A sermon on Matthew 5:16
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Just for a few moments I want you to think about everywhere you have been in the last seven days; in other words between worship last Sunday and now. Where have you been? Jot down as many places as you can remember.
How many places have we been collectively?
That is our first really important piece of information this morning so let’s just try to remember that.
Now just pause for a moment and think about what you are doing now and what I am doing now in this moment. I have to say that each week I labour and pray over the words I will say on Sunday making a huge assumption – that it will make a difference in your lives. That in the midst of the sermon God will speak and that as God speaks you and I might actually be transformed.
Or to put it another way as I preach I, and I suspect some of you too, are expecting that salt will be tasted and light will shine. In the safety of these four walls with people whom we presume are somewhat like minded salt and light are shared.
One of the most challenging aspects of all of this is the notion that when the preaching occurs I am not going to be saying to you “hey everything things great just keep on doing what you are doing”. I am not going to simply affirm hey we got it right you don’t have to concern yourself with personal spiritual growth and transformation.
That to me would be like answering the perennial question “Are we there yet?” with a yes.
The sermon assumes that as salt is tasted and light shines we will discover that there is a journey of spiritual growth and change that still lies ahead.
So this is our second piece of information that we want to remember – the sermon is about salt and light and therefore is also about change.
But, and this is a big but... when Jesus was talking about salt and light what exactly was he inferring and how does it still relate to who we are and what we are doing?
Jumping in my imaginary time machine if I hurtle back to Jesus time I would discover that salt was a pretty common item then as now. It was used for preserving, purifying, fertilising and yes seasoning. Was Jesus being particularly about one of these, maybe seasoning but on the other hand does it really matter which use Jesus was referring to?
What struck me was that salt then as now is any everyday item used by everyone. It is uniquely salt but it is really common.
The same is true of light. There is always light, even in darkness there is light, it may be
So here’s our next thing to remember for today salt and light are really common, not just a little bit common but accessible to everyone and used by everyone.
So when Jesus starts referring to people as salt and light and talks about light shining before others the question came to me is Jesus only talking about some people doing this?
You see part of the tension for Jesus and his predominantly Jewish audience, and more importantly for Matthew who decided that this bit was important to write down 60 years later, was that Jesus message was not about closing down community and making it exclusive, rather it was about opening our God’s love for everyone.
Remember the beginning of John’s gospel:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with god and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God and through him all things came into being. What has come into being in him was light and the light was the life of all peoples.... And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
So here’s a wild thought, what if the light we are shining is not actually our own, but is the light which is the life of the world: the light of Christ.
OK so let’s get back to where I started with the quote from verse 16:
“Let you light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
There are a few things to take note of in this statement:
Firstly, the purpose of shining the light has nothing to do with yours or my personal salvation. Being light shiners is about helping others glorify God.
Secondly, light shining is about what we do, our works! Jesus comments which follow about the law and the prophets are there to remind people that what we do matters.
Now I want to temper Jesus words about our righteousness exceeding the scribes and Pharisees with two additional things said about the seeming impossibility of this injunction.
First in Matthew 19 Jesus says to the disciples about the rich young man who is completely righteous but won’t sell everything he has that “with God all things are possible.”
Secondly, Paul in Romans 7 reminds the community that the Law was given that sin might be revealed.
So with those bits of information on board to be “light shiners” might actually mean it is not us shining our light but the light of Christ shining through us and that the shining of the light is associated with what we do.
But wait there’s more! What if there are no limits to through whom and where Christ’s light shines.
Clearly in the scriptures God works in and through people who are no always recognisable as part of the exclusive community of faith.
So what if the task we have is not simply to be light shiners but glory givers. Giving glory to God when we perceive the light shining through others be they a part of the community of faith or not.
This all brings me back to our little survey about where you have been this week, and causes me to ask another question, “How many people did you interact with in those different places?”
If you and I are to be light shiners and glory givers, helping others to identify Jesus the light of the world so that God might be glorified, remember this is not to do with our being saved, it is as Jesus says about God being glorified the question should then be asked: in all of those interactions how much light shining and glory giving were you engaged in.
You see it is one thing to expect me to be slat and light whilst I am preaching but at the end of the service when we head out into the world, each one of us is called to live out our discipleship to God’s glory.
Of course this ain’t easy, not for me or for you, but Jesus invitation to follow was not simply an invitation to follow me and don’t change but to be transformed by God’s love and to share that love and light with others.
To be light shiners and glory givers not for our own benefit but for God’s glory.
Take a moment to consider where you are going to be this week: how will you be a light shiner and glory giver in those places?