You Are the Light of the World…

Isaiah 58:1-12

Matthew 5:13-20

I heard a few days back that we just finished one of the cloudiest Januaries on record here in Northern Illinois. I didn’t need a weather forecaster to tell me that, though. I have sensed it in my very being as the atmosphere seems to weigh us all down as these cold, too short days, wear on.  Indeed, I expect this is why more than one friend on social media has complained that January surely lasted one hundred days and more this time around! And yet, as I sat with a family waiting for a loved one to be done with surgery the other day, a granddaughter who had flown in just for this assured us that the sun is still there — she had seen it herself, just beyond the clouds.

When I was a child, I did not need the light as much as I do today. In fact, for some reason I remember still lying on the floor reading a book as the sun was growing dim. And older family member, an aunt, I believe, stepped into the room and chastised me. “How can you read without the light?” she wondered. Often now, when I turn on the light so as to see to read or to work in the kitchen or to do just about anything, I think of how much more I depend on ‘light’ for things I didn’t used to need illuminated.

Last summer my butternut squash plants hardly produced. I was disappointed, yes, but was glad to settle for a couple of squash to enjoy with meals in the fall. I sat with one who sells squash to a local restaurant for their ‘butternut bisque.’ She said they had trouble, too. “Too much rain,” she said. “Not enough sunshine” was the reason why…

Light.

Most every living thing needs it, it seems. (Although I am not a biologist, I do know that some ‘living things’ like mold and fungi seem to thrive in the dark…) Either way, even now as I sit in my study and look out at the bare winter trees, I can see how the  branches all reach skyward — towards the light. For although darkness has its necessary place, perpetual darkness would seem to be a place of dying, a place of death.

Light helps us to distinguish difference and to celebrate diversity.

Light can deepen understanding.

Light works on cellular structures to promote growth.

Light heals.

Light helps us find our way.

Light.

And today Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.”

And not just one at a time, it would appear, although each one of us are called to be bearers and bringers of light.  Rather, all of us together, collectively, are called ‘the light of the world’ today.

And oh, don’t I wonder now what it would mean for us in our gatherings large and small, if our first call was to be ‘light.’

  • Indeed, what would it mean to pull out of the dark shadows of history or avoidance those things we have chosen to forget or which time has somehow faded?
  • What might it look like to shed light on that which divides us?
  • Or what might it mean if we heard again this call to be ‘light’ as not for ourselves alone, but for all the world as Jesus says today?
  • And what if we were to understand that just as we cannot live without ‘light,’ neither can anyone else?
  • What if we were to awaken to the realization that we have been given ‘light’ to share, always to share?
  • And what will it mean when we finally come to the truth that this ‘light’ is not limited, but reflected goes on and on and on? There is no need to hoard it, no reason to hide it, for there will always be more.

And isn’t the promise sure that ‘light’ drives away fear — for as we are called to go into dark places with this ‘light’ — that which threatens us literally disappears — for that which would harm always prefers darkness to the ‘light.’

And yes, in this last week, in spite of our seemingly perpetual gray skies, I have seen ‘light.’ Light shining, light shared, light showing the way.

I saw it as I sat with a family in a hospital waiting room. Three generations were together, waiting for news of their loved one. No doubt, they all brought different hopes and fears to this hour, but they were kind and patient with one another in their waiting. They showed how ‘light’ can be offered and shared in a potentially dark time.

  • And I wondered at whether and how we do that together whenever we gather as God’s people, waiting for ‘news.’ How is that we can be the ‘light of the world’ in how we are when we are together in spite of or because of the different hopes and fears we bring when we come together?

Surely I saw ‘light’ as I sat a few minutes with one of ours who is moving through the final stages of cancer. Words don’t come easily to her anymore and she loses track of what she is saying, often mid-sentence. This happened as we sat together — she, her daughter, and I. You could see her trying to concentrate on what she meant to say next when after a long pause she turned to her daughter and said simply, “I love you.” Indeed, those words are really the only ones which need saying now.

  • And yes, I wondered at how little other words mean for all of us as we gather and are sent into the world. Isn’t it so that these are the only words which need be said and lived anymore? No matter into what darkness we are meant to bring ‘light?’

And no question at all I saw ‘light’ when I attended a city council meeting this week. I was there but a short time as I was between meetings, but I heard that God’s people from another congregation were turning out in force. They came to show solidarity. They came, by their quiet presence, to try to shed ‘light’ on a matter of injustice in our community.  Their message was unmistakable and it could not be missed by those ‘in power’ behind the tables whose skin tones were so much paler than those who came with children and grandchildren, quietly observing, attentively listening. Their pastor told me later that they are trying to show their children there are ways besides violent ones to make their message heard.

  • To be sure, I marveled at the ‘light’ they shed by simply showing up. And I wondered at how their quiet witness calls all of God’s people to do the same. To show up and shed ‘light’ in otherwise dark places, perhaps simply be being there.

And so it is, in this otherwise cloudy season, I am wondering where you have seen such light.

  • Have you seen it in a gathering of God’s people gathering in patience and kindness and hope in spite of all that would divide us?
  • Have you seen ‘light’ in the words I love you spoken and lived — among dear ones or strangers or both?
  • Oh, have you seen ‘light’ in those who show up even when the world has given them no reason to ‘show up’ anymore? Have you wondered what it might mean if we all just did the same — bringing ‘light’ to otherwise dark places?
  • Where, oh where, have you seen such ‘light’ bringing hope, direction, and promise to a world that is too often dark?
  • Where will you seek to bring such ‘light,’ to be such ‘light’ in the days to come? And oh, how might you do this together with others who are called to ‘be the light of the world’ with you?

 

2 comments

  1. Marti Kersh says:

    Pastor Janet,
    Your commentary on the Light was so on spot today!
    I appreciated how you shared all the ways that light brings life to us as well as the living organisms. Your piece was timely as we watch our government unravel and the division seems to be widening. The darkness of winter can sometimes oppress us and this light that will never leave us, will always be there for us is the answer. The true answer to guide is through our lives.
    Thank you so much!

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