Summary: This sermon deals with disciples as light in a dark world and our need to "let it shine." There is also some help in dealing with the national tragedy at the W. Vir. campus included.
Light The Fire
Introduction: Snuffed Out!
(Use of visual aid…candle lit and then snuffed out). Light is powerful not only because of its practical purpose, but because of it universal symbolism of the truth, purity, and knowledge (light candle). It is said about the Olympic flame that it represents “the light of spirit, knowledge, and life.” God’s first words in creation were, “Let there be light!” Of course, darkness has come to represent all the opposite meanings of light. It is devoid of truth, hope, and life. It inspires fear and doubt. It is the realm of the evil one and he seeks to cloud our minds in his darkness, so that we might not know the light.
This very week, we have seen unspeakable darkness when a man full of darkness unloaded 9mm bullets into his schoolmates at Virginia Tech. We recoil at that darkness and we seek light. We are moved by the images of thousands of students gathered, holding up lit candles into the darkness, and declaring, “Let’s go…Hokies!” I don’t know even know what a “Hokie” is, but for that moment I was a “Hokie” with them.
But eventually the candles were snuffed out (snuff out candle), and darkness enveloped the campus, the town, the state, and the entire nation once again. The sadness would return, the questions increase, and fear and doubt reign. Darkness. Where will they find that light that lasts? You think you know the answer. “Jesus!” He is the Light of the World. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
But how do we communicate that light to those that desperately need it? You see that process is sometimes “lost in translation.” Do we have any way to relevantly communicate that truth is such a desperate and dark situation? If not, then we have lost our relevance. Right after the beatitudes Jesus has some very remarkable statements to share with his disciples, the blessed. Hopefully, in those words, we can rediscover our light and our relevance (read text).
Move 1: Salt of the earth.
Salt is an interesting mineral. It flavors and preserves. Pure salt cannot lose its saltiness, but it can become diluted with other substances and therefore become completely useless. It is important to note that Jesus doesn’t say, “You are like salt” or “You have the salt.” He says that “You are the salt of the earth!”
When Jesus described the “blessed”, the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted; he didn’t want his disciples to get the idea that they had to withdraw from the earth just because they were not in its kingdoms. It is exactly the fact that the disciples are radically different, but involved in the earth that allows them to be salt. The Qumran community called themselves “sons of light” and they withdrew to the hills, forsaking the rest of mankind. Many have thought this was the ideal in Christianity, to withdraw to some secluded place and live isolated for the rest of one’s life. That’s not Jesus’ vision of his disciples. They are the “salt of the earth.”
Jesus is warning the disciples that they could become useless salt. IOW, they could loose their relevance. How does a community of God’s people loose their relevance? They stop caring for the earth. They isolate themselves in a church building and detach themselves from any real ministry in the community. They stop striving to make a difference. They never put themselves in position to be persecuted. They do not care about peace, as long as conflict doesn’t affect them. They cease to show mercy. They cease to mourn for this world. And it can all be done from the friendly confines of a church building just as easy a monastery.
If salt cannot regain its saltiness, is this teaching that once we’ve lost our relevance that it’s over? I believe that is pushing the metaphor too far. Jesus isn’t saying that we can’t change and repent and start acting like the “salt of the earth” we are called to be. He’s just saying that we are useless when we are not. We have some outstanding individuals in this congregation that engage our community with regularity. But as a church we might be more like a monastery than the “salt of the earth.” Such efforts as sending money to Beaumont after the fires and community outreach through “Thanks for Giving” bags, and FriendSpeak or positive steps. But I think we all need to figure out how we can better be the “salt of the earth.”
Move 2: Light of the World
Jesus breaks this down into two illustrations. The first is the city on a hill. The second is a lamp, which was the popular way to light a house in those times. (Maybe show PP picture of a city lit up at night). Of course in the time of Jesus cities were not lit up like today, but the point is visibility. Many cities were built on hills in those days, most notable was Jerusalem. The point is that just as a city on a hill can’t be hidden neither can the community of disciples, because they are the light of the world.