“This Light of Mine!”
Matthew 5:13-16 (5:14) – February 5, 2023
When most people think of winter in Chicago, I suspect gloomy, cold, gray days come to mind for many people. I know I can see in my imagination dark, chilly, even depressing days with little sunlight and brightness. Sad, gray, gloomy days have an influence on my mood and general outlook, too. Can anyone else relate to this somber kind of attitude?
As the atmosphere in these cold, frigid days of late January and early February seems to pull people down, down, down, I remember reading one chilly day in January that that particular month must be one hundred days long! Such gloomy, dull and dark days seem to stretch on forever. Thank goodness February is now here, with the coming promise of more sunshine, more light. Indeed, the sun is still shining – we know the sun is surely there, just behind the clouds.
Right after our Lord Jesus gave His blessings or Beatitudes to the crowds, He talked about some very common, everyday things – like light. In our Scripture reading today, Jesus said to the crowds, “14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
The gray clouds, chilly darkness and sadness may be all around us, sometimes, but Jesus tells us about light. The light of a town, the light of the world. Lighting up the whole house. Jesus says that we – all of us – are the light.
Lutheran Pastor Janet Hunt talks about a memory she had. “I remember still lying on the floor reading a book as the sun was growing dim. And older family member, an aunt, I believe, stepped into the room and chastised me. “How can you read without the light?” she wondered. Often now, when I turn on the light so as to see to read or to work in the kitchen or to do just about anything, I think of how much more I depend on ‘light’ for things I didn’t used to need illuminated.” 
Carolyn Brown tells us, “Some lights are bright and help us see what needs to be seen, for example, a lighthouse, or a search light. Some lights are soft and make us see the beauty of the world, for example, candles [or gentle lamps].”  God’s people do whatever they can to make the world more loving, more caring, and more bright for everyone.
As commentator David Lose states, “[Jesus] says both simply and directly, “You are the light of the world.” It is, as with the Beatitudes, sheer blessing, commendation, affirmation, and commissioning.” 
Dr. Lose reminds us of the statistics about a child’s self-esteem compared to what kind of messages they hear. When elementary-aged children hear one single negative message about themselves—like, “you’re mean!” “how stupid!” “you can’t do anything right!”—psychologists suggest that the children need to hear ten positive messages to restore their sense of self-esteem to where it had been previously.  That is, to correct the internal emotional and psychological damage and balance of the children, and cause them to have a positive, healthy self-image, they need the hear ten positive messages to make up for just one negative, hurtful comment.
When our Lord Jesus clearly states that we – all of us – are light, that is more than just a wish. That is more than a “I hope so!” or “maybe, it might happen.” No, the rabbi Jesus made a positive, declarative statement when He said “You are the light of the world.”
What will we sing right after this sermon, as a sermon response? “This Little Light of Mine.” When we hold our fingers up as lights, do you know what that reminds me of? Remember back to Christmas Eve? Every year for the closing hymn of that service, we sing “Silent Night.” We all hold candles and sing. We hold those candles as a symbol or sign of God’s light within each of us, God’s light that shines among us.
Jesus had a definitive point to His words from today’s Scripture reading. We are light. Right now.
Children – or teens or adults, for that matter – so often become what they are named. “Call a child ‘bad’ long enough, and he or she will believe you and act bad. Call [them] worthless or unlovable or shameful, and eventually he or she – all of us! – will live into the name we’ve been assigned. In the same way call us good or useful, dependable, helpful, or worthwhile, and we will grow into that identity and behavior as well.” 
That is exactly what Jesus is doing here! He is calling us—naming us—light. We are—all of us—light of the world. The light of a city on a hill, shedding light to the whole community. Yes, Jesus wants us to be that light. He is calling us to grow into that identity and behavior! That same light of God we held up on Christmas Eve? The light of God that came into the world as a Baby born in Bethlehem? This is the same light that Jesus is talking about here. It’s the light of a city on a hill, and the light for the nations, that the prophet Isaiah talks about.
We aren’t required to do ten impossible things before breakfast to just break even with God, and try to get in line for a chance to reach for the light. It isn’t hoping that someday, maybe, we might finally become that light. We aren’t hiding our lights under a bushel, either.
We are that light! Now! And, we are holding it high! Why? Because, Jesus says so!
As Jesus says, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” So, go. Be that light. Be that positive affirmation to your family, friends, workmates, and strangers. Let your light shine.
Now, more than ever, take Jesus at His word. Be the light. Amen.
(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!