Bible readings: Isaiah 58.1-9 Matthew Chapter 5.13-20
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’” These are the words of Marianne Williamson the novelist, but were made famous by one Nelson Mandela, who used them more than once to make his point.
Nelson even in prison attended Christian worship each week. And on this Sunday every 3rd year he heard these words from Jesus lips,
“You are the light of the world…..A person does not light a lamp then cover it with a bucket. They place it on a lamp stand, where it can provide light to all in that house. Matthew 5: 14
You are the light of the world? Not physical light, but personal light; the light of faith, hope, love and trust. The light of truth and compassion, justice, courage and forgiveness. The very light of God within you and radiating from you. Christ’s epiphany enabling our epiphany. This is still the season of light and I am inviting you to have an Epiphany moment today.
Jesus is saying to you, “You are the light of the world?” Big Thought! A huge call out !
There is no doubt about the shadows and the darkness that we encounter in the world around us – dishonesty in politics, boardrooms and the courts, sometimes within the fold of the religions.
That is where we are supposed to come in. The love of God in Christ Jesus, the very Light of Light, is intended to shine in and through our daily affairs. We are supposed to have this illuminated and illuminating quality.
Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and give glory to God in heaven.
Well does it? Does the light shine?
I have no heart or desire to harangue you for being slack. No I am not about to verbally beat you about the ears with accusations about your failure to be the light of the world. My purpose is not to sandpaper your guilt.
Oh you, like me, certainly have plenty of room for improvement. But I am not seeking to take you on a guilt trip. There is a much healthier and more faithful direction for us today.
Hear afresh what Jesus actually said to his followers: You are the light of the world. You are.
You are now.
Not you could be, or should be.
Not tidy up your act, stiffen your back bone,
Not maybe in a year’s time.
Jesus did not say to his disciples “Now go off, learn these creeds, sign this mission statement, undertake these spiritual exercises, pray for two hours each day, read two chapters of the Bible each day, fast and mediate; pay 20,000 rupees then you will start to become the light of the world.
What our Lord said was more immediate, more a gob-smacking surprise. “By trusting the unexpected, unearnable, grace of God as it flows to you through my words and deeds, you are now the light of the world.”
It is not our light but his light. Not by our strenuous efforts but by pure grace.
This Jesus must have been like pepper in the noses of the religious authorities in Israel. They taught: IF you keep all the laws and regulations of the Old Testament, and observe the additional by-laws that our rabbis have added for your own good, if you ritually wash and purify yourself each day, if you make the proper sacrifices at the temple, and avoid any contact or fellowship with the despicable non-Jews, then…. must maybe, you may begin to be a little light in the darkness of the world.
Not so Jesus. His only requirement for men and women was to accept the free gift of love that God offers. Simply to come as you are. Just open your windows and doors to the light and allow it to flow outwards… Then without any question, you will be the light of the world.
The light of God is a gift: a gift to be lovingly accepted, celebrated, cherished and freely shared.
Can we believe this?
Did I overhear someone’s thoughts just now? And did those thoughts have an exclamation mark? Something like, “If we are the light of the world, then things are grim! God must be desperate!”
Dare you and I believe what Jesus says?
His words sound too easy, too simple, and too unrealistic, given what goes on in the human mind and soul. He does not seem to take into account what shadowy, cunning, perverse and evasive little creatures we are. It seems too good to be true.
Dare we believe that simply by faith, by opening our lives to Him, we have a new status, and actually become the light of the world?
Maybe one or two of you are busy arguing within your heads: “This preacher does not know me. Nor does he know most of these people whom I see sitting around this church today. Some of us are so far from being the light of the world that it would be outrageously funny, if it were not so desperately sad. If this guy truly knew us, he would not go on waffling about us being the beacons of hope!”
How about this then? Perhaps I do know; maybe I know much more than you suppose? Perhaps I have a very reliable source of information. Inside information?
Before you rashly start to wonder who among this congregation has dobbed you in, I quickly explain that my sources are very close to me. In fact, they are here in the pulpit. I know about your inadequate discipleship because I know about mine.
Let’s face it: As Christians, most of us are inept. Some have many doubts. Some have bad habits. Some have guilty secrets. Some are two faced! Some can get sarcastic about spiritual matters. We can be trite, arrogant, and plain apathetic at times.
Dare we believe, even for one sentimental moment, that we are….
Friends, take courage. It is not any silly claim of mine that I am repeating here. It is the claim of a unique person of whom it was said: “He knew what was in the heart of all.” As long as our lives remain open to his Spirit, we shall be, in spite of our confounded defects and astonishment, the light of the world.
The tiny bits of faith, hope and love that the grace of God has sown in your mind and heart qualify you to be a bearer of the light of Christ Jesus.
For God’s sake, and for the sake of those around you, believe more in the gift. Please do not fall into the temptation to despise yourself and give up. It is God’s light, not your failings that count. Never yield to despair. Christ is always greater than your darkness. Christians like Peter, John, and Paul, Mary, Martha and Susanna; and other notable disciples, had their failures on a grand scale, yet they were beacons in a dark world.
You are the light of the world…..A person does not light a lamp then cover it with a bucket. They place it on a lamp stand, where it can provide light to all in that house. Matthew 5: 14
Marianne Williamson was not wrong,“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and give glory to God in heaven. Amen.