Monday, February 3, 2014

The Light of the World

Matt 5:13-16
1 Cor 2:1-5
Jesus makes some remarkable statements in this Sunday's gospel. He says, "You are the light of the world." Think about that. If Jesus came up to you on the street and looked you in the eye and said, "You are the light of the world" what would you think? Me? The whole world? That is crazy! Yet that is what He says. He chooses not to bring light to the world through raw power. He chooses to do it through us.

This relates to what St Paul has been talking about in 1 Corinthians these last few weeks. He talks about God's wisdom and man's wisdom. You need to start reading around vs 18 of chapter 1 because the lectionary kind of cuts up Paul's thought.

He considers the whole question of whether being smart and being religious go together. That is the first surprise. We think of the tension between faith and reason as something new. That ancients didn't experience it. Only modern scientific man has this notion that Christianity is for the uneducated and real sophisticated minds would not buy into it. The truth is that already in the time of Paul that idea was quite common.

Why is that? Paul's short answer is "The cross." The human mind cannot make sense of the cross. The idea that the way to greatness is through embracing suffering and death. You need a special grace to understand it. What is more, excelling in human wisdom and learning won't make understanding it any easier. If anything, it makes the humility required harder.

Paul says the way we evangelize needs to reflect this. We should not expect elegant arguments to persuade people. What persuades them? People who are carrying their cross and doing so in victory because of the Holy Spirit's power.

That is what Jesus means by, "You are the light of the world." The only way the world can see the light is if we become the light. We need to live lives of grace. We need to suffer with joy. As Paul puts it, "We need to know nothing except Jesus Chirst and Him crucified."

That means we will experience fear. That means the words we say will sound stupid much of the time. It is in our weakness that God's power becomes visible. That is when we become a light. When people see us as so weak we could not have succeeded except for the grace of God.

I think of Malcom Gladwell who recently wrote he had rediscovered his Christian faith. How? One family that carried a cross and ended up in a place of joy. People had their daughter murdered. They chose to forgive.
I wanted to know where the Derksens found the strength to say those things. A sexual predator had kidnapped and murdered their daughter, and Cliff Derksen could talk about sharing his love with the killer and Wilma could stand up and say, “We have all done something dreadful in our lives, or have felt the urge to.” Where do two people find the power to forgive in a moment like that?
That seemed like a relevant question to ask in a book called David and Goliath. The moral of the Biblical account of the duel between David and Goliath, after all, is that our preconceptions about where power and strength reside are false.
Malcom Gladwell is a smart guy and the Derksens could not have argued him back to church in a million years. Yet they were a light because they were Christ crucified.

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