Sunday, February 9, 2014

Living Candles


Homily, 2.9.14. 

Note: The service proceeded in the usual manner, but all in darkness, from the first moment on. At the Gospel Sequence, candles were handed out by a student, and the Gospel was processed to the center with one, small lit candle as we sang. Students lit candles from the central candle, and then the gospel lesson was read. Sitting in darkness, flames in our hands, is the immediate context for this word.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”

You are living candles. What the candles in your hands are to you, you are to others, even if you do not see it. You are the light of the world.

You are light that is seen: you are the star that is followed across the darkness of the sky, by which lost and weary travelers find direction and the assurance of companionship. You are light that is seen, and just as much you are light by which the world can see. For the world to see truly requires the gift of the light of the people of God, a people kindled with the fire of the Spirit and the light of Christ for the world. You are God’s people, God’s Church. As you illumine the world, the true outlines of the world come to light. Sin is seen and scattered, and the most surprising, unexpected beauty is revealed.

You are the light of the world. You are both visible and making things visible. 

To be visible to the world is to be different from the world; it is to be an alternative to the world. Jesus says your light witnesses an alternative in which poverty of spirit, mourning and meekness, hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God, the merciful and pure in heart, the persecuted and the peacemakers, find and receive the blessing of God.

You are the light of the world in so very many ways. You are the light of the world when you gather here, as God’s people, for worship, and when you leave this place of worship, in the name of Christ. You are the light of the world when you shine your light on others and make them visible. When you see them and say so. They had grown convinced of their invisibility, but your light is causing them to doubt their insignificance. 

You are the light of the world when you give your gifts for others. You are the light of the world as you take the passions and gifts God has given you and commit yourselves to developing them for others by your studies. You are the light of the world when you are generous, when you are gentle, joyful, and good. You are the light of the world as you seek to embrace the faithfulness, love, patience, self-control, and peace of Christ. 

You are the light of the world when you look for God in the world around you and find signs of his redeeming hand at work. The world’s vision is dark and its hearing muted, but you pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, and occasionally you do see and hear things of unspeakable wonder. You are the light of the world when you share what you’ve seen and heard. 

You are the light of the world as you work and serve and play. I wonder if you realize how much light you give the world when you play and when you laugh. This world is enslaved by its own deadly seriousness; its fear and conviction that it has no one but itself to save it. This is why you are never more the light of the world than when you pray. And when you sing, both together, in this place, and in the world; when you sing even in those places and moments in which you are tempted to believe you are alone. You are not alone. And you are the light of the world.

You are even the light of the world in your brokenness. When you fall short and ask forgiveness and when you receive and believe God’s forgiveness of you. When you hurt others and disappoint yourself and, maybe not until much later, remember your dependence on God alone, you are the light of the world. You are the light of the world in your vulnerability, which is another word for the courage necessary to risk relationship, even when you are most aware of your weakness. In your demonstration of Christ’s reconciling mercies, you are the light of the world.

You are the light of the world when you listen and seek to understand; and you are the light of the world when you speak the truth in love, especially the truth that Christ came to save the world he loves. When God gives you a vision for God’s kingdom on earth, and you step forward, toward that vision in ways that take you outside of your comfort zone and into a future you cannot control, you are the light of the world. When you refuse to give up on others, even when the chasm seems wide, because you know and remember that the God of Jesus has not given up on you, you are the light of the world.

You are the light of the world when others look on your life and glorify God.

You are living candles. You are light that is seen, and you are light by which the world can see. Your light scatters darkness and awakens beauty. Your light is an alternative. In praise and in prayer, in blessing one another and receiving blessing, in noticing others and God at work in this world, in laughter and listening, in your longing for Christ, you are the light of the world. And the light that is in you is Christ. 

You are living candles. What the candles in your hands are to you, you are to others, even if you do not see it. You are the light of the world.

Jesus said, "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.”

Let God’s people say, “Amen.”




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