February 5, 2023

  “Let It Shine!”

(Matthew 5: 13-20)

1Corinthians 2: 1-16

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.  Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish.  But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” -these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.  Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.  “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Matthew 5:13-20
“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.  “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
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.
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.  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    My spiritual formation, the process of my personal faith-journey, began at a very young age.  I was baptized at about 6 weeks of age, and I received an early indoctrination into the knowledge and belief that God is the loving Creator of all that exists, Jesus is the Son of God, who came to show me God’s love in a personal way, and that prayer is the means of engaging in a holy communication with them.  I heard the scriptures read and interpreted through preaching during Sunday services, and I sang many Hymns and songs which reflected my ever-growing and evolving faith.  I can recall one Sunday School lesson that has been particularly meaningful to my journey to this very day.  It was a lesson about how the sun shines its bright rays down on us.  Just like the sun, my teacher said, Jesus wants us to shine brightly for him, and for all the world to see.  The lesson came complete with a song that many of you may have heard.  It goes like this:

“Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for Him each day; in every way try to please Him, at home, at school, at play. A sunbeam, a sunbeam, Jesus wants me for a sunbeam; a sunbeam, a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.”

You see, very early on in my faith life and development, I understood that I have light within me, and Jesus wants me to let it shine!

     I just shared with you a story about my early and immature faith and understanding about shining my inner light for Jesus.  As I and my faith matured, I began to learn of other scriptures that would more deeply define both the source and the expression of this light within me.  For example, Chapter One of the Gospel of John, a text we read each Christmas Eve, shares with us that Jesus is the true light-source who enlightens everyone who will receive him.  It states:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, [Jesus], was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, [and to let their light shine so that others might see it and come to believe in him].

The text of this scripture is consistent with the guiding purpose St. John had for writing his entire Gospel message in the first place.  It is clearly expressed for us in Chapter 20, verses 30-31; “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his Disciples, which are not written in this Book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  John was convinced that Jesus truly was the promised Messiah, and the Son of God.  It was his deep desire for others to know this truth, and to come to a personal faith in Christ, who is the true light of the world. 

     The text from the Gospel of John we just shared reminds us that Jesus is the true light, the light that enlivens everyone who believes in him.  The inner light we receive, and which we bear, comes to us from the light of Christ Jesus.  Our lesson for this morning from the Gospel of Matthew carries St. John’s Gospel message even further for believers.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  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.”  Jesus declared that believers, those who bear the light of Christ, need to shine this light out into the world.  Just as a city built on a hill shines a light that cannot be hidden, Jesus’ words remind us that we have his light, and we are meant to shine it for our world today.  Like solar lights, which absorb the sun’s rays during the daylight hours, and then later reflect that light out into the darkness of the night, Jesus’ calls us to take the light we receive from him and let it shine out into a world that is much in need of light.

     So, just how do we go about shining the light we receive from Christ into the world?  Does shining the light of Jesus we have received out for the world take Herculean feats of power and might?  Thankfully, dear friends in Christ, the answer to this question is “No”.  What is needed, as Paul shared with the Colossian Church in Chapter 3 of his letter to them, is for us to do all of the little things in our everyday living for Jesus.  By doing everything each day “in the name of Jesus,” others will take notice of the kindness, mercy, forgiveness and grace found in each and every one of our words and deeds.  This is a simple concept, but not an easy task-even for people of faith.  It calls us to lay aside our human pettiness and grudges, even when we believe that we are in the right.  Instead, we need to follow Pauls’ guidance found in Philippians Chapter, verse 5, which states “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus was humble and forgiving of others, even when he was in the right, and when they so brutally abused and crucified him.  In each instance of our daily living, we need to ask ourselves, “What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)?”  Then, that is what we need to do.  That is what it means to take the light Jesus gave to us when we became believers, and let it shine!  It may not be a perfect light, and it may take us time to shine brightly for him, but every time we can put Christ Jesus, and the light he placed within us ahead of our own human selfishness, we do shine for him.  “A sunbeam, a sunbeam, Jesus wants me for a sunbeam; a sunbeam, a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for him.”  Jesus wants you for a sunbeam too; will you be a sunbeam for him?  Amen.