But Seriously ...
“… what if Jesus wasn't kidding? What if he wasn't talking about some never-never land? What if he really did mean what he said two thousand years ago?”
Rev. Lyle, from Benediction, by Kent Haruf
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5, 14-16
Rev. Jim Quigley’s fine sermon Sunday morning (it’s on the website) firmly planted Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in our minds. The inherent requirement, said Jim, is that we are to “think again” about what is really being said and what we are to do with it. So I’ve been thinking.
I was raised a Lutheran, and for confirmation, each young person was required to choose a Bible verse that would be their credo; we recited our verses in front of the congregation at the confirmations service. Mine was from our gospel on the Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light so shine before men …”
How many of us can recite elements of Jesus’ Sermon by heart—perhaps learned as children in Sunday School? They are beautiful words, it is beautiful writing. How easy it is to believe the Sermon is aspirational, that maybe it is enough to know the words and shoot for the goal.
More from Rev. Lyle in Benediction:
“… What if Jesus was thoroughly wise to the world and knew firsthand cruelty and wickedness and evil and hate? Knew it all so well from personal firsthand experience? And what if in spite of all that he knew, he still said love your enemies? Turn your cheek. Pray for those who misuse you. What if he meant every word of what he said? What then would the world come to?
“What if we say … we are going to give willingly and generously to you. We'll mend your roads and highways, expand your schools, modernize your wells and water supplies, save your ancient artifacts and art and culture, preserve your temples and mosques. In fact, we are going to love you. And again we say, no matter what has gone before, no matter what you've done: We are going to love you. We have set our hearts to it. We will treat you like brothers and sisters. We are going to turn our collective national cheek and present it to be stricken a second time, if need be, and offer it to you. Listen, we—
“But then he was abruptly halted.”
Rev. Lyle had to leave the town of Holt after this (abridged) sermon.
There is ample darkness that calls out for light, from our personal relationships through our relationship with this earth and others who live in it. So I’m thinking about what my light, the light I’m supposed to be shining, truly is, and how I can shine it without having to leave town. Maybe that’s the bushel that dims the light: the fear of offending, of causing waves. Maybe the larger Church suffers that same fear.
This is hard stuff. For now, I pray that the light each of us shines is full of humility, compassion and witness, so that we indeed may courageously bring light to whatever piece of the world is in our path.
Because Jesus wasn’t kidding.