Mark 9:2-9; Matthew 5:14-16; 2 Corinthians 4:6
Boy, you know, the more I read the newspaper, and watch it on TV – I can’t get over how much bad news there is out there. Take California, for instance. First there was the Thomas wild fire that destroyed more than a thousand homes. And then the rains came, and mudslides wiped out even more, not to mention the tragic loss of life from both. Then there have been all those charges of sexual misconduct – seems like there’s a new one every week. There’s dysfunction in Washington. And of course, we are living under this insane threat of nuclear war with North Korea.
And the list goes on. The thing is, the news often seems rather dark, wouldn’t you agree? Well, I’m here to tell you that there is good news to share too.
A theologian from the last century named Karl Barth once said that every preacher ought to prepare sermons with a Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other. What that means is that as I read about the world’s troubles in one hand, I still have good news in the other. I’m here to tell you today that in the face of bad news – when times seem dark – there is hope. There is light.
Listen again to what we just read in 2 Corinthians. Tell me if you agree that this is good news:
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made HIS light” – whose light? – that’s right – God’s light – the light of Christ – God made this light “shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
So just what does this light look like? Glad you asked. For that we turn to our Gospel reading in Mark chapter 9.
Jesus is on a mountain with three of his disciples – Peter, James and John. When suddenly, Jesus is changed. He is transformed into dazzling, brilliant light. And not just Jesus either, for along with him appear two of the great heroes of the faith from Israel’s past. Moses and Elijah. I’ve often wondered how the disciples knew that it was Moses and Elijah, and the only conclusion I can come to is that – they were wearing name tags.
But here they are – Jesus, Moses and Elijah – surrounded in brilliant light! This is Jesus in all of his glory.
So Peter – good old Peter – the Vice President in Charge of Doing Something – wants to do something. He is so amazed – so overwhelmed – he wants to capture the moment. “Lord it’s good for us to be here. Let us build a shrine right here on this mountain top to remember and to capture this moment.”
Hey! You know what Peter’s doing. You’ve done it yourselves. Whip out your cell phone. Snap a picture. Take a video. Post it on Facebook. You simply want to capture what we used to call a Kodak moment. You’ve done that, haven’t you! Sure you have.
There are some things that we get so excited about, that we just want to somehow capture the moment.
It’s kind of like what happened when a pastor by the name of “Greg George of Palmetto, Georgia, was watching a college football game. The home team won in the final seconds of the game. The crowd went wild. Goal posts were pulled down and the people actually began cutting up pieces of the Astroturf to remember their excitement about winning the game.
“Pastor George suggests that we should get that excited about the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ. He says that” – listen to this – “he says that we should have to re-carpet our churches every year because people are cutting up pieces of that carpet to remember the great moving of God’s Spirit during the service.”
Now folks – I like a little excitement – but don’t go crazy on me. Don’t you go cutting up the carpet in here – although it’s getting to the point where it needs to be replaced. Seems like it’s brand new doesn’t it! But you know, it is seventeen years old. But can you imagine what life might be like if we got that excited? Can you imagine if we got as excited as the Philadelphia Eagles fans did this past week? I know – we Bills fan can ONLY imagine! Can you imagine if we got as excited as Peter and James and John at not only seeing the light of Christ – in all his glory – but also hearing the voice of God the Father? Can you imagine?
And what did the voice say? “This is my Son whom I love. Listen to him.” Listen to him. God didn’t hand those three disciples a digital camera and say, “If you really want to capture this moment, take a selfie with the three of them over by that tree.” No. God said, “Listen to him. Listen to him.”
So – when Jesus speaks – what do YOU hear? Huh? What words do you hear? One of the phrases that most often comes to my mind is this, “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” You’ve heard that before, haven’t you?
And there is so much more that Jesus said. But since we are in the season of the church called Epiphany – also known as the season of light – let me touch on two things that Jesus had to say about light.
First, he said, “I am the light of the world.” But he also said – and he says this to all of us – “You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.” Now when Jesus says that WE are the light of the world – and that we are to let our light shine – what Jesus is saying is that we are to be a reflection – a reflection of his light. You see – our light is not our own. We are merely reflectors of the light of Christ. That’s why Jesus can make both statements – that he is the light of the world, and therefore, we also are the light of the world.
So if you’re excited about being here today – or anywhere else where you know you were in the presence of God – then let that excitement – let that joy – let that light shine! Be a reflection of the light of Christ. Be a reflection of God’s love. I’ve gotta say that that’s a much better way than tearing up the carpet in here.
Because – I want you to think about this. What happens when you do NOT let your light shine? What happens? That’s when the darkness – the bad news of life – takes over. When we DO NOT let our light shine.
Let me share with you a story. I absolutely love this story. “One summer, an American tourist was traveling to villages throughout Germany. One Sunday evening, she got a room in a small, picturesque town. After she settled in, she opened her guide book to read about the town, when she heard a church bell ringing. The guidebook told her about a 12th Century castle church. Glancing out her window, she saw a number of people hurrying in the direction of the sound of the bells. Each of them was carrying something that resembled an antique lamp.
“Curious, she went to the town square to join the people who were heading to the church. On the steps of the old church, she stopped an elderly woman, and asked her what she was carrying and why.
“The woman told her, ‘This is a lamp. We carry these to church to keep alive a tradition that dates back tot the time of the Reformation, when there was no other way of lighting our church. Back then, the Duke provided in his will that all of the villagers should be given a lamp which they were to bring with them to church on Sundays. At the church, worshipers light their lamps from a single candle in the narthex, and then proceed to their seats. There they place their lamps in a special holder.’
“Having said that, the woman quickly added, almost as though she were embarrassed to say it, ‘Of course, nowadays, it is not very convenient to use these lamps to light the church, but we still do, and everyone who attends makes the sanctuary a little brighter. And if on a Sunday evening, you are tempted to stay away, you must live with the knowledge that there will be that much less light in church for others.’ With that, the woman turned and went into the church.
“The tourist also went into the church. She took an empty pew near the back. [I think she must have been a Lutheran!] It was fairly dark back there, but she was able to see that a nameplate was attached to the pew. She tried to read it. Slowly in the dark she learned that this was Anna Schilling’s place. And she wondered, ‘Who is Anna Schilling, and why is she not here with her lamp?’
“‘Anna Schilling, your light is missing – and it is missed. Anna there is but darkness in this place where your light ought to be.
Anna Schilling, where is your light?
Anna Schilling – remember what you are: You are a bearer of light. No. Much more that that. You are light!’”
It makes a difference, doesn’t it! This past weekend most of us watched the Eagles defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. As fascinating as that game was to watch – what I found to be of even greater fascination was the post-game interview with the head coach of the Eagles – Doug Pederson. Watch.
And immediately following the coach were two players – tight end Zach Ertz and quarterback Nick Foles – who gave glory to God. I also saw a post-game moment in the Eagles’ locker room when the entire team kneeled and said the Lord’s Prayer together. It was the fastest Lord’s Prayer I ever heard, but they said it together. On a national and international stage – these athletes were letting their light shine.
Now, we will never have that kind of exposure – but still – the light from just one flickering candle can make a great big difference. In a world where we read about bad news in one hand – we do indeed have good news in the other.
So – let me ask you. Where is your light? Huh? Where is it? We have come here today – to Zion Lutheran Church – to experience Christ in his glory. And then – to go from here – to take that joy – that excitement – that light – to those places where there is no light. To be light-bearers. To be light. Reflectors of the light of Christ.
So – where is your light? Who is your light? Remember, your light is not your own. Your light is a reflection of the light of Christ. And I want you to think about this – after all – you MAY BE the only light in someone’s darkness.
You know, some say – we need to make America great again. But you know what I say? We need to make America kind again. Remember what Jesus says. “You are the light of the world.” Therefore. Let. Your. Light. Shine! Amen