given on Sunday, June 30, 2013
Genesis 1:3—Let there be light…
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[a] 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”
- Psalm 27:1—The Lord is my light…
- Isaiah 42:1-9–…And you will be the light…
- Matthew 5:13-16—…You are the light…
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
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.
- Luke 2:22—He is a light to reveal God.
- John 1:1-9—The Word gave…light…
- John 3:20-21—All who do evil hate the light…
- Acts 13:47-49—I have made you a light… (to Paul & Barnabus)
47 For the Lord gave us this command when he said,
‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’[a]”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. 49 So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.
- I John 1:5-7—God is light, and there is no darkness…
- Revelations 21:21-25—…The lamb is the light…
21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.
22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there.
Did you see the Super Moon? What about the lightening the night before last? Did you notice that even when the electricity went out, there was enough of the Super Moon to help get around the house, not to mention out on the porch? The natural lights of the moon, the sun, the stars, and even lightening cannot match man-made lights. God’s light is the best.
In thinking about the changes that our world undergoes, there are constants that remain the same and those are the God things. God’s lights are one of the constants. The question we each must ask is where is THE LIGHT in our own lives, or in other words:
- Where is God in our lives?
- Are you living your life in such a manner that others see the light as a constant?
- Do you radiate God’s light so well that others see you as a constant?
- Does your God-light shine so brightly that even in the darkest moments you can see the way?
- Can others see the way because of you?
These are the questions that can keep a person awake at night. Personally I ponder whether or not my life is a reflection of God’s grace. Sometimes I go back and review, wondering where did I fail. Other times I feel so good about life, I simply praise God for all the good I see.
Praying hands are simply a must in a world that we have so little control over. Keeping that open channel with God becomes like breath itself. At times it is difficult to even know if we are praying, yet at the same time we also know when we are not praying. Others can even tell. When we live a prayer-filled life, we shine God’s light so brightly that others recognize it and even seek to follow it.
Keeping God’s light blazing bright in our lives comes down to practicing the disciplines that keep The Light charged up. If we fail to keep the disciplines, then the light dims and pretty soon looks burned out. Once the light is gone, it becomes difficult to see, to work, to love, to play, and even to sleep. It takes work to get that Light back on.
Wrapping up the church year, each one of us needs to check our practices and see if our lights can shine as brightly as they can for the coming year. The time to evaluate the sources of our spiritual energy is right now, so we can shine for all those we meet. We cannot, must not, put it off. Therefore, here are the evaluation questions:
- How often do you read the scriptures?
- Do you pray daily, hourly, or continually?
- Are you actively participating in a small group?
- Can you remember the last sacrament you took?
- Have you practiced fasting in one form or another?
- How often do you attend worship?
For most church members, attending worship and praying regularly are not a problem. And if the church practices regular days for communion, then in all likelihood, that is not a concern. The problem spots are the practices of reading and studying scripture, fasting, and participating in small group or Wesleyan-styled class meetings. Even worship attendance can be an issue if you do not follow the recommended 48 out of 52 weeks of attendance.
These are the acts of piety that John Wesley felt were essential to maintaining one’s faith. He knew that maintaining God’s light in our life is difficult and with the methods he insisted following, that light became a guiding beam to those who were without hope, without food, without shelter, and without the essentials for daily living. And, as the light draws in the moths on hot summer nights, the Wesleyan disciples drew others to God.
Are we, right here in our very own community, following the Wesleyan methods we say we believe in a manner that God’s light radiates through and from us to draw others to God’s light? That is a question we must answer if we are to follow God’s commission.
This is the point when the praying hands get dirty fingernails. Granted, we realize that this is a metaphor, but Wesley certainly did not separate the two. An area in which his ministry was well received was the coal-mining region in England. One of the dirtiest jobs that seemed to deposit a level of grime over everything needed the most. The people needed God. Now consider our own region. Isn’t it interesting that at one point this area was once a mining region, too; but since the industry is now gone, does God’s light shine?
Even if the type of economic base switches in a community, there is no reason to think the need for God’s light has changed. God is available for everybody. God’s region is not limited by one geographic set of boundaries. God’s region is global. This is why Methodists get dirty fingernails just about anywhere they go. This is why the acts of mercy Wesley encouraged becomes part of the fuel source for God’s light.
Evaluating how dirty our fingernails are getting as a small rural church as well as part of the global church might be challenging. Well, it is challenging because it is tempered by the economy of a small church. First, there should be no apologies for the lack of funds available for all the various missions whether it is the Heifer Project, the Ludhiana Medical Mission, the Hydrate Haiti project, the Imagine No Malaria campaign, or the Mozambique initiative. The list can go on and on.
God’s work is not recorded by the amount of dollars spent. Rather God’s work is measured by illumination. Beginning in our own homes, are we being good stewards of God’s resources and the money we earn. And in our own communities, the light needs shining. As we evaluate how dirty our fingernails are, we need to begin at the center of our geographical community. Here we go:
- Are the people in the community fed?
- Are the neighbors able to afford clothes that they need?
- Is the neighbors housing safe and adequate for their needs?
- Is the community prepared to handle a disaster?
- Does a special need come to mind?
Certainly an evaluation begins with the basic needs for life to be sustained, but it can be broadened to consider the next level of needs—educational, social, community services, and more.
In the pre-conference prayer study, the example of concentric circles was used to demonstrate the various levels of prayer. The same concentric circle pattern can also identify the levels of ministry for a local church. The nucleus or center is the physical church itself. The next circle is the immediate area in the community. The third circle is outer limits of the town, and then the circle one-mile from the church. Additional circles needed to be included in rural communities based on how far reaching the members determine. This may mean a 5-mile radius or a 10 mile-radius, and since our counties pivot around a larger community, an additional circle that bumps up to the city limits of the county seat.
What about the outreach beyond the immediate community, you might ask? The connectional aspect of the United Methodist Church comes into the picture at this point. The apportionments that are assessed each church provide the basic foundation for connectional ministry. It is the choice of the individual churches to determine how involved they wish to become in the global ministries. This does not mean that the small churches are exempt; it simply means that they can determine the extent of giving beyond the apportionments.
The acts of mercy send out the beams of light so all may know God. What our small, rural church does adds just that much more to the luminosity of God’s light. During the next year, we need to keep God’s light shining brightly. We need to remember that all we do is for the glory of God, and when we keep that as the ultimate goal, we are the light, too.
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are the source of light: sun, moon, and stars.
You are the source of love in our lives
that shines so brightly others see you, too.
Guide us as we learn how to turn on our lights
so others are drawn to your love.
Guide us as we strengthen our faith
through the spiritual disciplines.
Guide us as we learn to minister to others
so the light shines for them, too.
May we determine ways to shine your light
so others may find the way to salvation. –Amen