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What does it mean to be a “light shining in the darkness”? Is it the words you speak everyday? Is it all about going to church? Is it about the things you do? This week's lessons probe these questions.
Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12) [13-14] – The lectionary assigns the first 9 verses and makes the next 3 optional. I have added the last two just to finish the chapter, because they deal with the same subject: right worship. The Lord wants to know why the people worship and seek the Lord yet their lives don’t reflect these things. The first 12 verses are concerned with fasting. The people fast (as a form of worship) but don’t receive any notice from the Lord. The Lord says it’s because they fast for all the wrong reasons: self-interest that leads to oppression of workers, quarrelling, and fighting. The people believe that fasting is all about sitting in sackcloth and ashes and not eating. The Lords says that the purpose is much more than not eating. It is about justice, freedom, feeding the hungry, giving room to the homeless, and covering the naked. When we do these things “then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (vs. 8) and our “light shall rise in the darkness and our gloom be like the noonday.” Verses 13 and 14 cover the same issues but related to Sabbath observance.
Psalm 112:1-9 (10) – “Happy (Blessed) are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments.” (vs. 1) The rest of the Psalms then goes on to describe the actions of that person: gracious, merciful, righteous, generous, lender (without interest is implied), just, firm hearts, secure in the Lord, distribute freely, and they give to the poor. This person “rises in the darkness as a light for the upright.” (vs. 4)
1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16) – This passage says nothing about light. The impart of this passage goes back to a line in this past week’s reading: “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.” (vs. 1:25). Paul came to Corinth not to be wiser then the Greek philosophers but with trembling and the Spirit so that the new believers would trust in God’s power and wisdom, not humanity’s. Humans who don’t believe and accept God and Jesus Christ will never understand God’s wisdom, but those who believe have received the Spirit which brings God’s wisdom. Verse 16 is interesting. Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13 to ask “Who knows God’s mind?” He then answers, “We do because we have the mind of Christ.” What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?
Matthew 5:13-20 – More from the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 13 is a troubling statement about being the salt of the earth and losing its saltiness. Wrestle with this verse. 14-16 is about being a light to the world. That light needs to be set up high so all will see it, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Reminds me of the Sunday School song verse, “Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine.” In verses 17-20 Jesus says that he came to fulfill all of the Law and Prophets and the Law will persist in its entirety until the end. Those who break the law will be least in the Kingdom and those who keep it will be greatest. Notice that Jesus, in this passage at least, does not say the Law breakers will be cast into eternal Hell and Damnation. They too will be in the Kingdom, but with a lesser status. From this point on in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus goes on to reinterpret the Law; many times making it even tougher. (You have heard “don’t commit adultery” but I say don’t look at another person with lust.)
I pray that these words will inspire you to explore each reading so that your light may shine in a world of darkness.