Let Your Light Shine

Text: Matthew 5:13-16
In art and poetry, Light was, and is, the dominant metaphor for what is pure and what is true and what is good
In the ongoing poetic battle to understand the nature of the world
Darkness and light was used to represent the two opposing forces of nature

In classical literature, light is often synonymous with love. Perhaps the most notable example of this is in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” which relies heavily on the symbol of light to describe the emotional state of the young lovers.

In the famous balcony scene of Act 2, Romeo first sees Juliet and proclaims, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east and Juliet is the sun!”
Sun, moon and star metaphors appear throughout the play, evoking love’s illuminating, sometimes bewildering power.

Light is good
Light is love

In Scripture, light is used to describe man’s moral state in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Light is assigned the good.
Darkness is assigned the evil.
So light becomes synonymous with God.
Because God is good
God is pure
God is truth.
The First Epistle of John describes God as light and beckons us to walk in the light.
The Psalmist describes God as light and salvation.

Since almost the beginning of human history, light has been a symbol or metaphor for God

Jesus himself said, “I am the light of the world” and this theme is repeated throughout the Bible.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus implores us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

What does Jesus mean by this?
We will get to that in a moment.

From a scientific point of view, Light is not always well-understood,
Light has properties of both waves and particles but does not fit into either category.
It has the extraordinary ability to transcend any organizing structure
It’s awe-inspiring
And wild
It defies logical expectations.
It’s very super-natural
Sort of like God.

And just like God, light has power.
human life is impossible without light
Light helps things grow
Light can warm things and create an environment for healing
Light can also create energy to power things
In and of itself, light is truly

Light comes in different forms-
Light is used for different purposes—

Light can keep us safe
think of a traffic light
or floodlights for homes and buildings
Lights in parking lots
Or think of a lighthouse
which guides ships and steers them from the shore

Light is practical-
allowing us to see in the dark
for us to read
for us to work
for us to play

Light is also a truth-teller
Sometimes you flip on that bathroom light first thing in the morning
and Lord have mercy-
that reflection in the mirror!

all is suddenly illuminated to reveal
every wrinkle
every dark circle
every blemish.
In this case, maybe light is the enemy.

But more often than not,
Light offers us comfort
This little nightlight can mean the difference between a good nights sleep for my entire family
and a harrowing journey into the abyss of fear and tears
Yep, this little thing has the power to keep the monsters at bay
Even the smallest of lights can overpower the darkness

When Jesus says that we are the light of the world
He is drawing from all of these understandings of light
with all of the various sizes, shapes, and uses
to make an impact on the world.

Everyone has their own unique light.
God placed these lights in each of us
Very intentionally
You’re the only you.
Your light is your gift to God.
And in the passage today, Jesus is saying not to dim that light
let it shine!
Whatever it is.
It is your offering to the world.
It is God working in and through you.
Because your light
is God’s light.

Sometimes your light will be used to initiate change in the world.
To eradicate injustice
To bring truth
To improve things
To better things
But it doesn’t do ANYthing if its hidden under a basket.
Those in leadership positions throughout the world are usually there because they harnessed their light

Scouts in particular will use their light to become leaders in their communities
To be the light
in their churches
in their workplaces
in their families
Right now, they’re learning to develop their light
Refining it
Strengthening it
and focusing it
Building their skills and discipline
So they can become instruments of truth
Some of the most incredible leaders of our time were scouts
and it was because they developed their light.

Barbara Maillet uses her light to help this church navigate financial decisions. And when she is not working basically a full-time job here, she’s tutoring at-risk students at not one, but two elementary schools.

Sarah Rhyne, a daughter of this congregation, is using her light to work with autistic children at the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill
To help them discover their own light
To overcome substantial hurdles
To brighten their worlds.
To expand their horizons.
Sarah knows her light and is using it for good.

I could name several others right here in this congregation who are using their light for good in the world.

From politics to social services
From education to business
People all over are using their light to be change agents in a world in need of them.

But sometimes our light is just for beauty
Sometimes our light is just for joy.
But this does not make it any less important

Sadly, oftentimes people suppress their light because they don’t feel good enough.
“I’m not going to sing because I’m not any good”
they say or
“Why would I show you my drawings, they’re terrible!”

At times we think everything has to be perfect.
And our culture certainly reinforces this.
Whatever our light is

We feel like it has to be perfect
Up to some standard.

But God already sees it as perfect.
What’s important is that your light is you
And God loves you.
Yes, you.
God is using your light for good
To proclaim God’s goodness in the world

God has always been an artist
using our varied lights to create
this symphony of beauty.

Yes, there are some whose light seem to shine brighter than others
Those famous singers
or world renown scientists
But they, too are just using their light to shine.
Olympic runner Eric Liddel, whose story was later turned into the movie, “Chariots of Fire” once said,
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
God uses our light- whatever it is- for God’s glory.
Don’t miss the important truth that whatever your light is, God is using it to make the world a better place

Kristan and I recently watched the movie, “Florence Foster Jenkins”.
If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the true story of an American socialite at the turn of the century who was known for her generous support of musicians, singers, and composers.
But she was famous for her outrageous and flamboyant performance costumes and her notably poor singing ability.
Even though she was often mocked
and lampooned
The butt of many jokes
She didn’t let this stop her
She would rent out Carnegie Hall for her own performances and fill it by donating tickets to soldiers or other elite society types
anxious to be in her good social graces.
She let her light shine
She once said, “I might not be able to sing; but you can’t say I didn’t sing”

And thats the point
That’s what God wants of us
Shine your light
Let it shine!
Don’t keep it under a bushel
Let it shine!

We are all different parts of this same body
tasked to do our parts in the world
Be you
Do you.

What is your light?
What brings you joy?
What is it that when you’re doing it, make you feel God’s pleasure?
Is it woodworking?
Is it pottery?
Is it knitting?

Is it organizing?
Is it electronics?
Is it building?

Whatever your light
Let it shine
So that others might see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Jesus talks about this type of light
the greatest light of all
This light makes the most impact
This light Initiates the most change
So what does it look like?

It looks just like this—

(Lift up a mirror)

Let your light shine.
Thanks be to God