February 9, 2020 Epiphany 5 Matthew 5:13-20
You are the light of the world!
The scriptures are talking about you, not Jesus, but you. You, members of Saint Andrew's church, are the light of the world.
I know the Gospel of John says it differently, it identifies Jesus as "the light of the world". But in Matthew's Gospel, our text for today, you are the focus.
I also know that your piety might lead you to say yes but Jesus is "the true light." But that would mean you have to switch back to John. That would be a whole different sermon.
There is some truth to that, but let's listen to what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount: "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory" to God.
Light always has its effects. It always illuminates. Light can destroy the darkness, but darkness cannot destroy the light. Salt, likewise, always makes its presence known. That's just the way things are.
Jesus' expects his followers to have an amazing impact on the world. Consider who the audience is for the Sermon on the Mount. There are no obvious world-changers gathered around him on the hill. It's a crowd of ordinary people. Probably a lot of disappointed people. Maybe some desperate people. People who think they don't count for much.
There are certainly no seminary professors there to check on the theological accuracy of Jesus statements. There are no famous authors there who make a living writing and speaking to large audiences.
There are no famous preachers there who seem comfortable in the pulpit and know how to make themselves heard preaching on the hillside.
In fact, if we take Matthew 5:11-2 as our cue, Jesus is speaking to people who are (or who are about to be) "reviled" and "persecuted" if they decide to become His followers.
In this message, Jesus is telling us that we are the lights of the world. It is also important to note that this is not just a suggestion. The translation of "Let your light shine" comes from the single Greek word, lampsato. This word is an imperative, meaning it is a command. Sounds good, but do we really understand the significance of that?
So, that being t he case, why is it that the numbers of Christians in the world is dropping? At the present time 33% of the world's population are Christian, while 21% are Muslim. While the percentage of Muslims are rising, the percentage of Christians in the world is slowly declining.
In fact, it is expected that the world's major religion will shift from Christianity to Islam sometime in the 21st century. Folks, we are living in the 21st century. We need to answer God's call and be the light of the world.
The function of light is to show the way. A flashlight makes it possible to walk safely at night. A lighthouse warns ships that land is near, so they can avoid crashing into the rocks or running ashore. A candle brightens the darkest of caves. And Jesus' light shatters the darkness of evil.
In the Gospel of Joh, Chapter 12:35 Jesus said, "My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going."
Then again in verse 46 "I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.
Light helps things to grow.
As we see in Genesis, God created light before he started shaping the Earth and bringing in the plants and animals. Why? Have you ever seen a plant grow without sunlight? In fact, there are some parasitic plants that can go their whole lives without light; but there is a catch. They get their food from other host plants that do require sunlight. So, no matter what, plants cannot survive without sunlight. They need the light to grow.
The same goes for us as Christians; as the light within us burns, we grow closer in our relationship to God. But that requires effort doesn't it? You know that a wood fire cannot last all night without somebody adding more wood on it? Have you ever seen a candle continue to burn when the wick is all gone? No, we must make an effort to keep Jesus' light burning within us and in our church.
And as we make that effort, as we read our bible and study it, was we spend time being who Jesus has called us to be, our light continues to grow stronger and we continue to grow brighter.
You might not see the results of your light shining as clearly as you'd like, but light always illumines and always attracts. Salt always preserves and enhances. That's the way things are.
Let your light shine, let it shine brighter and brighter. Someday you will hear the words, "Well done good and faithful servant."