Rev. Matthew Zickler’s Sermon for February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017
Matthew 5:13-20

Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  This morning we meditate on the Gospel Lesson previously read, especially these words: “You are the light of the world.

As we look around at the world, it’s certainly easy to get fed up.  We look at all of the things that go on, whether it be cultural issues, political issues, or moral issues, and it gets pretty easy to want to throw in the towel as Christians.  It’s all the easier to want to do this because we know that, like I said last week, this world will never be a utopia.  When you know that this isn’t your permanent home, as we do as Christians, it can make you want to just get out of here without passing go and without collecting $200.  Now, to be clear, we should absolutely never put our trust in this world.  We should absolutely never expect that we are going to be able to save the world and turn it into a perfect place.  It’s just not going to happen.  But for us to abandon the world isn’t an option either.  That’s why we don’t live like the Amish.  Jesus told us to be in the world, but not of it.  So, that means it’s our job to keep working in the midst of the brokenness and fallenness of everything around us.

Or Jesus says it another way in the lesson this morning.  He says, “You are the light of the world.”  You, Christian are the light of the world.  And think about what lights do.  They illuminate, don’t they?  When you turn a light on in a dark room, it helps you to see just what’s going on.  In fact, that’s the point Jesus is making as he continues.  He says, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  He’s saying your shining should be so bright it can’t be hidden.  Think about this at that time.  You would have a city on a hill, and sure during the day you could see the buildings, but think about at night.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been somewhere where there is very little light pollution – as would have been the case everywhere then, before they had electricity – but in that case any source of light shines all the more brightly. And a whole city on a hill: that would have been impossible not to see.  That is you.  You are that light.

All the more, Jesus goes on and explains it saying, “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 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 who is in heaven.”  He’s saying that when you do the good works you will do—because that’s who you are as Christians, it’s a part of your identity—when you do those good works, He says that people will see it.

Now, as I say that I think often something we overlook in our time is the goodness of bringing light to this darkened world by exposing what darkness it is.  That is to say, in looking at the world we can see so many places where light needs to be shined into darkness.  Just this week I was reading the most recent installment of the Lutheran Witness which happened to be an issue dedicated to life.  So, this issue certainly focused on a number of hot button topics, including abortion, euthanasia, and something I had only peripherally heard of before “transhumanism.”  Which is the idea that as computers progress in their capabilities we’ll actually be able to create an electronic reproduction of someone’s personality such that it will in a sense keep that person living forever, or at least long after their death.

As I was reading this edition, though, it really made me think about how important it is for us to let light shine on these topics.  These things are darkness and we as sinners in our world don’t even realize just how dark they.  But as Christians we can bring the light of Christ and His love, His gospel to them.  For example, to abortion that light can shine through the love and defense of the unborn, not in anger or self-righteousness, but in mercy.  Likewise, we can show love by expressing the love that Christ also has for the many mothers who have had abortions.  Or as we look at issues relating to bodily or sexual ethics like transgenderism – where someone feels like they are the opposite gender that their body is, or even that they are neither male nor female but something in between – or like homosexuality – both of which result in a person feeling as though their body is an inconsequential part of who they are.  At heart with both of these there is a struggle for identity, struggle to feel at home in this world, but we can bring a light there showing that, even though they don’t feel at home in their body in some sense, God has still given their body to them as a part of who they are, and that as Christians we know what it’s like to be sojourners because our home isn’t here either.  Our home is with our Lord.  Our bodies too betray us because they break down, they don’t function like they should, but God promises to raise even our bodies and glorify them.  As Paul says our bodies now are tents, but we await the day when we will not have tents, but permanent dwellings, those resurrected bodies glorified before God.  And then there’s this transhumanism.  What’s at the heart of that?  It would seem there’s a desire to live forever and not be forgotten.  Oh, what a joy we have as baptized Christians.  In baptism, God has put His name on us, shown us that we belong to Him , and that we will NEVER be forgotten, never left, never forsaken.  In fact, the promise is that in Christ, we will live forever, not just our personality, but our whole being, body and soul living with God without the burdens our bodies bear now in this life.  Yes Christians, you have the light of these promises which you can bring to this world which fears that this is all there is.

Now as I say this, something we always have to keep in mind is how hard this is.  And it is hard.  It’s hard to do this because the world will want to attack us and act like we are not light, but darkness.  It will be hard because the devil will come and try to darken that light.  He’ll try to darken your light by smothering it with too many moths, too many who see it and are drawn to Christ in you needing Christ’s light.  Or he’ll try to blow it out with wind, with attacks against your faith.  Or, he will try to darken it by exhausting you in the midst of it.  He will try to get you to be worn out because what you’re doing and saying seems ineffective.  And so, he’ll try to get you to throw in the towel.  He’ll also sometimes do the opposite.  When this light shines in such a way that God is glorified and people are drawn to Him through it as they should, he’ll try to take away from that.  People might praise you or lean on you and then he’ll make you think that you’re pretty good at being this light.  Don’t buy it.  You’re not the source of your own light.  You aren’t that bright in goodness of yourself.  Neither am I.

And Jesus reminds us of that.  Just when the devil starts to make us think that we are the source of our own light, Jesus tells us, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Think of the person who you believe to be the most pious person you know.  That could be a parent, a friend, or even someone famous.  Now think about Jesus telling you that you have to be more pious than that person to get to heaven.  You see, the people thought of the Pharisees and the Scribes as being the examples of piety, of righteousness.  Of course, they thought they were too, which was part of the problem, but even still you can see how Jesus saying this would affect you.  He’s saying you have to be more righteous than someone you think is far beyond you in righteousness.  So, when the devil tries to make you think that you’re pretty good at this being a light, remember what Jesus said.  What the devil’s wanting to do is to get you to lessen the bar on the commands for yourself so that you think that you don’t need a source of light for yourself.  But you do.  You see, the bar of those commands is up where you can’t reach it.  Love God with all of your, heart, all of your soul, all of your strength.  Love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself, all the time.  So, you because you can’t reach the bar you have to have someone do it for you.  As a light, you need a source to fuel you.

Think about this in terms of how lights work in our day and in Jesus’ day.  At that time, they had to have oil poured into them.  Now they have to be plugged in.  Either way you don’t produce your own light, you either get it from the fire of burning the oil.  Or you get it from the electricity charging the elements in the bulb.  You need a source remember that. Remember that because most of all the Devil tries to cut you off from the source of your light.

Yes, remember it, because what is your source?  It’s Jesus.  As we live as these lights of the world, we have to be plugged, have to receive that oil from Jesus.  And hopefully you know where I am going to say that He gives it: in His word.  You see as you hear that word, He fills you.  As you receive His body and blood He energizes you, having plugged you in, having lit your flame in baptism, He continues to give you that oil week in and week out.  And you need it, because trying to be the light in the world is exhausting, it’s so easy for the light to burn out, for it to get unplugged, for the oil to dry up.  But in this Christians, Christ promises to be with you.  He is the One who has not lowered the bar, but taken it upon Himself for this world, sending you into the world as that light, telling the world that He has died for them.  He has died for the abortionist and the fetus, for the trans-human, transgender, homosexual, for all of them.  And He has died for you, Christian.  Died, that you may have new life.  And His desire is to sustain you in that new life.  He desires it so much that He promises to do it.  So, again, come to Him, daily in prayer and petition, weekly to His feet kneeling before Him, feeding on His very life for you.  Because you are His body in this world, and while He has called you to be His Light, He will sustain you as your source until you are with Him.  Amen.

Rev. Matthew Zickler