Sermon for 5 Epiphany, Year B
Based on Matt. 5:14-16
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Today in our gospel, Jesus tells us that we are highly valued and worthwhile people. He makes it clear to us that we are God's precious people. He says, "You are the light of the world." Jesus, himself, and us are to be the light of the world.
It we had to rate ourselves on say, a scale of one to ten, as far as our value and worth, I'm not sure that many of us, perhaps none of us, would rate ourselves as a ten. Yet Jesus, in our gospel, does just that!
According to Jesus, our value and worth are rated at a ten! He doesn't say that only "a select few" are the light of the world. He doesn't say that you must be "smart enough" to be the light of the world. He doesn't say that you must be "a preferred age, sex, class, or race" before you are the light of the world. Nor does he say that "maybe you'll become" the light of the world. No! Rather, he says, "YOU ARE the light of the world!"
When Jesus said this, he was agreeing with the writer of Genesis, who said that we were created "in the image of God," and the psalmist who said we are "a little less than angels."
Jesus is giving us a tremendous compliment. He is building up our self-esteem. He is telling us that we are truly God's wonderful people. Therefore, as the light of the world, God has given us lots of potential and countless possibilities if we would but open ourselves up and avail ourselves of them.
Too often we have failed to take these words of Jesus seriously enough. Many of us don't have a great deal of self-esteem. We are afflicted with doubts, fears and skepticism. Often our lack of self-esteem stifles us, preventing us from living a richer, more abundant life in Christ.
We don't reach out or get involved because we come to feel and believe that we are not important; that we have no influence; that we don't make a difference. People with low self-esteem quite often develop the "anything goes" attitude because nothing really makes a difference or matters anyway. In the face of a world filled with many people who lack self-esteem, Jesus' words in our gospel give us a wonderful promise. Jesus tells us that we are important, we can have a positive influence on others, we can make a difference.
If that is true, then what does it mean for us to be the light of the world? How are we the light of the world? What quality within our being makes us lights ~ makes us shine?
First of all, it is God our Source who has made us as lights. We didn't make ourselves to be lights. Only God does that by grace. We are not our own source of light. God, in the person of Jesus is our Source.
The sun, way up in the heavens sends rays of light to earth below. Those rays of light come from their source, which is the sun. Without their source, those rays of light would not exist.
In a similar manner, without depending upon Jesus as our Source, then our light will go out and fail to shine. Hence, it's always important for us to remember that "WE ARE the light of the world" ONLY BECAUSE Jesus has made us that way.
Jesus goes on to say: "Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Jesus here is affirming a truth that applies to many areas of our lives in this world. He is saying that the basic purpose of a light is to shine so that it can be seen ~ to reveal its light.
It's never ceased to amaze me how straightforward and out-front that many groups and organizations are. People make no bones about being a member of the Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses. People are not afraid to show or tell others that they're loyal Calgary Flames or Edmonton Oilers fans. Many atheists certainly don't apologize or deny that they're atheists.
Our Christianity is meant to be seen by others. Why do so many hide their Christianity from the world? We shouldn't be embarrassed, afraid, ashamed or shy about our Christian faith. Yet, many people are. A Christianity that never goes outside the church door is of little or no value to anyone. Jesus didn't say, "You are the light of the church;" he said, "you are the light of THE WORLD."
Is our light shining in our everyday world? Is our Christian faith seen by the world? Is it caught by others in the world through us? Just think how much better this world would be if you and me were more straightforward and out-in-the-open about our Christianity. Our Christian faith is a priceless treasure, waiting to be shared with the world.
Another purpose of a light is to be a guide in the darkness. According to Albert Stauderman: "A sailor out at sea on a dark night faces danger from shoals, reefs, rocks, and unfriendly winds, storms and fog. If the compass isn't working and the charts are not accurate, the sailor may circle around in confusion. Some people sail like that along the sea of life, circling around frantically, lost and confused. Or tossed about by the struggles and trials of life. But when that sailor has something to guide them, even a faint star or a distant lighthouse, they can set their course firmly and courageously. So on our sea of life, we need some light ~ the world needs some light to guide it."
The world needs guiding lights that are examples of inspiration, who point people to Jesus. People who offer the world an alternative way of life. People who are willing to share the love of God in Christ with the world, no matter what obstacles they face or how great a sacrifice they have to make. As Christians, we are to set a good example, so that we might guide the world away from dangers and evil powers, toward the safety and love of Jesus Christ.
On such person is Canadian Jean Vanier. Vanier is a shining light to the world for his work as a humanitarian among differently-abled people. He started his work among the differently-abled by living in a small community with them. Today, Vanier has organized several of these L'arche communities around the world.
Vanier discovered that not only could he help and teach the differently-abled, but they could also help and teach him about many things. Thanks to Vanier's example, the world is guided to view the differently-abled in a different light. They too are Valuable and Worthwhile people who can and do make important contributions to society. Society can benefit from them and learn many things from them about humility and love.
If our light is doing its job; if our light is shining properly in the world; then it will not point to us. If our Christian faith calls all the attention to ourselves, then it is self-serving. If we take all the credit and glory for what we do as Christians, then our purpose is defeated. Our light always needs to point to God in Christ, and to serve God.
That's why Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory TO YOUR FATHER who is in heaven." As long as people are thinking of the praise, thanks or promotion which they will get for what they've done ~ they haven't even began to live a Christian life.
The great Lutheran composer and musician, J.S. Bach, was very aware of this truth. He realized that his gift of music Came From God And Therefore Needed To Point Others To God. That's why the beauty and excellence of Bach's music doesn't point to Bach himself. They point beyond himself to their Source, God, who is FAR GREATER. That's why Bach marked the letters S.D.G. on his compositions. The letters signify the Latin words "Soli Deo Gloria," To God Alone Be The Glory.
As we celebrate the Epiphany Light, Jesus our Saviour; as "the light of world;" may we always realize that we are precious and valuable people. As God's precious, valuable people, may we share our Christian faith with the world, and by so doing, Give God Alone The Glory. S.D.G.!
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