EPIPHANY 5, A – February 5, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 58:3-9a; 1 Cor. 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20 

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 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 who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5)

 

A few weeks ago I visited my mom in Ohio. You often ask me how she is doing. Well, to be frank, her health is very poor. She’s had Parkinson’s disease for years, and this, combined with her 90 years has resulted in her being unable to walk or even control her body much. She’s usually somewhat slumped over in a chair, and often can barely respond to visitors. But, she has the occasional good day. On January 20 she was very talkative and responsive. When my brother told her that Donald Trump had been inaugurated as our new President that day, mom responded, “You’re kidding!” Yep, she was with it that day!

“You’re kidding!” That could have been the response when Jesus said to the crowd who had gathered to hear Him, “You are the light of the world.” “You’re kidding!” Those mostly poor, poorly educated, dirty and needy simpletons were the light of the world? Maybe He was just speaking of His closest disciples: Peter, James, John and Matthew and the others. Well, they were not scholars, either; nor were they priests who had served in the temple, nor influential leaders in Israel. Jesus had chosen simple men – some were fishermen; one was even a hated tax collector! – to be the apostles He would teach and send out to speak for Him. “You are the light of the world.” “You’re kidding!”

You and I could say this also, for Jesus says to us today, “You are the light of the world.” You? Me? We are not just lights, but the light of the world? “You’re kidding!”

No, He’s not. Jesus says what He means and means what He says. You are the light of the world, for He has made you so. When you doubt this or deny this, it is because you are looking at yourself and not Him; because you are listening to yourself, and not Him; because you are evaluating things according to how you see them.

There is much reason to doubt and deny when you look at yourself. You know that there have plenty of times when, instead of letting the light of Christ shine forth, you hid His light under a basket and said nothing about Him; or, you went along with what others were doing, even though you knew it was wrong. Why? Are people and what they think of you more important than God and what He thinks of you? You surely deserve rebuke from God for this, and not praise. Of course, nowadays, with so much anger and lashing out on social media and public berating of people, hiding under a basket is very appealing. You also know how hesitatingly and poorly you speak, don’t you? The light of the world? Who, me?

Yes, you. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus says. You have received – and you believe, do you not? – the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is not the wisdom of men but the power of God! With this message you have received “not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God.” (1 Cor. 2) You not only know God’s wisdom; the Holy Spirit, who is God, who searches all things and comprehends the thoughts of God, lives within you! You are the light of the world, for Christ has made you so!

Go forth, then, and shine His light. This requires definition. It requires speaking about Jesus and proclaiming Him as the reason for the good that you do, for people can misunderstand this. For instance, one person could see Nicky’s, Christian’s and Lucia’s scouting awards and say, “Wow, that’s really great!” while another might (sarcastically) say, “Wow, that’s really great.” (You think you’re better than others, don’t you?) Only God sees the heart, the motivation. Let others know that Jesus is in your heart and is your motivation, that they might see your good works aright.

I imagine my parents had some explaining to do when people saw this ugly ashtray in their house. I made it for them when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and was learning about glazing and firing clay in a kiln. Bright kid that I was, I got this great idea: Mom and Dad really need an ashtray! They didn’t smoke. Then, I wrote in it:  "Remember Bobby".  Brilliant! As if they would need an ugly ashtray to remember me if I died!  I didn’t even fit the words in it properly. And, don’t you think the mottled dark brown color is attractive? Apparently, my parents didn’t see any of this.  They saw that their son had thought of them and made something for them, and not for himself; and so they displayed my ashtray on a coffee table in the living room.

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” It’s in ugly things, such as when sufferings and hardships come upon you, that you especially have the opportunity to give glory to your Father in heaven. When you endure them with patience and hope in Christ people will be able to see in you the peace of Christ, the peace which the world cannot give. Suffering in Christ and for Christ is the greatest witness a child of God can give. Yes, this especially, as with every other good work, requires definition; but know this: Jesus is the One who has given the ultimate definition to your good works. For He came, not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. His righteousness – His holy life of nothing but good works which exceeded that of the Scribes and Pharisees, and especially His willing and patient enduring of sufferings, culminating in His death upon the cross – fulfilled all that God requires of you. And, by His bearing your sins on the cross and dying for them He forgave every failure of yours. The light of His life and His love now shines upon you in His holy Word and fills you who believe in Him, for faith receives Him. You are, then, like Him. You are His Father’s holy and beloved child!

And so now, His life can shine forth from you. Glorify your Father in heaven by letting people know who He is, and that the good things you do, and the sufferings you patiently endure, are done and endured to honor Him! Let them know that you do them to reflect Jesus, whom the Father sent out of love to help and serve and save all people. And then, be joyful and at peace. You have a Father who loves you and forgives you and rejoices in your good works always! – even if they look little better than an ugly ashtray.

Jesus is not kidding. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.