From the first harnessing of fire I
would guess there have been lamps –
simple clay dishes or containers with some animal fat and wick
the fatty oil as it melted. Although THIS lamp [showing a lamp
at the pulpit] is made of metal, glass, and a cotton wick, it
still burns, as did that first lamp, to make light – a
container, a wick, and oil (Kerosene).
But this lantern has something else –
something that makes it shine brighter, casting its light much
further out into the darkness – a glass chimney to shield the
flame and more importantly, IT HAS A REFLECTOR.
It seems to me that REFLECTOR is what Jesus is thinking mostly
our lesson today from Matt. 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.
14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In 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.
In the middle of the New Mexico desert, astronomers fume about
“light pollution” from the sprawling cities that are gradually
out across the land. Even on the darkest moonless nights, the
used to gleam and twinkle so brilliantly look faded and dim. But
is good news – the Hubble Telescope circling our earth above the
above the atmosphere is showing us things about stars we never
of. There are many more to “wish upon.”
We who live in the middle of cities and towns rarely glance
at night anymore – at least not to see stars. Unlike the Magi,
we do not
follow the stars unless we happen to keep track of our
THAT is in trouble. It has been reported that due to the normal
of the earth the stars are no longer in alignment. My birthday
month – Aquarius! Does that mean that now I am sunk?
The lights that now illumine our nights as brightly as our days
“McDonalds,” “Holiday Inn,” “Casino Open,” and “Twenty-Four Hour
Service.” In the glare of all these high-powered night lights,
hard to remember just how dark and frightening the hours between
and sunrise used to be for our ancestors. light, whether natural
artificial, was a precious commodity. Today, whether in
academe, Hollywood or the firmament, stars inspire us, they
they entice us to dream. But a star won’t keep us from stubbing
on a stone as we wander down a dark and lonely road. In
this week, Jesus urges us to serve as LAMPS for one another, not
that only dazzle and inspire. Jesus calls us to be lights for
not exploding super-novas.
Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot more people, including
politicians, media pundits, and even some Christians, who want
STARS, trying to outshine those not as bright as them, than are
to be LAMPS to share light for everyone.
Even Jesus encountered the “STAR syndrome” among his own
Matthew 20:20ff, the SONS OF ZEBEDEE and their equally ambitious
petitioned Jesus, begging him to “save them seats” in heaven.
JOHN don’t want just any old place – they specifically ask Jesus
“star” seats, those immediately at his right and left hands.
John are looking for stellar status, a place where they may
on others. Jesus tries to teach those two star-seekers that
request is wrong-headed for two reasons: First, Jesus claims
heaven’s seating order is his Father’s domain – not his. More
importantly, Jesus patiently reminds James and John that the way
may emulate him and be “first” in the kingdom is through
service to others. Jesus moves them, and us, from the idea of
sometime later, and it’s rewards, to the kingdom now and what we
here, now, to shed the light of hope.
“Out, out, brief candle!” cried Macbeth; and declared that
that struts and fret his hour upon the stage…is heard no more.”
Jesus implies that people themselves are meant to be the bearers
eternal light. The sun warms by radiation. So the Christian,
and reflecting light from Christ, can be radiant in the true
the word; and that light in him confers its own immortality.
age-on-age, is the Christian calling. What seems to be the
is that the only way to turn up the candlepower, is through our
individual selfless lives - through stepping out beyond
Matthew goes on with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and he tells the
multitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.... Blessed are
mourn.... Blessed are the meek...etc. Notice something missing?
“Should, ought, or must.” Jesus begins with "Blessings":
those who are unblessed, those who are failures by the way the
judges success and failure. No Imperative, just blessing for all
poor, hungry, persecuted, meek of the earth. Blessing for those
world has cursed and have decided not to see.
We are glad that Jesus blesses the poor, the empty, the bereft.
pleased that he begins his sermon by going on record as having,
Liberation Theologians say, A PREFERENTIAL OPTION FOR THE POOR.
Wherever people are suffering,
oppressed, or hurting in the whole world, Jesus blesses them as
part of his family. By patting them on the head and
blessing them? No, he blesses them by sending his people, people
you and me, to them to help at the point of their need. Families
care of all their people. Not just our immediate family and
clan! We are
talking here about the FAMILY OF GOD - everybody! WHAT HE SAYS
HERE, HE SAYS TO ALL!
So then, in verse 11 of his Sermon, the Beatitudes shift from
to the second person. Jesus turns from the suffering multitudes
his own disciples, toward us, and says: "Blessed are you...!"
see him turn? "Blessed are YOU….!" WHAT HE SAYS NOW, HE SAYS
I don’t know about you but I begin to squirm a bit. With his
so directly upon us, and I would add, for just a time as now:
are you when they revile you, persecute you, utter all kinds of
against you falsely on my account....That's the way they treated
prophets before you." (Mt. 5:12) This little rag-tag band of
folk, ex-IRS agents, people just off the streets – prophets?
swatted a fly. NATHANIEL nudged Mary Magdalene who broke out in
toothless grin – US? “Yeah,” says Jesus. “Prophets, Interpreters
Truth-tellers of Israel –YOU! “You are the salt of the entire
“You are the light of the whole world – SHINE!
Light, like salt, is mainly of significance in what it enables
happen. You don’t stare at a light bulb – light is valuable in
enables us to see something else. Switch on a light, and a dark
transformed. I can remember the first time I went through the
Caves. Many of you have probably done it in this cave or some
At one point, deep inside the mountain, all of the lights were
off. Time was given for our eyes to adjust and then the guide
“Put your hand in front of your face.” It was totally dark –
see a thing. Then the guide lit a single match. Not only could I
hand, and everyone else in our tour. I could see the walls and
of the huge domed room we were in. AMAZING WHAT ONE LIGHT CAN
DO! Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind.
As a child didn’t you love to sing “This little light of mine,
going to let it shine?” I did! The only problem with that
song is that
it focuses exclusively on the single beam of light emitted by
Jesus wanted us to think as community
about the illuminating power he
generates in each of us. The “city built on a hill” is not
because one lone light flickers in a window. It is the combined
of an array of lights, each burning in its own place, but for a
purpose that sets the city ablaze in the midst of a dark and
“You are the light of the cosmos,” says Jesus. “Without you, the
cannot see what it is.”
The world has no means of seeing that it is violent, that all of
national orders and governments are propped up by force. Not
meets someone who isn’t violent in word or deed.
People of the world don’t know that they are superficial, until
come face-to-face with someone who isn’t.
The world needs you to be redeemed,
before it can know what is fallen,
corrupt, and sin-filled - selfish-filled if you please.
The world must stumble across just one free person still running
loose, before the world sees how enslaved it is to a host of
“You are the only light the world has,”
says Jesus. Hide your light
under a basket, and EVERYONE stumbles! The world is quite right
judging the truth of Jesus by the sort of people faith-in-Jesus
It is a great gift to know that our life is caught up in some
cosmic program of Jesus. You are the way Jesus is busy turning
out the whole world.*Here at Eugene First Christian Church by
statement of purpose as a Inclusive, Affirming, Transforming
congregation* we indicate we are trying to step up to the
the little things we do: things like the way we spend the money
the words we use to speak TO and ABOUT other people; the jokes
the manner in which we spend our time. All are transformed from
purely personal matters of our individual lifestyle so ingrained
in the world in which we live,- transformed into a great,
witness to the Light of the World.
This is the season AFTER the Epiphany. Epiphany means
“aha now I get it” time. Of course, a month after Christmas, the
Epiphany we are talking about is Jesus. The “aha” moment for all
people around his birth. The “aha” moment for the Magi, the wise
astrologers, not particularly religious guys. Jesus, the Light
So here we are at church, and in a few minutes we will be handed
and the fruit of the cup by this Galilean Light of the World.
surprised when Mr. Light of the World turns around and focuses
beam of truth upon your life and calls YOU his light of the
his salt of the earth, You his bread blessed that he might give
YOU to a
hungry world.“Be dressed and ready for action, and keep your
lit.” Luke 12:35 reminds us.
In the swirl of despair over the shootings in Tucson, last month
bright spots emerge from the story of what happened: AN AIDE who
rushes to Gabrielle Gifford’s’ aid, keeping her from bleeding to
while others, sensibly, are running for cover. TWO MEN who seize
moment, and the shooter, as he is reloading. A WOMAN who quickly
the gun magazine clip off the ground. And dozens who call 911,
There are other bright spots as well: A SHERIFF who urges calm
restraint in our political conversation, along with more
sensible gun laws. ELECTED OFFICIALS who, for the moment, tone
down the nasty rhetoric that surely leads to incidents like this
one. Sadly, it won’t take them long to forget.
Jesus tells us to be ready, always, to respond: to respond to
non-violently; to respond to HATE, compassionately; to respond
CYNICISM with love, hope and understanding! To never forget we
called to be the light of hope to a selfish confused world.
When Jesus said to that crowd, “You are the light of the world,”
was using an expression quite familiar to the Jews. They
spoke of Jerusalem as “a light to the Gentiles.”But the way in
the Jews used this expression will give us a key to the way in
Jesus also used it. Of one thing the Jews were sure - No person
their own light. It was “God, who lit the lamp.” The light
the nation or the people of God shone was a borrowed light. It
so with the Christian. It is not the demand of Jesus that we
it were, produce our own light. We are to shine with the
his light. The radiance which shines form the Christian comes
presence of Christ within the Christian’s heart.
We are not all standing within reach of Rep. Gifford on a
morning. But we are wherever we are. And no one else is always
are but you, and God. May God give each of us the courage, love
insight to respond well. Don’t worry about whether or not you
material." Probably none of us are. Instead, turn up your lamp
it up to help your neighbor or a stranger around the unexpected
and rocks that mark every path. There IS a difference between
"Starlight" and "Lamplight." It seems to me we as individuals
congregation are ready to let God light our lamp as never
Thanks be to God. Amen.