Preached on Epiphany 5 at St. Matthew & St. Timothy Church, New York
Isaiah 58:1-9; Psalm 112:1-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20
After much encouragement from Mother Carla, this was my first “off the cuff” sermon in English and again in Spanish at SMST. As such, I only have notes on points I wanted to cover, but no text. Still, here’s the gist of what was preached that day–and I have to say that preaching without a text in Spanish was a hugely liberating and spirit-filled experience for me!
I love this text and I’ve preached it before, focusing on salt and light.
It was my senior sermon, and some of you were there.
But today I’m going to focus on bushels.
Jesus says you ARE the light of the world. You ARE the salt of the earth. As in now.
Saltiness and light are not something to achieve, but what we are.
Unless we’re hiding our light.
Under a bushel.
What is a bushel anyway? It’s not a bushel of apples snuffing our light out.
A bushel is more like a basket—something that covers our light without extinguishing it.
So the light is still there—you are the light of the world.
The question is: Are you letting your light shine?
Take a look at the reading from Isaiah:
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…”
What does fasting have to do with shining?
Soon we’ll be in Lent—a season of fasting for many.
For the Israelites and maybe us too, fasting is about righteousness.
It’s about doing what is right before God.
But sometimes righteousness becomes self-righteousness.
Sometimes our spiritual life or our following the law gets focused on this inner life—cultivating our light to shine in our own life.
Jesus calls us the light of the world.
Keeping the law and working on our spiritual life isn’t about us, it’s about our neighbor.
It’s not just an inward journey, but an outward breaking forth of light.
The prophet Isaiah describes righteousness as what we do for others.
So this question of letting your light shine boils down to two things:
1. What is it you can do for others? (ie: name your light)
2. What keeps you from doing it? (ie: name your bushel)
Let’s start with the first question: what does it look like for your light to shine?
What can you do for others?
>Check in on people—call them or send them cards to let them know you care.
>Bake something or bring someone a meal.
>Invite people to church or events.
>Tutor or coach students or adults—what are you skills and how can you share them?
>Shovel out your neighbor’s car.
>Pray for someone—let them know you’re praying.
>Forgive someone if you’re holding a grudge.
>Stand up for someone being bullied.
>Be an advocate for the oppressed.
And the question that follows: what are the bushels that hide your light?
What keeps you from doing the things we named help our neighbor?
>Fear of rejection.
>Fear of failure.
>Fear of change or discomfort.
>Lack of concern, lack of awareness.
>Greed or pride.
>Lack of communication.
>Comparing ourselves to others.
>Romanticizing the past and clinging to it.
>Unrealistic expectations—over or underestimating ourselves.
“No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, 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 in heaven.”
We come to church and to this table to light our lamps.
We come here week after week to keep our lamps lit.
What happens when we leave here?
Do we hide that lamp under a basket? Or put it on the lampstand?
The light of the world is not for itself.
The light of the world is to be shared.
You are the light of the world.
Discover what that light is—what it is you can do for others to shine.
It doesn’t have to be something huge.
You can start with something small and battle your bushels a bit at a time.
But let your light shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, NO! I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it sine, let it shine.