Jesus’ Parable: Light under the Basket

Introduction

Recently Jimmy Fallon shared that France is sending another Statue of Liberty to the United States.  I had not heard that in the news, so off I went to double check the reference, and sure enough, there it was in news reports from NPR, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and other news sources.  Granted, Fallon was including the story as part of his opening monologue and was able to put the news into a humorous twist, but the news reports provide the details:

“The smaller statue, based on the original 1878 plaster model by the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, was installed just outside the museum’s entrance in 2011. This statue was cast using a 3-D scan of another model in Paris, the news release said. It will be exhibited on Ellis Island from July 1-5, facing its much bigger sibling on Liberty Island. Then, it will be moved to the French ambassador’s residence in Washington, where it will be on display from July 14, France’s Bastille Day, until 2031.”

Today is this country’s birthday, it is 245 years old, and France gave us the first Statue of Liberty 135 years ago; the statue represents the values this country has long held for the people who have journeyed into this country and today, we can read the words inscribed on the tablet that speak to not only the immigrants who have made the trip to be Americans, but also to all Americans whether native or multi-generational citizens.

The inscription is the concluding lines of the poem “The New Colossus” created by Emma Lazarus:

. . .  ‘Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'”

As Americans we celebrate our freedoms, but with freedom comes responsibility.  Our founding fathers understood the significance of respecting one’s freedoms and include them in the documents that serve as the very foundations of our country: 

From the preamble of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

From the preamble of the US Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The challenges to the choice of words has expanded as our culture evolves through the centuries.  Through the shifts in our society we know that the historical use of “men” is now “humans” in every shape, size, culture, gender, age–each human has all the legal rights of any other human.

Our Bible has provided us the same foundation for us to love one another unconditionally.  We have watched the language be adapted through the various translations as we work to assure the value of each human, as we strive to treat one another with grace, respect, compassion, and love.

John Wesley, this denominations founder, was an activist for the individual.  He stepped out of the cathedral and went to the streets to do all he could to share God’s love in any way he could.  He focused on sharing God’s message, but he added to that the very actions that demonstrated that Christians do love one another.  

Today, the rule has not changed.  The methods of serving one another now have global reach, but the work we have to do is as critical right here in our own community as it is anywhere the connectional church can reach.  

I ask you to join with me in repeating the social creed which is reviewed every four years and remains part of the United Methodist’s doctrine 

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.

We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.

As we prepare to review how we take the parable, “Light under the Basket,”

I hope you have your favorite translation of the Bible, but maybe more importantly your notetaking supplies.  We need to consider how we, as Americans, but more importantly as Christians live as the light in today’s culture.  Please join in an opening prayer:

Dear loving Father, 

As we look to the Statue of Liberty,

we see the raised torch lighting the way

for those seeking a new life in a new world.

Yet we know you are the light

and we are the way that you shine

right here in our community.

Be with us, speak to us, guide us

as we seek to shine brightly 

in all the ways we can.  –Amen

The Message

As we focus on Jesus’ parables, we learn how we can live our faith in community with each other.  This week’s scriptures have shared various ways light is used as a symbol as we tackled the parable, “Light under the Basket,” Matthew 5:14-16. 

The first three gospels are considered the synoptic gospels.  The message presented in each of them is written for a different audience, and yet they agree on the theme:  we are the light of Christ and we must not hide the light.

The scripture from Matthew was written to the Jewish people.  The language is specific for those who were familiar with the Law of Mosses, with the prophecy, the expectations for the Messiah, and now how they are to live their faith openly.  

14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

As Americans we are free to be the light in our communities.  There is nothing that prohibits us from seeing the needs of one another and finding a way to be God’s light in the world.

John Wesley was an activist in his lifetime–his understanding of God’s love for us led him to love all individuals not just those who were members of the Church of England.  He stepped into the streets, into the coal mining communities, to do whatever he could to take God’s message to them.  He started working to feed and to address the medical needs of those people.  He was God’s light in a dark world.

In Manfred Marquardt’s book, John Wesley’s Social Ethics, Wesley’s standards for social ethics are based on his understanding of God’s grace which is given to all people at birth.  Marquardt states

[Wesley] attributed to everyone the possibility of responsible action.  . . . The Christian has been given biblical commandments to guide moral behavior.  However, because of historical conditions . . . the commandments vary in their applicability.  . . .[and] in light of the ethical demands of a new situation, to see standards that can provide a basis for ethical action in different social settings.” (p.103)

Being the light of Christ in the world is how we share God’s love.  We receive his love unconditionally and he asks us to love one another unconditionally, too.  Jesus uses the parable to strengthen the disciples’ confidence to go out and serve one another in love–to be the light.  The question is how do we shine our light.  

In the Life Application Study Bible, one of the notes outlines six ways that we fail to shine our light:

“Can you hide a city that is sitting on top of a hill?  Its light at night can be seen for miles.  If we live for Christ, we will glow like lights, showing others what Christ is like. . . . “  (p. 1652)

I challenge us to consider in our own lives and as a church whether we are the light in our community.  There is no reason for us to hide as Americans, either.  We are free to be the light and to let it shine.

Let’s stop and ask these questions:

Q.  Are you quiet when you should speak up?

A.  As a church, we tackle difficult topics.  In Missouri, the conference has identified topics that are addressed by the social justice mission:  [insert the icons]

Missouri Social Justice programs:

  • Disaster Response
  • Festival of Sharing
  • Journey 4 Justice
  • Next Generation Ministries
  • Open Hearts, Open Books
  • Planting Academy
  • Restorative Justice Ministries
  • Rural Missouri Connection
  • Soul Connections
  • Special Advance Giving

Global Social Justice programs:           

  • Global Connect
  • Haiti Water Plus
  • Mozambique Initiative
  • Ludhiana Christian Medical College and Hospital
  • Imagine No Malaria

Q.  Do you just go along with the crowd?

A.  We try to teach our youngsters not to just go with the crowd, but in our adult lives do we just go along with the crowd?  

Q.  Do you deny the light, do you deny God?

A.  This particular question is personal.  How well do we openly share about our faith?  Do we testify that God is part of our life.

Q.  Do let sin dim your light?

A.  When we sin, do we go to God and ask forgiveness?  Do we find ways to change our lives so we sin no more?  Do we seek help?  Do we join small groups so we can be held accountable and continue to grow in our faith journey?

Q.  Do you explain your light to others; do you explain God to others?

A.  Confirmation Class.  Do you serve as a mentor for a confirmand?  Do you encourage your children to be learn more about faith?  Do you just show up for service and then go home without learning more or volunteering to teach/to lead others in their faith journeys?

Q.  Do you ignore the needs of others from the rest of the world?

A.  Monthly Disciple Gifts:  Jamaica Medical Mission, Open Hands, Open Books,

UMCOR, CROP Walk, Heifer International, Survival House, Undies Sunday no in July and five more months to complete the calendar year.

As Methodists, we agree to support our local congregation.  We are asked two questions:

  1. As members of Christ’s universal Church, will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?
  2. As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gift, and your service?

We must honestly reflect upon our behaviors as Christians asking ourselves if we are the light of Christ not hidden under a basket.  

If we agree to the two membership questions, we are being the light of Christ.

If we honor our Christian responsibilities and try to actively serve as God’s hands and feet, then we are the light of Christ shining brightly from the hilltop.

We are fortunate to live in a country that legislates the freedom so we can be be the light of Christ.  Therefore, today, the Fourth of July, as citizens of the United States, we answer God’s call to be the light of Christ right here in our own church, in our own community.

As we close out our morning service, we will join in the sacrament of communion.  Communion is a uniting act of worship that all Christians, regardless of the denomination, use to affirm our belief that God has loved us so much that he gave his only son so we can be forgiven of our sins.  This is why we choose to shine our lights rather than hide them under the basket.

Please join me in a closing prayer:

Dear loving Father,

Thank you for all the freedoms we have

and for the grace you have given us.

May we find your light within us

so we may do all we can to shine that light

even on the darkest of days.  –Amen.

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