Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sermon: "Let Your Light Shine"

“Let Your Light Shine”
(Second in the Series)
Matthew 5:14-16
October 16, 2011

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In 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.”

We are continuing our “Light the World” theme for stewardship. I hope we understand that stewardship means more than just money.
It’s what we do with all the gifts God has given us.

We are using this reading from Matthew as our theme, taking it a phrase at a time. Today we explore: “Let your light shine.”

In a way, “light” stands for all the ways God has blessed us and all the ways we are called to bless others.

God did a wonderful thing when he sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Light of World. God could have left us in darkness. But instead, God chose to give us light.

Light is a gift from God. Christ is our light. Light is everything good, positive, hopeful, joyful, liberating, life-affirming, that we experience in life. It all comes from God.

Like every gift from God, we have to decide what we will do with it. Jesus is saying here in our passage, with light there’s only one thing you can do with it – Let it shine! You are the light of the world!

I hope we already do that. But if you have any questions, let me answer by making 2 important points:

1) Why we should let our light shine.
2) Ways we let our light shine.

There are three reasons to “Let Your Light Shine”: It’s natural; it’s needed; and it’s noticed.

1) Let your light shine because it’s natural.

It’s natural for…fire to burn…for wind to blow… and for light to shine.

Imagine telling a fire not to burn. Imagine telling the wind not to blow. It’s impossible.

It’s just as impossible to tell light not to shine – that’s just what light does, it shines. It’s natural.

Jesus tells us we are the light of the world. He doesn’t say, “You could be the light of the world,” or “You will be the light of the world.”

He says, “You are the light of the world.”

So if we are light for the world, then it’s our nature to shine.

In fact, Jesus says, it takes a special effort not to shine. He says it would be like trying to hide a city built on a hill or like lighting a lamp in your house and then putting it under a bushel basket.

Hiding a whole city would be physically impossible. I’ve seen David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear on TV, but not a whole city.

And putting a lamp under a basket is just plain silly. Why would anyone go to the trouble of lighting a lamp and then covering it up?

So Jesus is saying that letting the wonderful light of God shine in and through us should be just as natural as breathing.

The trouble is, we don’t always think of it as natural. We think it takes special training or effort or ability.
We think, “That person is a shining light for God, but I could never do that.”

But you can. It doesn’t take any special effort. Just let the wonderful things that God has done for you shine through in your life. It’s as natural as anything.

2) Let your light shine because it’s needed.

It should become second nature to us to let Christ’s light shine through us.

But we should also let our light shine because the world really needs it.

There’s a reason Jesus told us that we are the light of the world: the world is a dark place by itself and it needs the light we can give.

Have you noticed how many “infomercials” there are on TV, especially on weekends? Sometimes it seems like there are more infomercials than regular programs.

They sell exercise machines, steam mops, acne treatments, spray-on hair, and all kinds of other “essential” items.

I guess Ron Popeil (of Ronco fame) was the king of infomercials.
He cut his teeth by selling such items on TV as the Veg-O-Matic (It slices! It dices!) and the Pocket Fisherman, a fishing rod and reel that fold up and fit in your pocket (because you never know when you might be in an emergency situation and have to catch a largemouth bass). His biggest seller was probably the Showtime Rotisserie oven.

Pitchmen like Popeil and the late Billy Mays and other infomercial artists have become multi-millionaires by convincing us that we absolutely can’t live without things like the “Sham-Wow,” the Snuggie, or the Shake Weight.

I’m not sure the world needs something called the “Abdomenizer,” but I am sure the world really does need the light of Christ.

I hardly need to remind us of all the darkness in the world: drugs, violence, terrorism, war, racism, hatred, etc.

Darkness is everywhere and the only thing that can defeat it is the light of Christ.

But how can Christ’s light shine unless we let it?

We have something that the world cannot live without – the light and love of God in Jesus Christ.

If we had a cure for cancer, would we keep it secret? Of course not.

We know the cure for an even more deadly disease – the darkness of sin. That cure is the light of Christ – and it’s up to us to let that light shine.

The world really needs the light we have to offer.

3) Let your light shine because it’s noticed.

Let your light shine because it’s natural; let your light shine because it’s needed; and let your light shine because it’s noticed.

Debate arises from time to time about who’s a role model. Is an athlete a role model? An actor? A rock star?

Charles Barkley, a former NBA star, once said he didn’t want to be a role model, and he probably shouldn’t be, especially for aspiring golfers!

A national survey of children ages 10-13 said they had no role model.

But the truth is, every adult is a role model, whether you want to be or not. Some are good, some not so good.

Someone is watching you all the time, noticing your example.

The truth is, everyone who takes the name of “Christian” is a role model. People are watching you to see if what you say you stand for is what you do.

People notice if you let your light shine or not.

Children especially let us know when they notice if we’re letting our light shine or hiding it under a basket.

A Sunday School teacher was taking her class into the sanctuary for worship. “Why should we be quiet in church?” she asked. The children answered, “Because some people are sleeping.” Kids notice these things.

People notice when you don’t let your light shine. But they also notice when you do.

When you show compassion to someone who’s hurting, they notice.

When you offer to pray for someone in need, they notice.

When you give up a Saturday to help kids, they notice.

When you take food to someone who’s lost a loved one, they notice.
When you say grace before a meal, even in a restaurant, they notice.

And most of all, God notices.

We don’t let our light shine to make people notice, to draw attention to ourselves or to let people know how spiritual we are. Jesus warned about that in Matt. 6 – practicing our piety in order to be seen, like the “hypocrites.”

We just let it shine because it’s natural and it’s needed. But people do notice. And it makes a positive difference.

I want to close by mentioning three ways we let our light shine.
These are probably obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious – that’s how preachers make their living.

We let our light shine through our words.
Every time we speak we have the opportunity to build up or to tear down.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” sounds good, but we know it’s not true. Words can hurt. But they can also heal.

I’ve heard church people say terribly hurtful things to each other.

I’ve also heard them be kind, consoling, and encouraging.

We have to be aware that people are taking notice of what we say as Christians. Do our words shed light and love?

We let our light shine through our actions.
It’s true that our actions often speak even louder than our words.

Each time we reach out to help someone in need; each time we pray; each time we attend worship; each time we read the Bible; each time we show love – we are letting the light of Christ shine through.

I’m not intending to hit the giving aspect too heavily, at least not today. But our giving has the opportunity to let our light shine as well.

Money translated into ministry can touch children, youth, adults, near and far, with the love of Jesus Christ. Our gifts can travel to places we will never go in person. [Kiva]

The question we want to ask ourselves is – Am I letting my light shine through my giving and all my actions?

We let our light shine through our witness.
It’s important that our words and actions square up with what we believe. But sometimes we must go beyond just our example to tell others specifically about what God or Jesus mean to us.

That’s what I mean by witness.

Our daily life has to be a good witness, but that’s not always enough.

We may have the chance to tell someone that God loves them, to pray with them, to talk to them about forgiveness and grace, to discuss salvation, to invite them to receive Christ as Savior. There’s no greater way to let our light shine than that. We always need to be ready to give an account of the hope that is in us.

It’s important that we let our light shine because…
1) It’s natural.
2) It’s needed.
3) It’s noticed.

And we let our light shine through our words, our actions, and our witness. This week, let’s let our light shine!

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