“Where To Look”

April 28, 2019
Jonathan Rumburg
Matthew 5:13-16

Introduction

Though Easter was last Sunday, we are still in the Easter season.  Remember, Easter is not a commemorative anniversary of a past event.  Easter is God’s future, showing itself in our past, but also in our present, and most especially in our future.

Easter represents a dramatic movement from pain to hope.   From the Monday after Palm Sunday, into Saturday, we deeply feel and lament the pain Jesus Christ endured for us, along with our personal pain and the world’s pain.

Then, on Easter, we rejoice as pain gives way to eternal hope made possible through the resurrection.  We say, “Christ is risen! Risen indeed!” with a joy that surpasses understanding.

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         Today we easily see both the pain and hope Holy Week and Easter exemplify.  The pain is everywhere, and everywhere there is need for hope.

We see the continuing open wounds of structural racism, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression exacerbated by politicians and far too many of our fellow citizens.

We see Islamophobia, Homophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hatred practiced more vehemently and openly than at any time in recent memory.

We see scientific data that reinforces the inescapable fact we are running out of time to avoid the most catastrophic levels of climate change.

We see crowd-funding campaigns for people trying to pay for medical procedures, or even just medicine, while hearing stories of people who died because they couldn’t afford the treatment they needed.

We see atrocities like Christchurch, New Zealand; and Shi Lanka,

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         Easter is a desperately needed reminder that pain, loss, and death don’t get the final word— that there always is, and always will be, hope— and we do not carry that hope in vain.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is critical for our lives because without it we could easily give up.

But where can we find this hope, in a tangible way?  I mean, faith is great, but sometimes we need to just see something that can help us keep going.  It’s not as far as we might think.

Resurrection hope is one we can see mirrored in our lives and current events, if we know where to look.

Move 1

In our text for this Baptism Sunday, we hear Jesus say, “You are the light of the world.”

Jesus is reminding the people no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel basket, but instead, they put it on a lamp stand so the light can be seen and used by all.

Jesus, in this text, is imploring them, and us, to be the light God has created us to be.  It’s a light that helps us, and others know where to look for the hope of a better future.

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         A critical take-away of this statement—“You are the light of the world”— is that it is not a command of what one has to do.  Rather it is a description—a description of what one already is: “You are the light of the world.”

Jesus is not saying, “Become the light.” He’s not saying, “I will make you the light.” Jesus is saying, you are, already, the light of the world.  You.

Light provides warmth and energy; light encourages life and growth.  Light dispels fears and provides hope.  This is why Jesus is intentional in using the metaphor of light because light does not exist for its own benefit, but rather for the benefit of everything it illuminates.   Therefore, we do the very same thing when we live as the light of the world.

Our role as hope givers depends on doing whatever we can to be light to the world.

We are to be compassionate and loving instead of hiding in the dark.

We are to offer others warmth and encouragement instead of being cold and discouraging.

We are to be a source of goodness, kindness, and peace for others, so that together we can make the world around us as God intended it to be.

But where do we look?

Where do we look so we can see the light, so we can be reminded that death has been conquered, that everlasting life is assured when it seems more often than not that death has won, and is still winning.

One place is right over there, in just a few minutes.

Move 2

On this baptism Sunday we celebrate three who are coming to the understanding that they are the light of the world.

The call to be this kind of light has been made known to them and they are ready to say yes to being the light God has made them to be.

These students, like every Pastor’s class student I have taught, are excited and eager about their confession of faith, their baptism, and their first communion.  They know what it means for their life, and they are ready and excited.

They know too, this is not the culmination of their faith journey, but rather a new beginning where they become Disciples of Christ.

It makes me wonder…

Are we excited to live out our call?

Are we eager to share the hope of our faith in a hopeless world?

Are we putting the light of our faith on a lampstand?

Or are we putting it under a bushel basket?

Conclusion

“Let your light shine before others,” says Jesus.

There is so much dimness—loneliness, isolation, and fear; when we judge and hate; when we look the other way and ignore; when we forgo dialogue for castigating ridicule.

But Christians, Jesus reminds us, are called to be the light of the world— beacons of peace and reconciliation in a world full of conflict, exclusion, and hate.

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         Today three young people are saying yes to being that kind of light.  They are excited and eager and hopeful for the future it marks for them.

And it is at their excitement, and their eagerness, and their hopefulness that we can look when the dimness of this world overwhelms us.

We can look at them, and all the other children around us and in our care as a church family and in our community and see how we are not only called to be the light of the world, but that we must be the light of the world.

If we live our lives as the light we have been created to be, then people will see it, says Jesus.  And when they do the dimness of this world is dispelled, lives are made better, the world is more like the Kingdom of God, and it will “give glory to our Father in heaven.”  Amen.

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