Matthew 5:13-20

Are We Hiding Our Faith?

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Matthew 5:13-20

Are We Hiding Our Faith?

Dr. Keith Wagner

Last weekend I was carrying my granddaughter as we walked by a pond. I was holding her up high so that she could see. It was dark and my 3 year old granddaughter said, “Look Papa! The water has light in it. What makes it do that Papa?” I looked at the light reflecting in the pond and knew I had to think of something fast. I’m no scientist but I sensed that my granddaughter was seeking some explanation. I responded by pointing to the lights in the area. “Look there,” I said, ” the light in the pond is a reflection from the street lights and lights from the restaurant.”

For a few more seconds she just glazed at the light in the water pondering over this simple but radiant spectacle. I must have given her a sufficient answer since my granddaughter didn’t pursue the subject. We walked a bit farther and I turned her over to her mother who placed her in her car seat. “I love you Papa”, she said. Then we hugged and kissed and I said “I love you too.”

This brief encounter may seem small compared to the mysteries of the universe. But, for me it was a very profound experience. My granddaughter was captivated by the reflection of lights in the pond. Had I not been holding her she wouldn’t have noticed. My response seemed adequate. Perhaps because I am her grandfather she would believe anything I said. Or, perhaps because she was able to see and felt safe and secure in the arms of someone who loved her.

When I look back on that event I am reminded of Jesus’ metaphor for his followers. “You are the light of the world.” I wonder when people look at me if they see light being reflected in the darkness? Does the light of God radiate from me? Is my faith visible? When people are near me do they sense the presence of God? Am I like the pond, receiving the light of God and reflecting it in a way that gets people’s attention?

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I do not wear a cross around my neck. I do not have a sticker on my car that says, “clergy.” I have never worn a clerical collar. When I travel I don’t use the name Reverend. I like to be incognito. I prefer to blend in with the crowd. Does that mean I am hiding my faith? What does Jesus mean when he tells us we are the light of the world?

I read an article by Roble Nebres recently entitled “Reflect the Light.” He tells about the time he drove to the summit of Mt. Haleakala. After watching the sunset it became dark and he became anxious about the descent down the steep, winding road. When he left the parking lot the median strips on the road suddenly came alive with reflectorized lights. They provided a much needed directional guide on the mountain road.

The reflectors illuminated the way for Nebres who made his descent safely down the treacherous mountain road. The reflectors, however were useless without his headlights shining on them. The light they gave depended on the light from another source. Otherwise they could not help him see.

When Jesus told his disciples they were the “light of the world” I believe he meant they were to be reflectors of the light of God. God is the illuminating source. God provides the light that is reflected from us. And God needs us to be reflectors of God’s light to a world of darkness.

When it comes to being a person of faith, think of yourself as a reflector. Two things have to happen: First, you have to capture or receive the light. Second, you position yourself to cast a reflection of the light in a certain direction. As one who is a reflector you are limited. You can’t reflect 360 degrees. When you do reflect your light you have a target where the light is aimed.

A single church cannot be all things to all people. Nor can a person of faith change the lives of everyone around them. One must be selective. In other words, direct your light where your mission is (a) realistic, (b) manageable and (3) attainable. We live in such a complex world that we are pulled in a myriad of directions. The light we reflect will be more effective when we have selected targets that are within the limits of our time and resources. The reason so many people are stressed out these days is that they are trying to do it all. Rather than make selections which are realistic and within their resources they are more like a floodlight, trying to illuminate everything around them.

The night my granddaughter saw the reflection in the pond was during the Super Bowl. Had I been sitting in my easy chair at home instead of spending the evening with my family I would have missed an experience which has reminded me of the value of reflecting the light of God.

It is impossible to reflect your light in all directions simultaneously. It is also harmful to focus all of your light to a single target. When you take a mirror and capture the sunlight, you can reflect it great distances. But, if you focus the beam on a single spot it will get hot or burn up. Just as people are over stressed from going in to many directions they can also be over stressed by being consumed with a single mission.

Whenever our jobs, our hobbies or our extra curricular activities are demanding excessive amounts of our energy we can easily get burned out. We therefore have to position ourselves in such a way that our light is reflected to alternative targets. Sometimes the light needs to be reflected back to ourselves to give us rest, nourishment or enlightenment.

I like the reflectors on highway 29, East of Sidney. The road at night lights up like a runway at the airport. You can see to drive clearly for miles. But in early January the road was covered with snow. The reflectors were hidden beneath layers of snow, ice and mud. It was so bad on one particular evening that you had to keep focused on the telephone poles along the road to find your way. When there were no telephone poles you had to rely on luck.

When we are covered with “layers of slush” the light of God can’t be reflected from us. Our lives have to stay warmed to the love of God to keep off the slush. Or we may need a little “salt” to melt those layers away. We may also have to change our position from time to time so that we are able to receive the light. Our faith remains hidden when we are not receiving the warmth of God’s love. Our faith remains hidden when we are not in a position to reflect the light. Our faith is hidden when our lives are inundated with mounds of snow and ice, layers of ice coldness.

By being reflectors of God’s light and aiming that light to people or problems that are within our limits we will be effective disciples. By making changes now and then and positioning our lives in such a way to receive the light of God there will always be some light reflecting from us and our faith will never be hidden.

Copyright 2010, Keith Wagner.  Used by permission.