31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 20, 2019
Matthew 5:1-2, 13-16
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Jesus and the Apostle Paul both used metaphors to describe the church: The Church is a body. The Church is Christ’s bride. The Church is a family.
Two weeks ago, I shared with you some of these Biblical metaphors for the church and also some mind-stretching and out of the box ones – like the Church is Legos or a big red umbrella.
The beautiful thing about metaphors is they are rich, multi-layered, and open to interpretation. The challenging thing about metaphors is that they are rich, multi-layered, and open to interpretation.
And sometimes, our interpretations are wrong. For instance, when we hear that the church is a body, we can mistakenly think the church is complete just as it is and should never change. In the same way, when we hear that the church is “the light of the world. A city built on a hill” (Matthew 5:14), we might hear that as an invitation to boast –to think highly of ourselves because WE are The CHURCH!
That misinterpretation can lead us to behave in one of two ways: We might mistakenly believe that as Christians we are better than other faiths, better than other people. Or for fear of seeming boastful, we might never talk about our relationship with the God of love we know through Jesus Christ, never share with others what a difference walking with Jesus makes in our lives.
When Jesus used the metaphors of salt and light, he was not telling his followers how great they were. He was telling them they were instruments, tools, that they had a function – like a flashlight.
When Jesus told us we were the light of the world, Jesus was telling us we have been called by God to be flashlights.
Think about a flashlight. Has any flashlight ever said, “Look at me. Aren’t I beautiful? Aren’t I wonderful?!” No and no one has ever bought a flashlight to display as a work of art in their home because the primary purpose of a flashlight is not to look at it; the primary purpose of a flashlight is what it reveals, what it allows us to see. Flashlights exist for a purpose.
It is the same with Christians and the Church. As followers of Jesus Christ, we exist for a purpose, for a function. And that is to draw attention to God with the precision of a laser pointer, to reveal God’s love, to give light so others can see God’s presence in their lives and in the world.
I am especially aware of my role as flashlight whenever I walk into a hospital room or gather with an individual or family in crisis. My presence is not bringing God to this person or this situation. My presence is simply revealing God, showing God and God’s love where they were already.
Because God and God’s love are everywhere but people don’t always see God – so it’s our calling, our purpose, to be God’s flashlight, to make God’s love known through our words and our actions, just as Jesus made God’s love known through his words and actions.
And sometimes, that will be in traditional church settings – like worship, where we share through testimony and prayer God’s presence in our lives; or in Children’s Ministry where we call attention to God’s presence in our children’s and youth’s lives and they in turn share their stories of God’s love; or we might illuminate God’s presence through our Outreach ministries where God’s goodness is undeniable.
Other times, we will be called to reveal God’s presence and God’s love in situations that do not feel very churchy. A member of our congregation had day surgery this past fall and all went well until she got home and her stitches came undone. By the time she was transported back to the hospital, she even had blood on the bottom of her feet so when the ER nurse asked her if she needed anything to make her more comfortable, she asked for some wet clothes to clean her feet off. The nurse responded by getting the requested wet clothes and then proceeding to wash her feet.
Someone else might not have given this a second thought, simply considered this to be the nurse’s job. Our sister in Christ saw the situation for what it was – the presence and tender care of God, and she in turn shared the story with others, shining more light on God’s goodness.
God’s presence, God’s goodness, God’s love are everywhere, but sometimes, people don’t see it. Sometimes, we don’t see it so we need the church, we need our fellow Christians, to be a flashlight, shining light into our darkness and revealing God’s presence and God’s love with their words and with their actions.
So get ready, get set, charge up your batteries because our ministry in here is all about nurturing us to go out there, to go out into the world and reveal God, to go out and make God’s love known, to go out and shine our light so that others might see that God is with them, that God loves them.
You are the light of the world. With confidence, with humility, with love, with words and with actions, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven.