Fort Nelson Secondary Grads of the 1970’s worship
Based on Matthew 5:13-20
On July 16th I lead worship in the town of my birth – Fort Nelson, British Columbia. We gathered in the old Anglican Church, now a gift to the community at the Ft. Nelson Heritage Museum. We were – assorted members of the high school graduating classes of the 1970’s and companions, as well as members of Hillcrest United Church, St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church and a few tourists. We sang together – it was beautiful – I wished I could bring everyone back to Sicamous United with me. We prayed, laughed and cried a bit too. Now I share the service with you…
Imagine, if you will, that you’ve read in the Fort Nelson News about this man who has recently moved into the neighbourhood and caused a bit of a ruckus in the Zebedee household when James and John left their father’s trucking business to follow this guy. You’ve heard that he can heal people, and that he’s caused a bit of a stir among the established leaders on the town council, and that’s enough to peak your interest. Word’s been going around town that he’s preaching up on the HME hill today, not in any of the local churches, and so you and your friends decide to check him 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 politician 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 under suspicion of being drunk in a public place!? You are the light of the world, indeed.
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 I’ve been told all my life that I am nothing?
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’ve lost my job?
How can I be light – when my life is such a mess?
How can I be light – when I am grieving?
How can I be light – when my grand plans went up in smoke?
How can I be light – when I haven’t even left my home town?
Jesus didn’t say – you have to produce light. He said `you are’ light. There is an ancient name for God, 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…
As we have gathered for this weekend, classmates spanning a decade, there’s been a lot of catching up. Where have you been? What have you been doing? How many grandchildren do you have? How many times have you been married?!! There are things we are happy to share, and things we’d rather no one knew about. But we’ve all been giving ourselves to the world in some way. We’ve been letting our light shine.
For some that’s been by staying here – establishing businesses that serve the local community. For some, it’s meant moving away, getting the education you needed, and eventually coming home to offer your gifts. For others, you’ve established yourselves in other communities and offered your gifts there. For some, your light shines as the constant love that welcomes a wayward child. For others, your light is your compassionate listening to a colleague or friend who is suffering. Still, for others, it’s reclaiming your heritage, your culture, your language and offering leadership to the next generation.
We’re not always shining brightly all the time. But I believe, even in those dark nights 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.