The Light of the World

TODAY’S GOSPEL: Matthew 5:13-16

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.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine”

No doubt you remember singing this little song in Sunday school, while holding your index finger high in the air like a candle. Verse after verse we would sing…”Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine” and “Don’t let Satan blow it out! I’m gonna let it shine”

Those words we were singing were from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, as we heard in today’s Gospel reading. “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.”

It is difficult for us to imagine darkness as they knew it in Biblical times. Nighttime meant sheer blackness with no streetlights to filter in through the windows. Small oil lamps are plentiful in museums, an indication of how essential they were to every family. Great care was taken to keep the lamps filled with oil, in case they needed to get up in the night to tend to a crying child.

The crowd who had gathered to hear Jesus speak during His Sermon on the Mount were average, everyday people. They knew the importance of keeping their lamps lit, but the lives they lived must have seemed dark and dismal. They were poor, as was 80% of the population of their day. They had no social importance, no amount of influence on others, and no education. And yet here was Jesus telling them that they were the light of the world!

And so it is with us today. We live in a world that seems very dark and sometimes very evil. We see and read about horrible things being done to people in far-off countries. We hear about corruption in high places and abuse of people and the planet for the enrichment and glory of the world powers. We realize what a small world it really is, and yet we feel powerless to help. So, we sit back and do nothing. Not our problem right?

Wrong! Through grace, Jesus has given us salvation. He has declared us to be the light of the world and He has given us the ability to create change for the better, at least in our own little corner of the world. He gives us two examples: He tells us about a city built on a hill that cannot be hidden. If a city did not want to be seen, it would be built in a valley, but one on a hill is a beacon, and a refuge. As Christians, we are placed in the world to be seen.

Similarly, the higher our lamp, the more light we cast into the world. The more we appear to be a beacon to those who are troubled. The higher the lampstand on which the lamp sits, the more light is visible. Jesus tells us to let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works. This is not so we can get the credit, but so that our good works can give glory to God…so that they see Jesus in us…and so that they see what He has done in our lives and what He can also do in theirs. You can’t do that with your light hidden under a bushel! We find similar imagery in Mark 4 and Luke 8. God doesn’t want us to keep His truth hidden from others. He wants us to shine our light into the dark corners of the world, in public, not privately hidden.

We live in a world where we are constantly plugged into our electronics. We know the importance of keeping our devices charged. We have to be “plugged in” to Jesus constantly. He is the power source that keeps us charged by prayer, worship and reading His word.

So what are you doing?  Are you hiding under a bushel?  Or are you built on a hill to be a beacon to others? Do people see Jesus in you?

Remember, “You are the light of the world.” Notice that Jesus didn’t promise to teach us to be light, or tell us that we would someday grow enough to become light. We ARE light. Right now, who we are, where we are. Jesus is warning us not to cease being a light. What a joy it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and what a blessing to those with whom we share the light of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your gift of these gospels that we can learn from them how to better serve You. Let each of us be a vessel, not filled with oil as a lamp, but with the Holy Spirit shining from us.

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