Summary: We have not found our voices yet because we have low self-esteem, but Christ declares us to be light. The world is asking for light, but we must learn to read the signs and to be who we are. March 1988
As a child I was fascinated one day by’ the fact that when you open the refrigerator, there is always a light burning. I was fascinated by it because I wanted to know whether that light was on when the door was closed as well as when it was open. And so I began to experiment. First I tried to stick my head in and then close the door; well, all I got for my troubles was a mashed ear and the smell of leftover fish. Then I tried to peek in the edge of the door while I closed it, real slow. But I still could not see the light go out; it stayed on until I could not see inside at all, although I did learn that squinting at the edge of a refrigerator door will fog up your glasses pretty quickly. Finally I had a really good idea about how to research this monumental question, this thing I just had to know, whether the light stays on when you close the refrigerator door. I put my hand on the door handle; I planted my feet – get ready, get set, open the door as fast as you can! See, I though maybe I could sort of surprise the bulb and I could get the door open before it had time to go on. Open, close, open, close, but it seemed as though the light was always on. Never did see the refrigerator bulb dark.
Now I did find out that the inside of my room was dark, however, when my mother discovered her melting ice cream and a full set of fingerprints on the freezer door. But I just concluded that for some unknown reason a light burned in that refrigerator all the time, illuminating the milk and butter and eggs for no reason at all. Odd that anybody would put a light in there and then hide it. Why have a light if no one sees it?
And Jesus pointed out the same reality. Why have a light if no one sees it? "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house". Why have a light if it is to be hidden away? Why have a light if it is to be covered over with a bushel basket or a refrigerator door? Why have a light if it is not going to give light to all who are in the house?
This morning my fear is that many of us are unseen lamps, we are hidden lights. Many of us are lights under bushel baskets of our own making, and the world is straining to see whether we are still lighted. But we have successfully kept our secrets, we have kept ourselves and what we represent behind closed doors, and no one is quite sure yet whether we are on or off, whether we are burning lamps or whether we are cold dead burnt out cases. And it is that whatever else we have done, whatever else we may have accomplished, this we have not done: we do not speak up. We do not speak up and interpret to the world who we are and what is happening to us. We do not speak up for ourselves and tell the world what it needs and wants to know.
So can we explore together this thesis today: that living the Gospel includes speaking up for the Gospel; that living the Gospel, as our banner tells us, means a joyous witness, a witness, speaking the Gospel. Let’s explore this truth: that if you and I are to live as lights in a darkened world, that means we are going to have to interpret our faith to that world, we are going to have to tell others about Christ.
Now I know you will think that I am a broken record, harping away at one theme over and over, but, you know, as I reflect on this thesis, I discover once again that the issue is self-esteem. Just as during black history month we reflected on poor self-esteem and how it feeds racism; just as during Advent we wondered at a God who would invest Himself in becoming one of us, us, poor nothings that we thought we were; just as on several occasions we have learned that our sin is at heart low self-esteem and valuing ourselves too little, just so I would say to you that one of the reasons we do not speak up and become lights for the world is that we have not quite believed that we are somebodies in Christ.