1 In the beginning when God created[a] the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
- How many Charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
- Only one since their hands are in the air anyway.
- How many TV evangelists does it take to change a light bulb?
- One. But for the message of light to continue, send in your donation today.
- How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?
- None. They always use candles.
- How many campfire worship leaders does it take to change a light bulb?
- One. But soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.
- How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?
- What do you mean change? My great grandmother donated that light bulb.
Whither it is lightbulbs or anything else in our life, change can be challenging. As we continue to move into a different political reality in the United States, the church finds itself in shifting theological territory. Change is not something that the church, a giant multifaceted institution, handles very well. One good thing about change of any kind, though: it helps us reassess our values. Change should help us focus upon our priorities. Change should help us reflect upon our standards. What is our purpose? What task have we been called to do?
In the few chapters we call the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches about the church’s values. It’s priorities. It’s standards. Its purpose. Here is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase:
4-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Individuals and faith communities are searching out where to go from here. Jesus’ wisdom? Be the light. Actually, you are the light! Your job is to shine! You are light bearers?
How are we the light? Depends on whom you ask, doesn’t it? I asked the church staff “How does the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury shine God’s light?” They mentioned the deacons, the community dinner, the music ministry, the pastoral care, the mission trips and the faithfulness of the members. I sure that we could come up with a dozen more ways that we are the light of the world. I think that is important – We are the light of the world!
And when we are the light, says Jesus, others will notice. No matter how we vote, or what our political affiliation, we are still the light.
- We may be a candle
- We may be a flashlight
- We may be a Lite-Brite
One of my favorite toys that was introduced in 1967 by Marvin Glass and Associates. This “creative toy” quickly became a well-liked toy and allowed children to do art projects without the mess of chalk or paint. The Lite-Brite was named after Senator J. William Fulbright, the Senator responsible for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students. “The future is Brite for these Lites!”
So, how might we continue to be Lites that are so Brite?
- We do what we know is right.
- We follow Jesus.
- We remember that truth is our currency. We speak, share, and write the truth. Once we shrink from telling the truth, what do we have?
- We honor those who are most vulnerable: the poor, the sick, the very young and very old, those with disabilities.
- We welcome the immigrant, the refugee, and the stranger as if we were welcoming Jesus himself.
- We work for fairness and justice. We lift up people of all races, nationalities, religions, people of different genders.
- We live in hope.
- We are always listening, always aware that we may be wrong, always looking for the best in those with whom we disagree.
- We say—not just to those like us, but especially to those different from us—“we have your back.”
- This is what Jesus did. This is what Jesus taught.
- The world is watching us.
- Be the church. Be the light.
Author John R.W. Stott in his book entitled “Christian Counter-Culture” proclaims the importance of being Kingdom People – people of the light:
“These are the standards, the values and the priorities of the kingdom of God. Too often the church has turned away from this challenge and sunk into a bourgeois, conformist respectability. At such times it is almost indistinguishable from the world, it has lost its saltness, its light is extinguished and it repels all idealists. For it gives to evidence that it is God’s new society which is tasting already the joys and powers of the age to come. Only when the Christian community lives by Christ’s manifesto will the world be attracted and God be glorified. So when Jesus calls us to himself, it is to this that he calls us. For he is the Lord of the counter-culture.”
May we be people of the counter-culture.
May we be light bearers
May we be Lite-Brites
In a world that desperately needs it!
Commentary from David Lose, Melissa Bane Seier, Ron Hunter, Michael E. Waddell, John Stott and NT Wright.