Heaven’s Light Sermon
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Heavenly Light message for 12/15/19 at Harbor Church
I’d like to talk to you today about connection about our connection to God, to one another, and to the community in which we live. We live in a world today that is connected like never before. A couple of friends shared some wonderful correspondence with me this week. There is so much great information available today on the web and through social media. I love it when people become curators who harvest the best of what they find and pass it on to others.
An Email Susan Matheke shared an email she received from a friend-
From Brenda Way
Founder and Artistic Director of ODC Dance Company
This summer, my daughter, who is a professor at NYU, returned to the nest (mine that is) to escape the NYC heat and to work on her book, The Science of Human Connection. With a focus on crossing disciplines, it addresses our deep need – physiologically, psychologically, emotionally and intellectually – to be part of a context, to interact and connect.
It occurred to me as we talked into the night that what drives life at ODC is the art of human connection. In a real sense, connecting is the soul of our enterprise. We are a place where bold and daring artists touch us with the truth of our common humanity, troubling and transcendent; where otherness can find a home; a place that champions lifelong creativity and “making” as a social activity, a path to belonging and an antidote to loneliness. ODC makes a place for everyone.
Wow this a description of a dance company; “to be part of a context, to interact and connect in a way that addresses our deep needs – physiologically, psychologically, emotionally and intellectually” –just add the word spiritually and it could be a great description for the church, couldn’t it?! A place where people can find meaningful connection with God and others….
An Article. Paul Marte shared an article he read in a newspaper. It was about Houses of Worship, and how important faith and authentic religious practices STILL are today.
In an recent Article in the Wall Street Journal, dated 12/6/19, Psychoanalyst and Author Erica Komisar shared these insights:
“Today, the U.S. is a competitive, scary and stressful place that idealizes perfectionism, materialism, selfishness and virtual rather than real human connection. Religion is the best bulwark against that kind of society. Spiritual belief and practice reinforce collective kindness, empathy, gratitude and real connection.”
Different experts in fields ranging from psychology to sociology to theology, tell us that authentic, significant relationships are a key indicator of over-all health, well-being, and fulfillment in life.
The opportunity to engage in and develop deep and meaningful relationships is one the things a church can provide in abundance. To connect with God and other people in authentic ways. What can we do to offer this to this type of connection to others outside the church?
4282 Franklin’s Street Lighting Idea
When Benjamin Franklin wished to interest the people of Philadelphia in street lighting, he didn’t try to persuade them by talking about it; instead, he hung a beautiful lantern on a long bracket before his own door. Then he kept the glass brightly polished, and carefully and religiously lit the wick every evening at the approach of dusk.
It wasn’t long before Franklin’s neighbors began placing lights in brackets before their homes, and soon the entire city awoke to the value of street lighting and took up the matter with interest and enthusiasm.
One of the things we read today in the gospel of Matthew is:
“let your life, you good deeds, your actions shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise and give glory to your heavenly Father.”
The first thing we can do is live the light, be the light, be the city on the hill in our actions, and in our interactions with others.
City on a Hill
Another important part of Our reading today is about A city on a hill that cannot be hidden, because it is shining its light for all to see.
Light is attractive. Look at the lights of Christmastime.
Martha Ball sent me some picture that she saw on posted on FB this week. They weren’t on our church FB page, and they weren’t even taken by a church member.
Light for the Community.
“City on a hill.” Jon from the Block Island Trading Company noticed our Christmas lights and posted some nice picture on Facebook. Wouldn’t it be great for folks to be attracted to the spiritual light coming from Harbor Church as well?
People don’t have to come through our doors to see our light. They can see it from a distance. They can see it in everyone of our faces, as we move through our community. They experience it when we invite them into our homes for a holiday party or a meal. They can see the Christ Child in the manger in the nativity scene on our mantles, in the warmth of our hospitality. Can they see the light of the Christ Child shining through our lives in other ways as well?
Harbor Church sits up above Old Harbor like the City on the hill described by Matthew-
How do others see it?
Is it a fortress, an inapproachable bastion set apart from the rest of the community? Cold, detached, distant? Or just as a nice institution that doesn’t have much to do with their modern lives….
Is it a place full of warmth, a place where inviting light streams from every window and door, every person and event? What can we do to make it more so?
I think our church already as a good reputation in the community. People generally think well of us, but from a distance. So what can we do to draw closer to them, and to draw them closer to us?
How Does the church’s light still shine? What does it look like? How attractive Is it to those outside looking in?
Attraction, not promotion. Some of the best ministry of the church is done through Attraction, not promotion. But its hard to do… “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.” Yet sometimes I think that the church does this, we move around our community under the radar.
Like Camouflaged Christians. “I think it easy for the church to try to not make waves, to give offense. We want to fit in, to blend in, not stand out, just like camouflage. It can be challenging, intimidating, and downright scary when we try to bring the light of Christ into dark places. We don’t want to offend, to be perceived as coming on too strong, as proselytizing, force-feeding our religion to others. We can risk rejection, being marginalized as religious holy rollers, extremists or fundamentalists. So if we are called to stand out like a city on a hill, how can we do this in a positive way, that is received with favor by our community. One way is through…
The ministry of Invitation.
Invitation to church events. How many of us has invited a friend to the Christmas Choir concert today, or to our Blue Christmas Service or to our upcoming Christmas pageant? Invitation to our Holiday Farmer’s Market, Did you invite anyone to our Saturday morning discussion group or to watch the God Sightings videos on You Tube. I don’t bring these things up to make anyone feel guilty, but to remind us that the church is doing a lot in our community, and we are providing plenty of opportunities for connection with others outside the church. Yes, people in our community read about these things in the newspaper On the Block, Around the Block. They see them on the Block Island bulletin board. But there is not substitute for the power of personal invitation. It is an extension of the human connection that we all desire.
It’s like the children’s activity books- Connecting the dots. Person to person, Personal to the Divine, People to people, people to church, our faith community. One person, one dot at a time…
There is an old Adage: A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle. An Invitation doesn’t cost us anything . Lets not let the rest of this holiday season go by without shining our light for others to see. Let’s be that attractive city on a hill that invites others to approach.
6193 The Cave And The Sun
There is an allegory written for the little ones, but it is just as serviceable for us grown folks as well: Once upon a time a Cave lived under the ground, as caves have the habit of doing. It had spent its lifetime in darkness. It heard a voice calling to it, “Come up into the light; come and see the sunshine.” The Cave retorted, “I don’t know what you mean; there isn’t anything but darkness.” Finally the Cave ventured forth and was surprised to see light everywhere. Looking up to the Sun the Cave said, “Come with me and see the darkness.” The Sun asked, “What is darkness?” The Cave replied, “Come and see.” One day the Sun accepted the invitation. As it entered the cave it said, “Now show me your darkness!” But there was no darkness at all.
Darkness is not the opposite of light; it is the absence of light. Darkness is not a thing, it is the lack of something. Everyone has voids in there lives, caves, dark places, emptiness just waiting to be filled. Blaise Pascal once said ‘there is a God-shaped void in every one.”
Brothers and Sisters, We have a responsibility as members of the church, as children of God, and as citizens of the kingdom of God to point others to the city on a hill, to shine the light of Christ in the darkness of a world that still needs him. In our call to worship today together we declared: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Don’t let another Christmas go by without being a part of this vital connection between our community and the presence of God in our lives. This holiday season, Let’s be the light, and lets also shine the light for others to see.