Let Your Light Shine – Let it Shine!

Oct 01, 2023

18th Sunday after Pentecost
Stewardship Emphasis – Matthew 5:14-16
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
“Let your light shine – let it shine.
Let your light shine – let it shine.
Share your talent and your time – stewardship can be divine!
Let your light shine!”
     Sometimes people are nervous about a church’s stewardship emphasis, but, especially with Sarah Kaufman’s help, we have fun with stewardship. It’s divine!
     If you are unsure to what I’m referring, let me first say, “Welcome to our 3-week Stewardship Emphasis.” Stewardship is a word used in some congregations, like ours, but it may not be common in others, or used in people’s day-to-day lives. Yet, to greater or lesser degrees we are involved in stewardship – which is careful, responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care – all the time.
     Stewardship is not a foreign concept as we care for the earth - its air, oceans and beaches, forests and creatures; as we manage communities - homes, schools, libraries and parks; as we preserve culture – museums and their collections, music and dance that are kept alive through performance.  We also are stewards of people, developing our own physical, mental, social, psychological and spiritual well-being, as well as that of others, especially those in need of support.
     When it comes to the church, though, stewardship is not so easily defined. We are stewards of God’s grace, love and mercy; we are stewards of God’s Word, particularly the Good News about Jesus; we are stewards of faith and faithfulness. In a Christian community like ours, stewardship involves sharing, expressing, teaching, worshipping, communicating, all of which we group under the heading of ministry. Ministry happens through people, programs and buildings, which require the sharing of time, talents and money in order to care for that which God has entrusted to us.
     That’s stewardship. In every arena I mentioned it grows out of gratitude – hopefully for what is seen as gifts from God - and the desire that that which has been entrusted to our care will continue and flourish.
     For us, that’s particularly true of the stewardship of God’s grace, love and mercy. God has instilled in us the light of his grace and love, and it is our privilege to let it shine. As our theme scripture proclaims, “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 a bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
     We are the light, and the city is our congregation. The lamp stand is the base that supports our shining; it could be a number of things, including scripture, worship, each other.
     Jesus spoke this now well-known verse during his Sermon on the Mount. It followed what we call the beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn, the meek, the merciful…”, and preceded challenging teaching like, “…love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” These are examples of the “good works” that, when done, result in people glorifying God. Jesus is making it clear to his disciples that to be the light of the world is to be the activity of God in the world, which often is challenging, but can result in people giving glory to God.
     He also is making it clear that there is no room for seeking comfort or being complacent. A hidden light is useless, but a light that all can see may keep someone from tripping, or help others find their way. Then, because of us - because our light is shining - God is glorified. That, my friends, is the result of stewardship.
     Often, we are unaware of how shining our light makes an impact, but sometimes we are given a flash of insight. A number of years ago, maybe as long as 10, we had what was called the “Bus Stop Ministry” when, on cold days, Faith members let their light shine by making a pot of hot soup and then offering it to the people at the bus stop in front of the church, along with a warm greeting.
     As you can imagine, it took some courage to do this, not knowing who one would encounter or how they might respond. People were mostly gracious, even if they said “no thanks” to the soup. It was a unique way to let our light shine.
     This past May, a surprising thing happened. Dineen was approach by someone who had been warmed by that soup – now remember, this is at least a decade ago – and she gave her a small donation for our church out of gratitude and the desire to give back. It’s not the donation that is the significant part of this story, it is that bus-stop-patron experienced light, and it brightened her day so much that she glorified God years later.
     There are many ways we can be light, including how we treat our loved ones, even if they annoy us, and the respect we show to strangers. Speaking of which … last Sunday at the 10:30 a.m. service we had a visitor who, as he took a seat as the sermon began, visibly made people uncomfortable. He appeared worn, dirty and tired; I thought he probably was living on the streets, which, it turned out, was the case.  
     I will say that as the service continued, the other worshippers relaxed, and David W. gets points not only for inviting our guest to communion, but making an effort to talk with him when worship ended and accompanying  him to the Welcome Center for coffee. Jason asked for food, which I gave him from our emergency supply, along with a gift card. He also needed to charge his phone in order to call the places he might get support, whose numbers I had given him. One resource was the Peter Maurin Center, which provides care for people in need and without housing. But, that’s not the entire story.
      As I was pulled away to another concern, I invited Jason to stay in the Welcome Center while his phone charged, even if David had to leave (which he didn’t) and told him I’d be back to check on him. On my way out, I spoke with Bonnie J., whose husband, Lou, volunteers at the Peter Maurin Center, asking if she knew if any services were available there on Sunday. It turned out that a meal was being served that day; I was contemplating that as I did what I needed to do and returned to the Welcome Center, only to find that Jason was not there. “What happened to Jason?”, I asked. It turned out that Bonnie had texted Lou, who was at Mass at St. Hilary, and he picked Jason up and took him where he could get a meal and more help.
     In the midst of all this, Jason looked me in the eye and said, “Meeting you was not an accident. It was meant to be.” That’s what letting our light shine so that others give glory to God looks like.
     There are many ways to do so that perhaps are not as extreme, including the effort we give and commitment we show to a job or volunteer task and how we listen to people. Then there’s next week’s Ministry Fair, when we will be celebrating the multitude of ways people’s light shines here at Faith Lutheran Church, and beyond, through our ministries. These ministries exist only through the sharing of time, talent and money and are the ways we care for that which God has entrusted to us – God’s own grace, love, mercy, God’s Word and the faith. The song says it all, stewardship is divine! AMEN