I cannot recall if it was during a Sunday School class or perhaps it was a Vacation Bible School opening, but I remember learning to sing along and do the hand gestures to the old children’s song, “This Little Light of Mine.” This little light o’ mine, I’m going let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Before I even knew much about the little light which was mine, I was encouraged and excited to let it shine. Let the world see it. Let it be a beacon of hope, joy, and confidence to others. We were not going to hide it away. We were not going to put it under a basket or let the devil blow it out, no. We were going to let our light shine. And this is precisely what our Lord calls His disciples to do. Right after the famous Beatitudes, at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says to His disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
Who knew? Who would have guessed this little light of mine is not only there to give light to me, not only to light my path, but to be the light of the whole world. But this seems to be the regular working of our God. He seems to derive great pleasure from using small, dim, little lights like mine and use it for His great purposes. In this same text Jesus calls His followers the salt of the earth. Salt, small little grains of salt, provide the necessary blessing for the entire world. So, God uses us, though we may be small, though we may be weak and fragile, He uses us for His great purposes. And His call is not just for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. No, His demand is on the totality of your being. You, though you are small, though your light may not be all that brilliant, though you are but a little grain of salt, you are part of His plan, party to the divine work of God. To turn from this work, to not follow your God with your whole being is to be un-salty salt. It is to light a lamp and then put it under a basket. That does not make any sense. It would be ridiculous. You have been given the gift of faith. You have been given the promises of God. You have been given hope and forgiveness. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
Look, I know it is not always going to be easy. I realize there are a million reasons why you would want to take that light and hide it away from the rest of the world. For starters, the Church is not exactly a beacon of growth and success in this country. I mean, we regularly hear the stats about how the mainline denominations, of which we are one, continue to shrink year after year. There are tons of other options when it comes to how you spend a Sunday morning and I am pretty sure going to church, at least here in Ventura, CA, is not all that high on the list. If you look at standard metrics of success, we are not doing all that well. We struggle to pay our bills. We are relatively unknown to the very community in which we reside. We usually do more funerals than baptisms each year. So, it is difficult to be bold, to let the light shine, to say this is where we will make a stand. It is hard to be all-in when being all-in is being part of a shrinking and marginalized fellowship.
Of course, you could say you will just go it alone, do it by yourself. After all, it is your little light to shine, but that never seems to work out very well. If we thought it was difficult to let the light shine as part of the group, it is far more difficult to do it as a sole little lamp, all by itself. This is part of the problem inherent with having the light in the first place. For light is a powerful tool. I do not think it is going too far to say light reorders the world. It carves out a place of order in the midst of chaos. Light makes things known, but most of what it makes known when it shines into your own life are things you were probably just fine keeping in the dark. For the light of faith, the light of the Word of God reveals the thoughts, words, and deeds which are twisted and entwined with sin. Without the encouragement of others, you would rush to put that light under a basket.
Consequently, we are left with quite a mess. We know full-well how each of us individually are sinners and unworthy of being called the salt of the earth or the light of the world. We know that the gathering of the people of God in His church is a gathering of sinners, the pooling of the dim lights of our faith. The Church then can be marked with the same sins, the same failings we know as individuals. As a result, we pull away from the challenge. We pull back from being what our Lord has called us to be. Oh, we will do some of it. We will show up most Sundays. We will go through the motions. We will do enough, give enough of ourselves, to ensure things limp along for another month or year. We have long stopped believing we could be a light which enlightens the whole world. Perhaps we are afraid of what it might look like, frightened of what the light would uncover. Each of us, in our own way, have settled on how we will employ this little light of mine. Perhaps, most of the time, we are fine keeping it under a basket.
One of the things we have grown to know quite well, even with our dim lights, is we fail every time at being righteous. You fall short of the glory of God with great regularity. Perhaps this too is why we are so hesitant to go all-in. To go all-in would be to expose ourselves. Our Lord says, “Let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” And we know that if the world really saw us, saw our doubts, our fears, our failures, our marginal commitment to the light, they would not be giving glory to our Father in Heaven. They would be calling us hypocrites and fools.
Your righteousness, the works of your hands, even the absolute best things of your life, will not and cannot be the source your hope and confidence. It is a recipe for failure and the root of all our doubt. For within your own body you know the battle that wages, the conflict between the desire to do good, to be righteous, and the ability to actually live it out throughout your life. Hope, real lasting hope, is not found in ourselves. Our confidence comes from another. It comes from outside of ourselves. Righteousness is found in Christ alone. This is why He came, why He did what He did, why He was born, suffered, died, and rose again. Jesus came because your righteousness is never enough. He has come to give you His righteousness, to give you His perfect life, to give you His love, compassion, and good work.
In fact, Christ is the very source of the light you have in that lamp of yours. When you sing, “This little light of mine,” you are not the creator of the light. You are not the one who brought it forth out of the darkness. The light you are called to shine out for all the world is the light of Christ. It is the promise of God rooted in the gifts of the crucified One. He is the light shining in the darkness. Yes, He exposes sin and reveals your failures, but He does not leave you without hope. He does not abandon you in your despair. No, Jesus Himself is your salvation, your hope, and your confidence. The light He shines is ultimately one of forgiveness. It is forgiveness for you, for your sins. Yes, you are forgiven. You are embraced, loved, and welcomed into the Kingdom.
Therefore, we are invited to go all-in, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are not defined by a shrinking fellowship or our lack of righteousness. No, we are filled with the light of Christ, with His blessings, His mercy, and His love. Then, He directs you to a world captivated by darkness and says, “Go! Go for them. Go so they too may see.”
So, are you with me? Are you ready? It is time to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.