Dear Grace Church Family and Friends,
In the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus often calls us to be and do like him. In chapter 5, he calls all of us to be light; to be a shining example to the glory of God. That’s a tall order, especially at this time when the whole world seems bent on anything but light. So, is there a way, something we can do, a method for doing this? Of becoming light to the World, ourselves? “Yes!” says Paul in I Thessalonians. As he so often does with the teachings of Jesus, Paul supplies the practical “How to” for us. Have a look.
I Thessalonians 1: 1-10 and Matthew 5: 11-16: A method for becoming Light. Several years ago, I had two identifying experiences in rapid succession. Both happened at Church during coffee hour. I was still in my early thirties and sported long hair (still slightly blond from all the LA Sun), and a red beard. Dressed on one occasion in a white Alb, I did in some ways look a little like some of those classic pictures of what I refer to as “Swedish Jesus.” On that Sunday, as I was greeting folks on the patio outside the Sanctuary, I overheard a nearby four-year-old girl remark to her mother, “Mommy, look! It’s Jesus! They told me all about him in Sunday School.” I admit, that did feel kind of awesome. It was certainly better than just being called “the Preacher.” Always looking for a sermon illustration, I considered telling of this experience in a sermon to say that we should all want to be mistaken for Jesus, by reflecting him in our lives.
I never did use it in a sermon, though. I didn’t because of what happened just a couple of Sundays later. It had been a special anniversary service. On this occasion I was dressed in my academic garb, with flowing black robes and hood that billowed out in the breeze as I entered the patio for coffee hour. This time, I heard another four-year-old, brand new to the Church, call out to his mother as he hid behind her skirts, “Mommy! Is that…the CREATURE?!?” Obviously, I thought to myself, my reflecting of Jesus could use some work.
Those memories of varying success in reflecting Jesus came back to me as I was reading Jesus ‘ words, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.” The question that always comes up in reading those words is, How? How do we learn to be a light that brings glory to God?
The first chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians describes one for-certain way. Paul writes, “For we know, brothers and sister,…that (God) has chosen you…and you became imitators of us and of the Lord…so that you became an example to all…” (ch1 vs. 4,6a,7a) To become an example of Jesus and his light and love do this: imitate those who are imitating him. In so doing, you and I learn to become imitators of Jesus and we begin to spread his light and love ourselves. Once we are imitating Jesus directly, (so that, hopefully, others start to mistake us for Jesus because of how we live,) there comes a wonderful result: We become the ones others will imitate, so that they can learn, through us, to imitate Jesus themselves.
Read of Jesus and his ways. Watch and learn from those who seek to live those ways. Imitate and become a bearer of light and love. This is the surest method for you and me to become a light that brings glory to God.