wrote to the Colossians:

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

That would also explain what Jesus says about salt “losing its saltiness”. The fact of the matter is that salt is salt, pure sodium chloride, and therefore it will always be salty. If it is pure salt, it cannot lose its saltiness. There is no way that can happen. But later most so-called salt was a mixture of chemical substances. It could happen that the sodium chloride was gradually dissolved, and the remaining mix would lose its salty taste.
The word that Jesus uses for “losing its saltiness” literally means: “being or becoming silly or foolish”.
Let’s be real here: Many people live in a way that does not a show a way of joy and life—and of wisdom, for that matter.
If we want to have a preserving effect on our society and bring out the best of life, we need to live and speak wisely. We should make the most of our resources, our gifts, our conversations, and our opportunities. Not shy away when people question our faith or our values. But boldly proclaim and defend what we believe. That’s easier said than done at least for me. As part of my experience, I’ve seen how churches hurt people whether intentionally or not. The hurt is still there. But we know different.
It is our calling and our responsibility to make a difference to this world: By showing mercy and compassion to those who are rejected by society. Each of us have a unique gift that we bring to the world.

But we are not only the salt of the earth. We are also the light of the world. What does light do?
First of all, it expels the darkness. It expels the fear of the unseen. There are many people who start panicking when they are immersed in darkness. Think of a time maybe you visited a cave. You went in and saw beautiful things but what if the light sudden went out. What happens when the light goes out?! Panic sets in!
Darkness can be really frightening. We all know that. In a world full of fear and loneliness and hopelessness and violence and hatred, the light of Christ is needed more than ever.

Light also helps us navigate. Before we had GPS devices and Google maps, people looked to the stars to find their way like the wisemen did to find Jesus. A city on a hill would reveal from far away where to go. Or inside the house, lamps would help us avoid stumbling over chairs and tables or stepping on each other’s toes.
Our society has systematically dimmed the light that reveals God. The wisdom and guidance of God’s word is turned down because it reminds us that God is in charge, and that we are accountable to God.
Satan—the ultimate enemy of God—is called the prince of darkness. That says a lot. Where there is no light, evil reigns.
And that is exactly why we are called to be the light of the world. Where there is light, evil is exposed. Transparency is the best way of preventing violence, criminality and abuse. And most of all, light helps the world see God as God really is, Glory and all.
Jesus tells us to let our light shine and not to hide it.
So many Christians feel uncomfortable showing and sharing their faith beyond the walls of their homes and churches, or beyond the circle of Christian friends. Our safe “zone.”
Certainly, it is so much more comfortable to meet with other believers who do not question our beliefs and values. But Jesus calls us out of our comfort zone, to let our light shine in the darkness. Only there we can make a difference.

Our Christian faith should be perfectly visible to everybody, not only within the Church. A faith whose effects stop at the church door is not much use to anyone.

It should be even more visible in our ordinary day-to-day activities: in the way we treat a shop assistant across the counter, in the way we order a meal in a restaurant, in the way we treat our employees or serve our employer, in the way we drive a car, in the language we use, in the TV programs we watch, or in the books we read.

A Christian should be just as much a Christian in the workplace, the classroom, the health center, the kitchen, and on the bus, as they are in church. Jesus did not say, “You are the light of the Church.” He said, “You are the light of the world.” And as we take part in life in our society, our Christian faith should be evident to all.

Jesus concludes with two conditions concerning letting our light shine. The first gives the answer to the question, how? The second answers the question, why—for what purpose?”

How? Through good deeds that can be seen by everyone.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks not only about fulfilling the law, but about going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, excelling in righteousness, charity and good works far beyond what we have to. Not because we are forced to. Not because we feel obliged. But because we choose to, joyfully and voluntarily. It is those that draw people’s attention and make them wonder why.

What better compliment than that people come to God because they have seen his love transform our lives and radiate from us in visible and touching ways!

That brings us to the question of purpose: Why be a light in the world—for what purpose?

Certainly not to earn points, to gain popularity, or to get lots of likes and friends on Facebook. This is not about us. After all, we are not the source of light. We are merely reflecting the light of Christ.

So let’s turn our focus onto God so that God gets all the glory for what God does and gets done through us.

Now join me with signing as I end this sermon with this beautiful song…
“This little light of mine—I’m gonna let it shine. Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine.”