“You are the light of the world.”
It was John Claypool who first made the point that we Christians spend a lot of time arguing about what we believe about Jesus, when what really matters more is what Jesus believes about us. And what does he believe about us? According to the New Testament, I would have to say that Jesus had a very high opinion of humans. He was after all a human. He liked being a human. We may have called him the Son of God, but all he ever called himself was Son of Man. And he was the one who taught us what it means to be human:
Blessed are you, beloved child of God
Fear not, for it is God’s pleasure to give you the kingdom
Even the hairs on your head are numbered
You are the salt of the earth
You are the light of the world
And that may be the highest compliment that he could have ever paid us. For the psalmist said, “The Lord is my Light.” And John said, “Jesus is the light.” And Jesus said “I am the light.” But then he also said, “You are. You are the light of the world.”
You are, he said. Not you ought to be, you should be, or one day will be if you are good enough. He said, you are. All you have to do is Be who you Are. Be light. Be love. Beloved. Don’t hide it under a bushel, but let your light shine. For the same light that shines in me can shine in you, if you let it. And the darkness cannot overcome it.
This is what our lighted steeple means to us. We have for many decades been known as The Church of the Lighted Steeple. Elizabeth Hutton, who was the secretary at Rayne for many years, told me that they once received a letter from a person who had been despondent and depressed one night that he was seriously contemplating suicide, but then he happened to look out his window and saw our steeple with its soft light beaming through the darkness, and it gave him hope. It lifted his sinking spirit, and on that night he chose instead to live. This is what that steeple represents to us, to our city: a light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
But for the last 3 years that light could not shine. I have often wondered what that moment was like when the winds tore the steeple from its mount and the massive timbers split and splintered and fell, how the building must have shaken, what a terrifying sound the crash must have made. How black the night must have been. But over these last 3 years, the light still shined in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Why? Because of you. Your light. You have become the Church of the Lighted People. I have seen your housing volunteers, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, providing homeless hundreds of shelter vouchers, flood buckets, hygiene kits, and manna bags, sending youth and young adults across the nation and even the world on mission trips, buying a camel for the Heifer Project, and a few chickens too, and never giving up even when faced with such a daunting task as rebuilding this historic holy place. As much as I love our lighted steeple and all that it represents, I love you even more: you are the light of the world.
Don’t forget this. I won’t let you forget this! Perhaps you are already sick of hearing me say it. In the days ahead with our beautiful buildings restored, and the beacon of our steeple shining brightly every night, remember it is not enough unless your light shines too. That’s what it symbolizes: the light that shined in Christ is the same light that can shine in you, if you let it. Let it! Let it shine! Be the beacon, be the channels, be the instruments of God’s love and grace, wherever you are, in all that you do and say. How did John Wesley put it?
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
Can it be that a lighted people can shine even more brightly than a lighted steeple? Yes, for “you are the light of the world!