Recently I was preaching at the anniversary of a Baptist church here in Essex. As an aside, unlike Anglican churches Baptists don’t have patronal festivals. Instead, every year they mark the anniversary of the time when people came together to form a church.
I took as my text the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 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. In the same sway, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Or as Eugene Peterson put it in The Message:
Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light-stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hill-top, on a light-stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, the generous Father in heaven.
That Sunday my sermon had five short points, of which the third point was headed: ‘Each one of us is to shine’. I began this third section by saying that each one us has the task of pointing to Jesus, who makes all the difference to the darkness, the gloom, the lack of hope, which so many experience. Then, in answer to the question, ‘How can we point our families, our friends and our neighbours to Jesus?’, I gave them the following six examples of how they might let their light shine. Let me quote from my sermon:
- Bring your friends to Alpha. I checked your website and discovered that after Easter you began another Alpha course here. One way of sharing the light is by telling others about the Alpha course and then bringing them along to it.
- Invite your friends into your home and in the process tell them what Jesus means to you. Incidentally, don’t preach them a sermon. That would be a real turn-off. But at some stage tell them how Jesus has transformed your life.
- If you have friends who read books, then give them a book which talks about the difference that Jesus makes to life. If you want a recommendation, then let me suggest you give them a copy of Dear England: Finding Hope, Taking Heart and Changing the World by Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York. It costs less than £10 and is written in a simple yet challenging manner. I was so impressed with it, I bought four copies for my four eldest grandchildren.
- At Christmas and Easter send your friends a card which speaks of Jesus, rather than of Santa Claus and Easter bunnies. Last Easter, for instance, I sent out to family and to friends a card which declared ‘Christ is risen! Hallelujah’. Then to friends and family who live beyond the UK, I scanned the Easter card and then added some words from Clement of Alexandria: ‘Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawns’.
- If you belong to an organisation outside the church, then ask for an opportunity to tell your family members about what Jesus means to you. I, for instance, belong to a Rotary club and I have told them on more than one occasion of my love for Jesus. What’s more, I recommend Christians I know to come and to speak to our club. My experience is that because my fellow members are my friends, even those who say they are agnostic will listen.
- If you move house, have a housewarming party and ask your minister to come and ask God’s blessing on your new home. If you have a baby, have a lunch party in your home, and again ask your minister to come and ask God’s blessing on the new arrival. Keep your minister busy – she will be delighted to be invited into your home for such an occasion.
Yes, in one way or another each one of us has the task of pointing our family, our friends and our neighbours to Jesus. We are to let our light shine!