Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus.

Sermon for Epiphany 5A, preached on Sunday, February 9, 2020.

    Most of us realize we are not all that important – well maybe we are important to our husband or wife or children but not much further.  If I left tomorrow, somebody else would replace me.  We may want to think that we are vitally important and that many would remember us but that is an illusion.  Last year I ran across the obituary of a woman whose life and gifts have had a huge impact upon our church body, our colleges, music, and the arts.  Her obituary was painfully brief.  She was old and soon forgotten except to the small circle of her family and friends.  Even the buildings and endowed chairs with her name on them will soon become nothing more than mere curiosity.  We are of momentary significance in this world, at best. . . or are we?

    Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and your good works points to the eternal and living God.”  Jesus insists that we are not insignificant and forgettable creatures at all but those through whom God works and reveals His glory – in other words, you have cosmic significance.  It may seem like you do not matter but you matter most of all to the Lord who has moved heaven and earth to make you His own and to your neighbor to whom you show God’s love and to the darkened world in which You shine with God’s unquenchable light.  Now, think about that the next time you fear nothing you are and nothing you do really matters!

    Notice that the Lord does ask if you want to be the light of the world nor does He suggest that you could be the light of the world if you tried hard enough.  His is a declaration.  You ARE the light of the world.  This is not a possible outcome but the very nature of who you are and what you do as a child of God by baptism and faith.  Yes, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, says St. Paul.  We are not the perfect but we reflect the perfect that is Christ alone.  We are not sources but mirrors of His holiness, righteousness, and light to the world. 

    Imagine that.  Those words were spoken to Peter and the disciples who could not even keep their eyes open while Jesus went off and prayed in Gethsemane.  These are the same disciples who seemed so clueless to what Jesus was doing.  These are the same disciples who ran when the temple guard came to arrest Jesus.  Yet Jesus calls them salt and light.  You have trouble making it through church without drifting off to sleep and you cannot pray without being distracted and you daydream about the very things that Christ warned you against, yet these words are spoken to you as well.  You are heirs of the saints, who were every bit as weak and foolish and fearful as you are but who with you bear the title salt and light.

    How on earth does this work?  What is Jesus talking about?  We are not lights or salt.  Our faith is fragile and our good works are few.  We deny the Lord and run from the crosses He has called us to bear.  We make friends with the world and act like we don’t even know Jesus in front of friends and neighbors and strangers.  So how can we be considered salt and light?

    This is the nature of grace.  God does not pick through the bin to find the best people to call His people but takes us sins and all, washes us clean in the blood of the Lamb, covers us with Christ’s own holiness, and endows us with the Holy Spirit so that we learn to say yes to His work within us.  It has been on a thousand church marquees but that does not make it less true:  The Lord does not call the gifted but gifts the called.  This is the nature of how His grace works and has always worked. 

    These words come from the same Lord who eats and drinks with sinners, who pays the same wage to laborers in His vineyard, who feeds the hungry with the Bread of Life, and who forgives the sinner over and over and over again.  This is the same Lord who leaves the 99 to find the one lost lamb and who rejoices over one coin found.  This is the nature of His grace.  He takes those who have grown comfortable with darkness and makes them light, the light of the world.  He takes those whose saltiness has long ago been diluted away and He sends them forth with the Gospel that preserves us from death.  He is used to disciples who hem and haw about how they are not smart enough, gifted enough, strong enough, bold enough to do His bidding and still He calls them salt and light.

    You don’t look much like light to me and I don’t look much like salt to you but this is not about how we see each other or how we see ourselves but how the Lord sees us.  You are His own children.  He has died for you that you might live.  He has given you the new birth of water and the Spirit so that you are not the same person you were.  He has spoken into your ears the word of absolution and all your sins have fallen away.  He has placed upon your lips His own precious body and blood.  He has declared you to be holy as He is holy, righteous with His own righteousness, and called you His own brothers and sisters.  So are you surprised that He calls you salt and light and sends you forth in the world to rejoice with the Gospel and speak the Word that calls others to Him and to faith?  You should not be.

    The Lord is not waiting for just the right person to come along.  He has chosen YOU.  Because you live in Him by baptism and faith, you are what He is.  He is the Light of the world and so you are Light in Christ.  He is the salt of the earth and so you are Salt in Christ.  Your vocation is not some job of your choosing but the new identity Christ has given you and the new path on which He has called you to walk.  And did not you just sing:  “I want to walk as a child of the Light?”

    Your service is even more glorious than the works of Moses and the patriarchs, more profound than the works of the prophets.  He has planted His life in you, placed His Word upon your lips, and covered you with His holiness.  And only then does He send you forth in the world and declare you to be salt and light.  Your light was meant not to be hidden but to shine.  It gives light to the world because it does not draw attention to you but to Christ.  It preserves the world from decay and death because it is not your power at work but Christ’s power.  Your light is Christ and He lives in you and because of that you cannot help but shine.  Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus.

    In the end, it does not matter if anyone sees or notices.  That is not your worry.  You do not have to deal with the rejection or the rejoicing – that remains Christ’s domain.  All you do is shine.  And the Word that goes forth from you will not return to Him empty.  When you are speaking in your home to your spouse or teaching it to your children or teaching Sunday school at church or working in the food pantry or visiting the sick or consoling the grieving, that Word will not fail to do what God has determined it will do.  But the outcome is not yours to gloat about or yours to fret about.  You are not judges who must define success.  You are lights to shine and salt to preserve.  And you do it by keeping God’s Word in you by faith and living it out before others.  And that is enough.  Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus.

    My friends, the Lord is calling you to be what you are and to do what He has called you to do.  It is just that simple.  Being salt and light is not some great mystery to be unpacked.  It is to live in Christ the life He has given you, where He has placed you, within the context of the relationships you have, not for any other glory than to be the people God has declared you to be.  Now of course this is easy when the world likes the light and it is pleasant when people share your values.  But it is much more difficult when the world is against you, when you are persecuted or reviled because you belong to Christ, and when belonging to Christ marks you by a world which has rejected Christ and His message of grace and rejected grace bearers like you.  Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus.

    But do not lose heart.  God has declared you to be salt and light, He has given you grace in which to stand before the world in this holy faith and fear.  It is His Word on your lips and His grace you manifest through words and works.  It does not matter if you see the fruits of this with your eyes.  Be who you are and do what God has given you to do – do it especially when nobody seems to care.  For God is watching and God will bring to fruition all that you begin in His name, and though the world may not notice, the angels on high are rejoicing in you and cheering you on.  You are salt and light in Christ.  Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Sermon, Pastor.
Gives me hope. Jesus says I am salt and light!!