By Jason Burns, Lay Preacher
As a society, we spend a great portion of our lives in school, we do this because we collectively believe that knowledge is the key to success, but simply having an education will not guarantee that you are successful. I think that it is reasonable to claim that getting an education is only step one. Education leads to knowledge, it leads to skills and it leads to a desire to be involved in some aspect of society. Often those skills and our desire to be involved turn into an attempt to dedicate ourselves to working in a position that will allow us to use the knowledge we gained through our education. However, we would be kidding ourselves if we thought that everyone gets to do that, because they don’t. Nearly 13% of high school graduates and nearly 7% of college graduates remain unemployed in the United States, which means that not everyone is given the full opportunity to put their knowledge, their skills and their desire into action.
As practicing Christians, we have been given knowledge that many people lack, we know the secret to everlasting life; we know how to be in a full and complete relationship with God; but even though we have that knowledge, how many of us choose to sit on it and not put it into action? How many of us choose to keep it to ourselves? Knowledge without action impedes the kingdom of God. Every time we remain silent; every time we turn in the other direction; every time we bury our heads in the sand; every time we focus on our own internal desires, we are guilty of impeding the kingdom of God. Jesus said that “You are the salt of the earth” which is quite the compliment because salt when properly added to food releases the natural flavor and enriches the dish. Jesus’ point is that because we know the truth, because we know what it means to live into God’s call, we not only have the knowledge to be in full relationship with God, but also the knowledge necessary to spread the kingdom of God; but if we don’t do anything with that knowledge; if we do not act because of that knowledge, then what is the point in having it? Our situation is not the same as the high school and college graduates who are never given the opportunity to utilize their education, this is a choice we make. God has given us the gifts and the knowledge necessary to actively spread the kingdom of God, but if we are going to help God reveal his kingdom on earth; if we are going to work to improve the world in anyway, much like salt improves the taste of food, then we need to act; we need to use and share our knowledge of Christ through the gifts God has given us.
In the same passage that he refers to us as salt, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 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.” The light he refers to is the holy spirit that resides in us all, and we are the lamp stand. Armed with the knowledge of God’s love we are meant to be beacons of light, we are meant to shine God’s light into the darkest corners of the earth.
A lighthouse has one purpose, to send a beacon of light out so that ships are aware of potential dangers; the light provided by lighthouses across the globe have saved thousands of lives stretching all the way back to ancient Egypt. The church, meaning you and me, are the lighthouse and the knowledge we carry of God’s love is the beacon of light. Our own self-interests are the basket that hide the light of God from the world.
In the prayer book, there is a little known or even used service of light. The service begins with the sanctuary in complete darkness save for one candle. This one candle represents the light of Christ, shortly after the service begins other candles are lit from the original, which symbolizes the spread of Christ’s light in the world. We receive a portion of Christ’s light within us upon our baptism and through our baptismal vows we promise to spread Gods love to the world. At our baptism, we are given a candle that is lit from the Pascal Candle. The pascal candle represents the light of Christ and our baptismal candle represents his light within us. We promised to be the Salt that gives the world flavor, we promised to be a beacon of light, not a lamp under a basket. For decades, the wider church has focused its energy on the symptoms of a wider problem rather than the problem itself. The symptom is declining attendance, the problem is that Christ’s light, for too long, has been hidden under a basket. It has been hidden by our fear that if we show our faith to the world we will be attacked or bullied; it has been hidden by our own concerns for the survival of our church buildings, it has been hidden by our desires for success. Christ has called us and challenged us to help his kingdom be realized here and now, he has challenged us to be the salt that adds flavor and heals the wounded soul, he has called us to remove the basket and let his light shine. If we do this, if we focus our efforts om spreading God’s love, then we may find that more people will engage with their faith. The choice is yours, you can either be a beacon on a lamp stand or a beacon under a basket. Amen.
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