Summary: Stewardship message, designed as a dialogue between the pastor and a lay reader, and focusing on all the light we as a church now shed, but also could share, with adequate personnel and finances. Ends with a candlelighting ceremony.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC, Nov. 11, 1990
Pastor: One Christian organization that is concerned with helping people who have emotional problems uses as its slogan, "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Today we are going to test that theory. This morning we are going to put a tough case to you: can we make a difference? Do we have a candle to light in the center of the world’s darkness, and will it really matter? Do we make a difference? I say it’s a tough case, because when you look at two thousand years of Christian history and you see the condition the world is in, you have to wonder if this thing of spreading the Christian message makes any difference.
Lay Reader: Part of the problem is that sometimes we Christians do not understand what the Bible means by light. The Bible speaks of light as among the first of God’s creations. "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." And then it goes on to speak of light a part of the nature of God Himself. "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” When the Bible speaks of light, it is speaking of the intention of God for all creation. It is speaking of God's intention that all that He has made be aware and free and in relationship with Himself. And the Bible also tells us that when God's light shines, the darkness cannot put it out. God's light makes a difference.
Pastor: If you and I feel that the world is engulfed in chaos and that there is very little to be pleased about, if you and I feel, as one statesman did as the world made preparations for war, that "the lights are going out all over the world, and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime" … if we look at Iraq and Liberia and South Africa, if we get caught up in what is happening on the streets of this city, if we get bogged down in the stresses and pains of just ordinary, everyday living, maybe we cannot see the light. Maybe it looks as though all is gloom and doom, shrouded in the signs of death. I have to wonder how many of us this morning, deep down, feel as though there is nothing we can do about the condition of the world, nothing we can do but curse the darkness.
Lay Reader: But to do that is to forget who is the light. To do that is to forget the invincible light who is Christ, who has come into the world and is let loose in the world, and no power can put out His light.
You see, if you believe that Christ is alive, if you believe that He was raised from the dead, then you have to believe that the truth He taught was to last forever. And you have to believe, as John put it, that "in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
Pastor: So when Jesus says to us, ''you are the light of the world", I have to think that He is teaching us that His authority and His power are coming to us too. He is sharing His power with us. He who is light is making us light too. And that means we can make a difference, we do make a difference, and it matters.
Lay Reader: Notice that Jesus does not say, “Be the light of the world." He says, "You are the light of the world." He is not so much commanding us as He is naming us, identifying us. Just be what you are: light.
Pastor: And it’s, “Let your light shine before men." Not go get a light, not figure out how to turn on your light, but let shine the light that God in Christ has already given you.
Lay Reader: We the church are part of God's light. We are set in the middle of this city, not to be hidden, but to shine brightly and clearly for Him. A church that keeps secrets is not really being a church; we are here to reveal Him, to glorify Him. As Peter says, ''You are God's people, so that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
Pastor: A church that keeps secrets is not really being a church. We do not do our work behind closed doors, we do not tell our story only to ourselves, and we do not keep our resources in our own pockets. What we do we do in order to be lenses through which the light of Christ can shine.