Category: Lenten Vespers
Speaker: Rev. Dr. Steven E. Albertin
“LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE”
Lenten Vespers 5
March 21, 2018
Christ Lutheran Church
Rev. Dr. Steven E. Albertin
Have you ever lost your electric power in a storm? Groping around in the dark tripping over furniture is no fun. Have you ever eaten French fries without salt? They are bland potatoes. Salt and light make a difference.
Jesus uses both images in tonight’s First Reading to portray the difference his disciples make in the world. We are salt transforming bland potatoes into hot, juicy French fries. We are light in a dark room transforming a dangerous, cluttered trap into a relaxing, beautiful space.
Really? Can Jesus be serious? Can this be true . . . that the world would lose its zest without us? . . . that our neighborhoods, communities and places of work would be boringly and tasteless without us?
Listen to the parable of the starfish:
One morning an elderly man was walking on a nearly deserted beach. He came upon a boy surrounded by thousands and thousands of starfish. As eagerly as he could, the youngster was picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean.
Puzzled, the older man looked at the young boy and asked, "Little boy, what are you doing?"
The youth responded without looking up, "I'm trying to save these starfish, sir."
The old man chuckled aloud, and queried, "Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?"
Holding a starfish in his hand, the boy turned to the man and, gently tossing the starfish into the water, said, "It will make a difference to that one!"
How often have we not just kept walking down the beach? Tossing one starfish back into the sea, when thousands remain, seems futile. But Jesus doesn’t think so.
Jesus says something truly extraordinary to this rag-tag bunch of followers sitting there with their toothless grins, calloused hands and flawed lives. “You ARE the salt of the earth. . . . You ARE the light of the world. You ARE difference makers.” He does NOT say, “You CAN BE salt and light or you OUGHT TO be salt and light IF you really try hard to do this or that.” No. This is an incredible, flat out, unconditional declaration of a new world. Jesus gives them . . . and us . . . the-no-strings-attached . . . Kingdom of Heaven.
The baptismal rite uses this same stunning image to demonstrate the amazing thing that God does in Baptism. When water was poured and God’s name was spoken, God gives us an incredible gift. What does this mean?
Look at what happens next: A candle is lit from the large Christ Candle standing next to the font and is given to the baptismal candidate or their sponsor. It is accompanied with this declaration, words straight from the mouth of Jesus. “Let your light so shine that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” The light of the world is Jesus. The baptismal candle is lit FROM the Christ Candle. Baptism has connected the candidate to Jesus who is the light of the world. The baptismal candidate who receives this lighted candle becomes . . . the light of the world. Therefore shine! Be who you are!
All through this Lenten series I have used various images to demonstrate what means to be baptized into Christ. For the last six weeks we have explored what it means to live the baptized life. Living every day trusting the promise of our Baptism is “Living wet.” We are “born again.” We are “chosen.” We “belong.” We are “washed clean.” We have become members of the Christian church. We are “all in the family.” Now we are lights. Jesus has made life different. JESUS IS THE DIFFERENCE MAKER. Shining with his light, we also GET TO be difference makers in this world. Because of Jesus, we ARE salt and light. We GET TO salt and lighten the world. That IS who we ARE.
Have you ever noticed how salt and light make a difference not by calling attention to themselves but always by pointing away from themselves? They exist for others. When we salt our favorite meat, salt brings out the flavor of the meat. When the salt calls attention to itself instead of the meat, we say that it is “too salty.” The same is true of light. The light exists for the sake of what it illumines. Turn on a light in a dark room, we look at the room. We don’t stare at the light bulb.
As salt and light, we GET TO bless others. Our good works are not about us. We don’t need good works to show what great salt and light we are. Our neighbors need our good works. Our good works season and brighten a world that has become bland and tasteless. They bring zest to the lives of those laboring in the drudgery of the daily grind. They bring light to the darkness of those grieving a wounded world. They point to our God who in Christ has made all the difference in the world.
It all began at our Baptism. God chose and gifted us always and forever all because of Christ.
Thanks be to God!