Matthew 5:14-16, 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
This is a piece of Scripture that is part of the “Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount”. It speaks in a definitive tone telling those listening that “You Are”. In this case Jesus tells them “they are” the light of the world and that they should not hide that light. They should let their light shine for others to see.
Those people hearing this message would at once remember the preceding verses. Those lines referred to as The Beatitudes. And at that point they would have realized their meaning as well. Those that are poor in spirit, that mourn, are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness are the same as those who are merciful, pure in heart, are peacemakers and are persecuted because of their desire to live a life in a right relationship with God. All are blessed when they let their love of God rule their lives and live as a light, a witness to all others.
It was at this point in this introduction that those who were listening to Jesus realized they are that light, that witness, that example for the world to see. And, that their place in life was to live in such a manner as to reflect the love of God toward all humankind.
To be blessed was a great honor in the society these people lived in. So, for Jesus to tell them, just as you are, if your light is strong, you will be blessed. Even within the trials and tribulations of our lives, if we are living the love of God, we are blessed. When we are doing those things toward others as we would have them do to us, we are blessed. And the best part of this is. When we live in this manner, we are a blessing to others. And, a witness to the love for all creation that God has.
In this society. The light of a person was the way they lived, their witness to others. A person was seen to be inseparable from what others saw by the witness of their lives. Godliness was seen to be with those who lived a Godly life, not in the family or group they belonged to. Not in their position in life or the church they belonged to, or didn’t. Judgement belonged to God and no one else. But, the light that others saw in one’s life was not judgement but instead a witness to one’s true self. If we live our lives letting God’s light shine through us, then there is no judgement, the witness of our lives is all that is needed.
In today’s world we could use some light. We could us a living witness to the love of God. Our society is being torn apart for the lack of a witness, headed toward darkness because the lights have gone out. When I grew up we saw a different world. Sure, it had been torn by war and threats of war. There was always something trying to destroy us. But, in that turmoil we could always look at the witness of the people of our county. Our lives then were kinder, gentler and more giving, caring and loving. Even our entertainment, the TV shows, music and books we read where more uplifting and less combative. Yes, we had fictions, cowboys and Indians and armies at war in our lives. But, thorough it all a light shone brightly. A beacon of peace and hope. A witness for us to follow. Our faith was strong and that strength bound us together into one people, one nation. And our collective light shown to the world as a witness of God’s love.
But now, when I look around me I don’t see the unity that we had then. I don’t see the kindness and compassion that was that way of life. I don’t see a light shining in the darkness leading me to home and shelter. The witness I see in the lives around me is not a witness to the love of God but the lust for wealth, power and selfishness. Little concern for others replaced with total concern for one’s self and fulfilling their greed and wantonness.
The light that we once where for the world to see, to emulate, to desire. A light that was witness to the love of God within. Has now been replaced with a darkness, a tragic coldness that doesn’t reflect anything but despair and pending tragedy.
These are the same warnings the prophets of old proclaimed, the same warnings given by others who longed for that light of God within the darkness that surrounded them, just like today. And, in the end God did prevail, the light once again was bright and welcoming. But, not without a great cost, a time of suffering and a return to the simple message. Just like the one Jesus brought in that sermon that day. And, just like the days that followed and realty of what a world without light might look like.
It isn’t too late. We can rekindle the flame. But, not if we are unwilling to do what we must to correct our path. Turn back to the love of God and embrace it with everything in us. Determine to do whatever necessary to live our life as a beacon to others and a witness for God’s love. Love is the light of eternity, the way and the truth we all seek. Love will prevail when we have destroyed everything else. But then it will be too late.
Light your light from within you. Let it shine as bright as possible. Cast it in such a way that the world will see it. And, stand with open arms to embrace all who come, without judgement, without shame, without conditions. All God desires from His creation his that we love Him above all else, and prove it by loving all of God’s creation, including all humankind, without exception or conditions of any kind. The only light you need is the love of God, let it shine through you for all the world to see.
May you be ever mindful of God’s love and presence in your life. May you allow that love and God’s presence to be reflected in all you say and do. As a witness to the world, and to God, of the love you have for all others and all God’s creations.
Rev. Dr. Shannon Rogers, DDiv, UCCA
October 28, 2018