This morning’s fairly short gospel lesson (Luke 8:16-25) contains three different parts that deserve full attention—don’t hide your light under a bushel, who are my mother and brothers but those who do God’s will, and who is this that even wind and water obey him. A lengthy sermon could be written on any of them—and it’s nice to have a choice—but I’m drawn to the first of the three. A few months ago, the light-under-a-bushel theme came up on Sunday, and I wanted to say something about it, but, for whatever reason, I was led in another direction. And now I have another chance.
In my experience of parish life, there are far too many of us who don’t even realize that we have (or are) a light to shine. I wonder if the same was true in Jesus’ day. You [people] are the light of the world. You have a light to shine. You are a light to shine. Why would you hide that light? Yet we hide it all the time.
For starters, we not only hide the light but also hide the fact that we have a light in the first place. We hide it from others because we first hide it from ourselves. Why is that? Is there a great multitude of the earthly chorus saying to us over and over, “You don’t matter. You don’t have something of value to contribute?” Yet I don’t think the answer is to look in the mirror every morning (a la SNL/Al Franken’s Stuart Smally) and convince ourselves of the opposite. In other words, the problem isn’t a lack of ego (there’s too much of that going around). The problem, I think, is that we don’t realize that we have an important part to play in God’s plan.
We are the light of the world. We are called to share that light. But we hide it. We ignore the fact that God has given us a call. Too few of us approach each day as if God has given us work to do. And that work isn’t just “church work.” It’s doing the world’s work on God’s behalf. No matter what one’s “calling” it’s still a calling—a divine commissioning. And that’s the source of our light.
We are lights for the world because God has called us to do his work—right where we are, right now, every day. The mediocrity of the daily grind should give way to the light of God’s calling. Instead, we allow our particular circumstances and, more importantly, our deflated opinion of those circumstances to hide whatever light we have called to be. We underestimate the power of our predicament. If we knew we had a light to shine, we wouldn’t hide it. As Jesus said, “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand…” He didn’t say it, but I can hear him mumbling, “What are you, an idiot?” We must be crazy to hide our light. But we’ve got to acknowledge that we have a light to share before we can put it on a stand.