Scripture: Isaiah 49:5-6 and Matthew 5:14-16
Sometimes, I feel sad thinking about how creation and humanity work. I think, wouldn’t it be easier if we were puppets, incapable of real choice and will but also incapable of war, harm, or injustice? Like, God, are you sure you don’t want a do-over?
And other days, I feel awestruck and humbled by how God created us. God made us in divine image but didn’t want little clones or mindless puppets. God wanted co-creators, God wanted partners helping steward the earth, helping spread love and salvation, helping shine hope and peace. God wanted fellow light-makers, beacons amidst cloud and fog and night. And not just light-makers for some people, or a section of creation, but for the entire world.
In our passage from Isaiah, Isaiah shares how God called him, how God tapped him, chose him to connect with the world. “He who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself.” The prophet Isaiah initially understood his calling, his role, as focused on the Israelites, speaking hope, return, and deliverance to them. But God adjusts his understanding. “The Lord now says, ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’” It is too small a thing for you to shine my deliverance right here, or just to a certain people. No, God says, my love is meant for broader horizons. My deliverance, my salvation, my grace, my hope is meant to shine to the ends of the earth. Early followers of Christ would have heard echoes of that Isaiah passage in the beginning Acts when Christ looked at the original disciples and told them, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And the earliest disciples would have heard echoes of Isaiah in our passage from Matthew, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others.”
God shines love onto all people, onto all creation, and God wants us, asks us, tells us to be light-makers as well. We are meant to receive and feel the warmth of God’s light and then, reflect it, shine it out. God’s love is meant to be shared, it is meant to be shined, and God chooses to do that through us. We are the lampstand meant to extend the reach of God’s light. We are meant to be lighthouses in our communities, beacons of hope, love, belonging, forgiveness, salvation, and grace. We do that in our daily life as teachers, musicians, students, health care workers, social workers, parents, grandparents, and friends. And we do that as the church.
Think about it like this. If I have a light, and it sits right here. How many of y’all would even know it is there? But if I where to pile up these bricks and put it on top? God is the source of light, the source of love, hope, and grace, and as the church, we build a lampstand for that light to go further, to extend out. Together, with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness, you build a lighthouse. You build a beacon cutting through isolation, food insecurity, bigotry, hopelessness, injustice, and sin.
Every hour you spend getting the garage sale ready.
Every bake sale item you bring.
The care you give in weeding and tending beds for the community garden.
Every hot dog bun, roster of sloppy joe meat, bag of chips, case of pop.
Your presence in pride parades and planning and supporting them.
Every dollar you give that provides space for the block party, garage sale, and community garden, for the All People’s Pantry, Circle Theater, After School Snacking, the Ethiopian community, and four AA groups.
All of it works together, working together you help God’s light go further, and further, and further.
Our stewardship theme this year is Be the Light, not because I think it is a brand new or foreign concept, but because it is something you are already doing, even if you haven’t called it that before. This church, you, are a part of shining God’s light. What we want you to do over the next three weeks and with those Be the Light packets outside, is consider how you can keep personally experiencing that light, how you can keep sharing that light through our church with intention and planning. It is about supporting your spiritual life, your faith, and supporting our ministries here at church. Consider the question, what does being the light and shining out look like for you in 2024? Maybe it is continuing something you’re already doing. Maybe it is trying something new. Maybe it is adding bricks to our lighthouse, making it taller and reach further. Maybe it is strengthening what we have, deepening ministries and relationships. Whatever you decide over the next several weeks, know that it matters, you matter, you make a difference, and our church makes a difference. God formed you to be a light-maker, to help God’s light do what it is meant to do – bring hope, peace, belonging, salvation, transformation, and love to everyone. In 2024, how will you be a part of extending God’s light across neighborhoods, across cities, and to the ends of the earth? Let us pray.