Sermon for Year A, The Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
February 9, 2014
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
A city on a hill cannot be hid, or at at any rate it ought not to,
And all things considered it sounds like it’d be a pain in the neck to try.
A lamp that has been lit should not be extinguished.
So, Jesus says, in the same way, let your own light shine,
That others may see your good works and give glory.
God has a longing for us to be about sharing the love that is within us.
There’s a little story about all this from our favorite author, Anonymous.
Since I don’t know Anonymous personally, I have taken many liberties with his or her story.
What remains is the kernel of the story. But I have to say, it wasn’t mine to begin with.
So imagine that it’s nighttime. You’re at home.
You come into your living room with plans for reading or watching TV
Or listening to music or maybe just noodling around on Facebook.
It’s quiet. It’s a bit dark. It’s a little cold in the house.
You turn the switch on a nearby lamp.
There’s a quick flash of light, and a small pinging sound --
Telltale signs of a bulb that’s gone out on you.
You unscrew the bad light bulb, set it aside, and go searching for a new one.
(You know, in a few hundred years, when light bulbs last for centuries,
This illustration really isn’t going to mean much for people, is it?)
At any rate. You know the place where the new light bulbs are kept.
(Ours is on the top shelf of a little closet in the kitchen.)
They come, let’s say, four to a box.
You take the first one out of the box.
It emits a tiny scream.
Please, no! it says, and you turn it over in your hand;
And to your shock, it has a little pair of eyes and a mouth.
It looks like it’s been crying.
I’m not ready! And it starts sobbing. Don’t take me out of here!
“Oh, little light bulb, it’s gonna be okay.”
But I told you already, I’m not ready for this!
I tell you, I need more time; I need more preparation.
“You look like a perfectly fine light bulb to me.
What could you possibly need that you don’t yet have?”
Umm... Well... Research! Yeah! There is still much more research to do!
“Look, little bulb, you’re ready to go, buddy. The living room is dark. I need help in there now.”
But he just stares at you with pleading, tear-filled eyes. Put me BACK!
Well. You can’t help but have pity on this one.
He’s clearly not going on his own.
So you put him back into his little slot.
Maybe the next one will bring better luck.
No! Don’t take me out of this box!
What, seriously? Another one like this?
I am in the middle of something very important right now, and you just interrupted me.
Oh. Sorry. But if you don’t mind my asking, what were you doing that was so important?
I was Meditating.
Philosophically meditating. Becoming enlightened. On the subject ... of Light.
Why, did you know that the speed of light is almost 300 million meters per second?
That’s 186,000 miles in one second -- 700 million miles an hour!
And did you know that nothing can go faster than that? Nothing! Just imagine it.
Well, okay. That does seem impressive.
But what I’m wondering about is this:
See, our living room is dark right now, because the old bulb went out,
And I really need to use your power to light the room at 700 million miles an hour or whatever,
So I can read the comics page.
And you’re ... a -- a light bulb, which is ... what I need.
But I’m meditating! Or at least I was, before you rudely pulled me away.
I don’t have to take this, you know.
Okay, look. Maybe for now you can go back. There are still two other bulbs in the box.
Why don’t I just put you back, and you can get back to doing your thing, okay?
And with a stony expression he says, Fine. Thank you.
And back in the box he goes.
So that’s one Unprepared and one Meditating.
Gosh, you’d never have thought light bulbs could have such strong opinions.
You reach in for the third bulb, and --
Please! Please! Put me back! Put me back!
Okay, I’ll bite. What is your issue, that you don’t want to be the light?
Well, I am just not in a place right now where I can think about stuff like that.
I kind of have some things that I’m going through, in my life,
And someone said I really needed to to look after myself
Before I could go off on some fantasy about ever being a light bulb.
Really? Somebody told you that?
I wonder who.
Yeah, so anyway, I’m just not totally stable right now.
If you put me in that socket, there’s no telling what’s going to happen.
Okay. I hear that. But ... let me ask you this.
You are a light bulb, right?
I mean, the job I’m asking you to do is the one you were made for, right?
Well, sure. Of course.
And -- again, you were made for this purpose, right?
And I bought you off the shelf and brought you home and you sat there a few months,
And now the moment of truth has arrived.
And. For some reason you don’t think you’re fit to do this?
Oh, no, no, no -- I can do it. I’m just not ready right now. See?
To be honest, little bulb, No. I don’t see.
I suppose that’s the whole issue, isn’t it?
The place is dark.
But if you won’t go in, I guess I’ll put you back in the box.
I’m just telling you, this is your moment.
And listen -- I HEAR that -- and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
Thank you so much. I’ll just be in here.
Well. Last one! Let’s hope it’s a good one.
So. Okay. You ready to go out there and be a light bulb?
We could sure use your talent right now on Team Living Room.
Um. Oh. OH! A light bulb? Oh my gosh that’s funny.
No -- no disrespect or anything -- and I LOVE light bulbs --
But -- just -- it’s not really my thing.
You know, I figure -- I’m just gonna live my life
And that will produce plenty of light.
You’re going to live your life. In the box. In this closet. All of your days?
You’re going to be a light bulb, but you’re not going to let your actual light shine?
Yeah -- that’s about the size of it.
Plus, I mean, that whole scene -- bulbs burning brightly -- it’s not for me.
No judgment if that’s your thing, but I simply prefer to be quiet.
And besides all that, every socket in this house is filled with hypocrites,
And we all know it.
I think I just want to keep my being a bulb on the down-low --
You know, so as not to risk offending anyone.
Uh-huh, uh-huh. Okay; so, just so I have this straight, you want to be a light bulb,
But you don’t want to be affiliated with any particular lamp or outlet.
Is that it?
Yes! Well said.
But you were the last light in the box.
What am I supposed to do now?
“You are the light of the world. A city ... on a hill cannot be hid.
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works
And give glory to your Father in heaven.”
It’s an ancient notion, the old Jewish ideal:
That the people of God are a light to the rest of the world,
And that when the people of the world are witness to the light,
They in turn will come in streams to that same light.
So may all the salvation of the whole world be accomplished,
And the peace of God infiltrate each heart and cause us to cast aside our weapons of war:
When all have come to the light,
Been touched by the light,
And in turn have themselves become the light.
An old idea -- potent and true.
But every link in the chain is of absolute necessity.
If the people of the light will not burn brightly,
Then how is the world supposed to know, or to come to it?
I feel -- and I wonder if you might, too --
That God’s Spirit has come among us and begun to stir up a new thing --
A new way to be light and salt, a city on a hill.
Do you feel it yet? Do you see it?
From way down, in deep connection to our past,
In looking forward to the future,
And rooted in the here-and-now,
A light is burning.
New times will call for new ways to be light, excuses will come in and out of fashion,
But the need for light will never go away.
And so the light of God will always burn.
The only question is whether you wish to play your part.