Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Let your light so shine...

I heard this song on Saturday morning last week on WWOZ It's been on my mind and my running playlist ever since.  Give a listen to Kermit Ruffins' rendition of This Little Light of Mine
In the meantime, I had already written, but was preparing to preach on the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany with texts from Isaiah 58 and Matthew 5 which includes the passage we recite at baptisms as we light a candle, Let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  So, I have been praying about light...This song just hits the spot! 

We almost sang it as I handed out glow sticks to the kids during the children's sermon. 

Here is this past weekend's sermon.  Maybe take time this week to light a candle, to let Christ's light shine in the midst of darkness, to cast light and love and grace on a broken world. 

February 5, 2017
5th Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 112:1-9
1 Corinthians 2:1-12
Matthew 5:13-20

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! 

Such is the call we hear from Isaiah today…the trumpet would have been the call to the temple.  I thought about starting my sermon with the blast of the trumpet….or maybe a vuvuzela…you know…to draw attention…to call people to focus…or to even wake people up?   Because here we are, settled in worship. 

We’ve heard the lessons, we’ve sung some liturgy and some hymns, and now we settle in for the sermon.  Before our time is concluded today we will pray, share in the Lord’ Supper and be sent from this place to serve the Lord until we return. 

In essence, worship is the most important thing we do together. 

Yes, loving and serving our neighbor is important, as is feeding the hungry and visiting the lonely and praying for our enemies…but the most important thing that we do together is worship. 

“It is the place that forms us into the people of God.  It is the place where we inhale God’s love and grace, so that we can be sent forth to exhale God’s love and grace in a broken world in need of redemption.” (Connors)  

The original hearers of Isaiah’s passage were super focused on worship.  You may think, oh, that’s a good thing.  You just said that worship is the most important thing we do together…and yes it is, but the people of Isaiah’s time were too focused on the acts of worship.  They took the acts of worship, like fasting, bowing down before God and self-sacrifice as a way to say, Hey God!  Look at us!  Look at how pious we are!  Look at our fasting!  Look at our self-sacrifice!  Look at these rituals that we do over and over again to gain your attention! 

What do you think is wrong with that picture? 

The very acts of worship were driving the people to think more and more about themselves and their individual actions than those around them and how their actions impacted the life of the community.

Isaiah, the voice of the prophet, calls to the people to remind them that their worship is not just about their individual actions, but how their actions as a community of the faithful has an impact on the larger community. 

The prophets were sent to speak out for God.  (Sound familiar Fundocy youth?) Sometimes the words of the prophets comforted those who were afflicted.  Sometimes the words of the prophets afflicted the comfortable. 

In my eyes, the words of the prophets came from a God who loves God’s people so much…that sometimes they need to be refocused or redirected to the call of God in their lives. 

And that, in essence, is what worship does for us each week. 

It helps us to be refocused and redirected to the call of God in our lives. 

And maybe, one of the most important pieces of that call is the call to community. 

We aren’t called to live lives of disciples on our own in our own individual bubbles.  We are called together into the Body of Christ, into the family of God to reflect and shine the light of Christ in a broken and hurting world. 

Our gospel lesson today is another reminder of who we are called to be.  As you heard the passage read, You are the light of the world!  You are the salt of the earth!  Maybe you started humming the music from Godspell…I know I did. 

But did you know that as that passage was read that Jesus was talking to the community.  The you in both of those verses is plural. 

As a former English teacher it is easy for me to say the plural of you is you.  There is no need to add an ‘s’ to the end of it.  But apparently in these parts it may be better heard to say, yous or youins…although both of those make me cringe. 

Y’all works much better for me. 

Y’all are the light of the world!
Y’all are the salt of the earth! 

Y'all, get it? 

It’s plural, this command and call is being addressed in a communal and corporate way. 

It’s the reflection and sharing of Christ’s light as a community. 

Many of you may have one of these at home.  Especially if you have a newly baptized person in your family.  Because at a baptism, we light this candle, hand it to a parent or sponsor and say, let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. 

I’m not sure what happens when those candles leave this place. I’ve heard of families that light those candles on birthdays or baptismal anniversaries.  Too often I think these candles are forgotten about.  They are put back in the box they came in and they are placed in a drawer.  Candles in a drawer don’t do much good.

But candles lit…that’s a completely different story. 

As the body of Christ we are called to let our light shine before others that they may see the good works of our community and that those works may give glory to our father in heaven. 

One candle will always break through the darkness.  That is most certainly true. 

But the light of candles, multiple candles, changes darkness in a bold and powerful way. 

The light of multiple candles shines light on the darkness, it allows us to see sin for what it is, the brokenness in our world and the places where we turn from God and turn in toward ourselves.  But it also shines a beacon of hope.  That where light is shined, God is there too. 

Where the light of Christ is shined shows the promise of the resurrection and eternal life. 

Where the light of Christ is shined shows our care and compassion for the community, nation and world outside of our own little bubbles. 

I invite you now to be part of that great light. 

To be reminded of God’s connection to us, and our opportunity and call to share that light with others. 

Please come up, pick up a candle and light it from the Christ candle….let us see how the communal light of Christ dispels darkness and illumines the church and the world. 

Let us pray,
Repeat after me,

Let our light so shine before others
That they may see our good works.
And give glory to our father in heaven.
Let Christ’s  light so shine before others
That it dispels the darkness,
Gives hope to the hopeless,
And enlightens our world
With your love,
In Jesus’ name we pray

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