You are the Light of the World
When I was a young
boy growing up in Jackson, Minnesota, we went to church and Sunday
school. For Sunday school, we went into an old, crummy, rundown
basement below the church. This old decrepit building has been torn
down to make room for a new sanctuary and new classrooms, but I
remember the old one, the Sunday school rooms of my childhood. I
remember going down a long narrow hallway, with a railing on the
walls and the railing was painted crummy green. You followed this
hallway down to another old room where they had an “opening”
songfest for their Sunday school. This opening songfest was for the
little kids in Sunday school and I was a little kid.
There were several
things that happened in that opening session of Sunday school.
First, they had a happy birthday bank, and this happy birthday bank
was in the form of a church. If you were seven years old, you had to
bring seven pennies and the whole Sunday school would count out loud
as you dropped each of the seven pennies in the bank. One, two,
three, four, five, six, seven and then they would sing happy
birthday to you. We also would sing songs, and there were two songs
that were drilled into us. We sang them so many times that we would
never forget them. The songs were riveted deep within our memory
banks. One song was: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible
tells me so.” The second song that we learned very well and must
have sung it hundreds of times. It was, “This little light of
mine.” You probably remember it. It goes like this:
The chorus: “This
little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine;
This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it
shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
The first verse:
“Hide it under a bushel, NO, I’m going to let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, NO, I’m gunna let it shine, let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine.”
We had to say, no,
real crisply and strongly. Hide
it under a bushed, NO!!!
knew that I was not to hide my little light under a bushel.
As a little seven year old boy, I knew for sure that I should
not hide the light of Christ under a bushel. I should let everybody
around know that I was a Christian.
the next verses was:
“Don’t let Satan blow it out. I’m gunna let it shine.
Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gunna let it shine, let it
shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
knew that Satan wanted to blow out my candle. I knew that Satan
wanted to blow out my light of Christ, wanted to extinguish the
light, wanted to dim my life. As a little seven year old, I
next verse was:
“Shine all over Jackson, I’m gunna let it shine.
Shine all over Jackson, I’m gunna let it shine, let it shine, let
it shine, let it shine.”
that verse, the teacher made us make big circles in the air to
symbolize Jackson. So when we sang, “Shine all over Jackson,”
all the children were making circles in the air, symbolic of our
little town. I knew and so did all the other kids singing that song.
Our faith was to shine all over Jackson.
when I got on my little bike, the bike’s name was Little Wind, I
would ride up the long hill all the way to the swimming pool which
was a converted gravel pit and filled with water, and as I rode by
bicycle all the way up the hill, I knew that I was to be the light
of Christ every block of the way. When I was at the swimming hole, I
knew I was to be the light of Christ. When I rode down to the
bowling alley to go bowling, I knew that the bowling alley. When I
walked past the place of sin, the pool hall, I really needed to be
the light of Christ. No matter where I went, I was to be the light
of Christ in Jackson.
next verse to the song was:
“Let it shine til Jesus comes, I’m gunna let it shine.
Let it shines til Jesus comes, I’m gunna let it shine…”
I knew what this meant as a seven year old. I knew that I was to let
the light of Christ shine throughout my whole lifetime.
At seven years old, seventeen, twenty-seven, or thirty-seven
or seventy-seven or eighty-seven. I knew that throughout my whole
life long, I was to let my light shine.
mood of the song was not, “I have
to let it shine, or I ought to let it shine or I must
let it shine. I should let it shine.” It
wasn’t an oppressive commandment, “thou shalt let your light
shine.” No. Instead, there was a positive enthusiasm for being the
light of Christ, for letting the light of Christ in me to shine.
is with this introduction that we approach the story for today about
Jesus of Nazareth. The teaching for today comes from the Sermon of
the Mount. Jesus was living in the small town of Capernaum, right on
the lakeshore of the Lake of Galilee. The large hills seemed to grow
right out from the lakeshore, rising up from the lake, and halfway
up the hills above Lake Galilee is where Jesus preached his Sermon
on the Mount. Situated there is now a chapel called “The Chapel of
the Beatitudes.” There from that chapel, high on the hill, you
look out across the Lake of Galilee and it is incredibly beautiful.
That is where Jesus taught the teachings from the Sermon on the
on that mountain, with his disciples, Jesus was thought of as the
new teacher, the new Moses. As Moses went up to Mount Sinai, he gave
the Ten Commandments to the Jewish religion; so Jesus, the New
Moses, went up the mountain and he gave Christians a new set of
commandments, a new code for living, a new sense of right and wrong.
Jesus gave us a new guideline for life. The Ten Commandments were no
longer adequate. There is much more to the Christian life than
trying to obey the Ten Commandments. On the mountain above Capernaum
that day, Jesus was the New Moses and this was the New Mountain and
these were his New Commandments.
said to his disciples: “You. You. You.” In the Greek language,
the emphasis is on you. “You are the light of the world. A city
set on a hill cannot be hid. A lamp that is lit in a house is not
put under a bushel. Rather, you put a lamp onto a lamp stand so that
it will light the whole house.” Then Jesus said, “Let your light
so shine, so that all people will see your good works, your works of
love, and give glory to God who is in heaven.”
Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let is shine.
text for today and the whole Sermon on the Mount is about our
relationship to the world around us. Last Sunday, we focused on the
commandment that Christians are to be the salt of the earth. The
world is going through moral decay and disintegration. The world is
forever stinking morally, and you Christians are to be the salt of
the earth. You are to be the moral preservative of moral values.
that is not enough. Jesus continued. You are not only to be salt but
you are to be a light to the world. It is not enough to preserve the
moral fabric of society. More is needed. You are to be the light
that shines on the world. We need to preserve the moral values of
God but we need to expand the kingdom of God and Christ to all
people, and being the light of Christ is part of that expansion. The
world needs more than salt; the world also needs the light of
did not say, “You are
to be the light for the church.” The Bible does not say, “When
you come to church, turn on your light. When you come to the church,
let everyone see how devout and pious you are. When you come to the
church, turn on your religious energy.”
No. When you leave this church and get in your car and drive
out of the parking lot and into your neighborhoods, into your
schools, into your classrooms, into your factories and offices, let
your light shine for Jesus Christ. You, you, you, you are the light
of the world. Let the world see your light and come to know Jesus
what is Jesus saying in this new commandment for us?
your Christianity is to be visible.
Your Christianity is to be seen, is to be noticed, is not to
be hid. People are to know you are a Christian by what you say, by
what you do, by who you are. If you are a Christian, you cannot hide
it. It is the very nature of discipleship to be seen. There is no
such thing as a secret Christian. There is no such thing as a closet
Christian. At home, your discipleship is to be visible. At work,
your discipleship is to be visible. At school, your discipleship is
to be visible. In these places, do people know that you are a
practicing Christian? With your friends at soccer? With the baseball
teammates? At the symphony, the orchestra, the band? Do the people
that you know and work with know that you are a Christian?
want to pause. It is so important that your Christianity is visible
in your home, that your light shines in your house. Especially for
the role of grandparents. Recently, I was able to conduct the
funeral for Hazel Simpson and Hazel was grand lady, some eighty-four
years old when she died. I went over and gave her the last rites, as
her children and grandchildren gathered around the sacred memory of
their grandmother. These same children and grandchildren gathered a
few days later for the memorial service in order to pay their last
respects for their grandmother, their grandmother who had become a
widow at age thirty-two, their grandmother who had raised seven
children by herself. Hazel gave her whole life to raising her
children. And then she gave her whole life to raising her
grandchildren. And all the grandchildren were there because they had
seen the light of Christ shining in their grandmother. They saw what
their grandma was like and they said to themselves with their inner
voices, “I want to be like my grandma. I want to have what she had
her whole life. Grandma wanted me to have faith and I want to have
faith too, faith in Jesus Christ, faith like Grandma. ” It
wasn’t spoken out loud, but you could sense it by their attitudes
second example of a grandparent being the light of Jesus Christ. A
member of our parish told me about a nine year old grandson who had
written a note about his grandma who was a regular visitor to our
church. This is what a nine year old grandson wrote about his
grandma at the time of her death. “It is really hard for my whole
family, especially my dad. My grandma was really special to me. She
was in a wheel chair for eighteen years and my grandmother never
gave up for those eighteen years in her wheelchair. She spent her
last thanksgiving at our home with our family. She was really
special to me. She was really special to all of us. I always
remember that she had a smile on her face when somebody came over,
even if she did not know the person. She gave us everything, but the
best thing she ever gave to us was a hug and a smile. I can tell you
another thing. I know my grandma believed in God and I know that my
grandma has eternal life. Signed, Grandson John, Age 9.”
grandmas in two weeks. They never said a preachy word about Jesus
Christ. They didn’t harangue their grandchildren about Christ or
religion or church. It was more simple and basic than that: the
faith of these two grandmas just shined, like a light in the night,
and the grandchildren all knew it. Let your light so shine, so that
your grandchildren, so that your children, so that your parents,
so that other people want to be a Christian, so that other
people will be attracted to the Christian faith and the Indwelling
Presence of Jesus Christ. In other words, let your faith be visible.
faith needs to shine no matter where we are, at work, at play, at
school. It is important
that our language is filled with words about God, Jesus, love and
the church. By what we say, we show that we love God. We need to use
the words, God, Jesus, Christ, Bible, faith, church as part of our
language. Do you use those words as part of your language? Are those
words part of your vocabulary? Or…do you hide it? When you get out
into the world, do you hide it? But when you come to church, do you
pull out the light and put it on a lamp stand? Do you hide your
light when you are in the world but turn it on when you are in the
presence with your Christian friends?
said, “If salt has lost its saltiness, you might as well throw it
on a pile of dung. The salt is worthless” Similarly, if you are
unwilling to let your light shine out there in
the world, if you
don’t let the world know that you love God, Christ, and the things of God, you might as
well turn off your light for you are worthless as a Christian. Salt
and light both can become worthless to God.
says, Let your light shine…in
the world…that the world may know Christ.
light shines in everything you do. My mom is a great lady. She is
eighty-five years old, a wonderful lady, a good Christian and her
light shines in everything she does. The other day, she was just mad
as I talked to her on the telephone, mad as a hornet at a newspaper
editor down south who said that liberals could not be Christian. She
told me that she called up this editor and told him that she was
canceling her subscription to his newspaper. She said that the
newspaper editor asked her why she was canceling her subscription.
She said, “Anyone can be a Christian. Liberals. Conservatives. Any
of them can be a Christian.” Yes, she said her piece. The light of
Jesus Christ shines in my mom in all dimensions of her life. That is
the way it was with Grandma Simpson; the way it was with Grandma
Alexander; and the way it is with Grandma Markquart as well.
that is the way it is with you, my friends in Jesus Christ. You are
to be the light of Christ to the world in everything you do. …
Riding to the swimming hole, going down to the bowling alley,
walking past the pool hall. In everything I did as a little child, I
believed that my light was to shine all over Jackson as I drew the
circle in the air with my little seven year old fingers. And the
same is true for you.
this light of Christ shining inside of you is not showing off. We
are not talking about you being a Bible thumper where you bring out
your Bible and throw it in peoples’ faces. Letting your light
shine is not being a Jesus-pusher where you subtly push Jesus on too
many occasions. Letting your light shine is not wearing Christianity
on your sleeves to show everybody what a fine Christian you are. It
is not wearing crosses on your ear rings and crosses on your
necklaces and crosses on your bracelets, to show everyone that you
are religious. No, letting your light shine is much more subtle than
is important that you and I let the world know that you and I belong
to Jesus Christ.
first point of the sermon is this; our light of Christ is to be
visible to everyone around us, not just at church. The second point
is this: all people, including the nonchurched, need Jesus Christ to
light their paths and their ways of living and loving.
me play a game with you. I am going to pretend that I am an
unchurched person and you are all Christians. You are my friends and
I see your light. In fact, I see in your light the shining presence
of God. By watching you, I begin to understand God. I see God in
many places. I see God in Mount Rainier. I see God in Puget Sound. I
see God in the beauty of nature. But now, something new is going on
in my life. For the first time in a long, long time, I see God
living in another person. I see God living in you and I have never
seen God living in a person. And now I am starting to learn about
God by watching God live inside of you. I see the way your life has
been molded by God. I see Christ living in you and I am now
attracted to Christ who is living in you. For the first time,
something is going on in my heart and I cannot understand it, but I
am finding myself being attracted to Christ. Why? Because I see
Christ living inside of you.
don’t tell you about it, but I am watching. In you, I see the
possibility of a godly life for myself. I see that you are really an
ordinary human being. You are not one of those priest types. You are
not one of those preacher types, running around, trying to look
pious. I see that you are an ordinary human being. You work in a
school, in an office, in a factory, and you have God in you. I can
see God in your family. I can see God in the way you talk. I can see
the possibility of God for my life because I am seeing God you.
Maybe. Just maybe I could be a Christian too. I know that I could
never be a pastor or one of those TV preachers. Heaven forbid. But
in you, I see the possibility for me.
be honest with you, I am watching you out of the corner of my eye.
You don’t know it by the way. You don’t that I am watching you.
was at a PTA (Parent Teachers Association) meeting this past week,
and I overhead a woman talking with my wife. This woman, an
unchurched person, was focused on my wife and they talked eyeball to
eyeball. “I have been watching you and the way you conducted
yourself and the way you talked. I haven’t told you before, but
you have been becoming a primary model for my life. I never told you
that but I am starting to imitate what you are doing. I sense that
you have something that I don’t have and I want what you have
inside. I am watching you out of the corner of my eye.”
thing that needs to be said real clearly is that kids are often the
best light. Their little lights shine in such a way is that they
draw other children to the faith. Little kids are often the best
lights. For example, there is a little girl in our church in fifth
grade by the name of Reiden Zimmerman. Sitting next to her was what I call the
little red-headed girl and her name is Christen. Christen and Reiden
were playmates, and pretty soon Christen came to church with Reiden,
and now this Sunday, little Christen will be baptized.
past week, I have been out in the parish, visiting people who are
going to be baptized next Sunday. Do you know how many of these
people are bringing their children to be baptized? The Rudding
children are going to be baptized next week. Why? Because their
neighbor girl, by the name of Jericho Drawdy, brought them to
church. Jericho is a seventh grader. I guarantee you: Jericho is an
ordinary person. She is an ordinary child of God but the light of
God shines through young Jericho so much that her good friends are
going to be baptized. Next Sunday, a whole bunch of young children
are going to be baptized?
is not only children who are the lights of Christ but adults as
well. In my calling this past week, one of you who are going to be
baptized mentioned the name of Steve Beer. Another one who is going
to be baptized because Dave Olson works for the man who is going to
be baptized. In other words, the boss was watching out of the corner
of his eye.
little light of mine. I am going to let it shine. Let it shine.
said on the mountain: “You, you, you, you, you, you, you, you,
you, you…you are the light of the world. Let your light shine. Let
it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.” Amen.