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Date: February 5, 2017 (Epiphany 5) 1. Texts: Isaiah 58:1-9a; Ps. 112:1-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; Matthew 5:13-20. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: reflecting God’s mission in our discipleship. 4. Aim: educate, encourage. 5. Proposition: “God shines in us, we shine in the world.”


Lately I’ve been struck recently by the number of Christian songs joyfully singing about shining in the darkness: “Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory.” “This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.” “Christ be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness!” “Jesus bids us shine with a pure, clear light...” Lately this topic of shining seems to be coming up a lot. That shouldn’t really be surprising. After all, “shining” is a common metaphor in both Old and New Testaments and most of our worship comes from the Bible. We should hear about this shining. But did you notice that there are two kinds of shining? Or maybe better said, there are two directions for this shining. First and most significant, God shines in our lives. God pours his presence, justice, righteousness and love into the world, and we perceive that as his holy brightness in the midst of our darkened world. God shines down from heaven to brighten our lives. Of course, we see this primarily and most effectively demonstrated in Jesus himself. Jesus shone in all that he said and did. He even described for us what that shining would look like: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives Page 2 of 5 -Reflecting God in our ministries- and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’1 The Holy Spirit dwelt fully and was expressed perfectly in Jesus, who was the embodiment of God’s light, love, justice and grace. This is the reality of which we sing when we sing, “Shine, Jesus, shine.” The second direction of God’s shining is outward to the world through his disciples. We shine in the world because we have experienced God’s shining love and grace in our own lives. The life of the Christian disciple reflects the glory, righteousness and love of God. This is remarkable: our words and actions not only work to create a just and loving world, they also reflect the justice and love of God thereby proving his justice and love. Let that truth sit in front of you for a moment: our words and actions not only reflect God, but work for him and demonstrate his reality. [Pause.] That’s what the Sunday School means when it sings, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.” The Christian disciple is the point of intersection between the two directions of God’s shining. We first perceive and experience the outpouring of God’s grace, forgiveness and love. Then our lives become the testimony to God’s reality and presence. God pours his eternal and saving love into our world through us and we become the demonstration of how God shines. “Christ be our light” and “Jesus bids us shine with a pure, clear light” are united in the life and testimony of the Christian disciple. That really is what Jesus meant in that “Sermon on the Mount”: ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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 way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.2 And, in actual fact, Isaiah outlined what those shining good works should be: 1 Luke 4:18-19. 2 Matthew 5:14-16. Page 3 of 5 -Reflecting God in our ministriesIs not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…3 When we act out God’s love, justice and righteousness in the world, we shine with the radiance of his glory and proclaim the reality of his presence. Of course, it is not enough to just do the good things in the world. If we are to shine with the radiance of God’s glory, then we also have to be his love, justice and righteousness in the world. Doing good works does not make you a Christian disciple. Being a nice person and serving the world is not the same as being a Christian disciple. True, the Christian disciple must behave justly and righteously. True, the Christian disciple must demonstrate love, kindness and generosity. But our actions and words must stem from a life-changing relationship with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian faith is morality in action—yes—but it is more than mere morality. Christian faith is a lifetransforming relationship with God as he proclaimed himself in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Genuine faith precedes, motivates and directs our good works and the expression of our discipleship. So, now we’ve come to the crux of the issue. It is not enough to be a good person. Good behaviour is not the same as Christian faith. In fact, in order to do good works that proclaim the reality of God, the disciple must first have personally experienced that reality in ways that transform how the disciple lives, moves and exists. It is in response to that experience of the love, grace and forgiveness of God that the disciple can then shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory. 3 Isaiah 58:6-8a. Page 4 of 5 -Reflecting God in our ministriesThis dynamic—the flow from God to the disciple and then outwards to the world—is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. This dynamic identifies and characterizes us. It provides the direction and impetus of our proclamation. In all our worship, preaching, teaching and ministry, we simply pass on that which we have first received.4 Which must mean, of course, that we have first received it—and this is where it begins to get a little uncomfortable. Believing that God exists is not the same as believing God. Knowing that Jesus lived is not the same as knowing Jesus. God is not some theological construct, a philosophy to be studied and learned. God is a being, alive, active and involved in our world. Jesus was no good teacher or even a prophet. Jesus is God inside time, space and human experience. The Christian disciple does not believe that or know that… The Christian disciple believes God as he proclaims himself in Jesus. The Christian disciple knows Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The disciple’s existence, understanding and actions are transformed by the encounter with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. The knowledge of the disciple is not theoretical or even theological—the knowledge of the disciple is experiential, based on the transforming presence of the Spirit. So, let’s see if we can handle making a distinction between the believer and the disciple. The believer maintains that belief in a god is a good thing and that there is likely a god who lives in another dimension. The believer says that worshipping together is good for building community and that prayer is a good thing to help people feel better and cope with their stresses. The Christian disciple says that God lives at the centre of her life and that this God is pouring his attention and energies into this world. The disciple says that God summons the community together in worship so that his Church might be strengthened for ministry. The disciple says that since faith is a relationship, it demands that we pray. You see? There is a distinction between people who believe in the existence of God and those who are disciples of Jesus Christ. It might be uncomfortable as we share our faith relationship with the outside world, but we really need to cope with the distinctions between believer and disciple. 4 1 Corinthians 15:3. Page 5 of 5 -Reflecting God in our ministriesThose distinctions will be and should be noticed. They are the distinctions noticed back in New Testament days.5 The changed life of the disciple is distinctive and proclaims the reality of God’s saving grace. The disciple experiences that grace and then channels it onwards to the world. That’s really what all this singing about shining means. God shines in us and then we allow that to shine through us. “Shine, Jesus, shine” so that we might let our “light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father in heaven.” This reality is at the centre of our discipleship and so at the core of all our ministries. No wonder we’ve been singing about this a lot lately. AMEN.