Based on Matthew 5:13-20
Imagine, if you will, that you are one of Jesus’ disciples, or someone in the gathering crowd. You’ve heard about this man – you have heard that he recently moved into the neighbourhood and caused a bit of a ruckus in the Zebedee household when James and John left their boats and their dad, to follow him. You’ve heard that he can heal people, and that he’s caused a bit of a stir among the established leaders of the day, and that’s enough to peak your interest. Word’s been going around town that he’s preaching up on the hill today, not in the synagogue, and so you and your buddies are checking it out. He’s beginning now and you’re listening in.
“You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus says, and you look over your shoulder. Who’s he talking to? Is there some plain-clothes Pharisee standing behind you? “You are the light of the world,” says this itinerant preacher. Again you look around. “YOU are the light of the world”, he says, and this time he’s lookin’ right at you. You’ve been called many things in your life, but it’s never been `salt of the earth’ or `light of the world.’ “Whatever does he mean by that?” you wonder, and when is he going to get arrested for blasphemy!?
One of my favourite quotes about being light comes from Marianne Williamson, and was used by Nelson Mandela as part of his inaugural speech as president of South Africa. If you’ve heard it before, it bears repeating. It reads:
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 frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us. It’s in everyone, and, as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
That’s beautiful! I believe it, and yet, what about those times when we are not feeling brilliant, fabulous, strong etc. We lament:
How can I be light – when all my joints ache and I can hardly get out of bed in the morning? How can I be light – when I am angry and scared? How can I be light – when I’ve said and done things that have hurt others? How can I be light – when I’m lost and confused? How can I be light – when I feel like I’m stumbling around in a world of darkness? How can I be light – when I feel burned out? How can I be light – when my life is such a mess? How can I be light – when I am grieving? Jesus didn’t say – you have to produce light. He said `you are’ light. Remember that ancient name we call the Holy One, often translated as YHWH – “I AM.“ Well, Jesus is saying the plural `you are’. Each of you and all of you together.
You are the light of this world. Sometimes I admit it seems a bit of a stretch. It’s helpful for me to remember to simply light a candle and think about what a difference even such a tiny bit of light can make – it can focus our attention, it can bring light to a darkened room…
In the days of slavery, a candle in a window was a sign for runaway slaves that this was a safe house.
As we live into this new reality of the brutal idiocy of the new American president, and we grieve with our Muslim brothers and sisters, in the wake of the senseless murder of six worshiping men in Quebec City, we must – we must be the light of the world. How fitting it is when people gather to grieve and honour and pray, that they light candles. Last Monday night in Salmon Arm, an impromptu gathering happened at city hall in solidarity with the grieving Muslim community. I confess, I went to the Black & Bluez music practice instead, because my soul needed to be fed by the gift of music. Through the power of Facebook however, I shared the news of the gathering at city hall and I was so pleased later to see pictures of it, and noticed our Victoria in the crowd.
I woke up Tuesday morning thinking about the saying on my favourite T-shirt – “Love thy Neighbour.” Well, it’s not exactly T-shirt weather for me – unless it’s covered up by a long-sleeved shirt and a vest or sweater. But I took the message on my T-shirt, and made a poster and put it on the doors of our house, and dropped off some copies up town, and on Wednesday, brought my T-shirt and the posters out here to the Thrift shop, and put up more posters. And I invite you all to take posters and put them on your door, or take them to your places of work, or businesses in town and just offer another way of being in the world.
If the posters aren’t your thing – find what is. Shine in the darkness! Come to the regional church gathering on the 14th in Enderby to talk with our neighbouring churches about how we can be light in our communities; how can we be a light-bearing presence? How can we be that salt-seasoning and light in a world that doesn’t seem to think we have much to offer?
Or come on the 15th – again in Enderby and gather at the new Splatsin Centre with Shuswap Together – Go to www.eventbrite.ca and type Together Shuswap into the search bar for the registration page. This is a gathering of indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians working together for the good of all. Or speak up and act for inclusion, for justice, for compassion in your everyday encounters.
We’re not always shining brightly all the time. But I believe, even in the darkest night of our soul, there is a divine spark in us that nothing and no one can put out.
As Marianne Williamson said, “We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us. It’s in everyone…”
Sometimes, it’s very hard to see, and we need to heed how we are looking. Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the `Little House on the Prairie’ novels, wrote: Persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.
Well, our minds can be pretty messed up. The Western mindset is great at separating things – us/them, in/out, good/bad. Jesus didn’t see that duality; he didn’t see the righteous and the sinners. He looked out at common everyday people and proclaimed, “You are the Light of the world.” And so we are; and so we are. Amen.