Last weekend I was at Isle of Palms in Charleston, SC in the middle of a significant winter storm. I always think of lighthouses when I’m at the beach, especially the Carolina beaches where there are so many around, but this time I thought of them because of the terrible wind, ice and cold. I wonder about what it must have looked like to those coming in to land on the shores of these beaches long ago; to sail around the barrier islands in the middle of the night. In the middle of a storm, with bitter wind churning the sea and tiny bullets of frozen rain pelting down, what must that have been like? In good weather, there would have been stars and the moon to get your bearings, but in bad weather, there would be no light from the heavens to guide you.
As I stood in the warm, dry and quite safe Lutheran Costal Retreat Center looking out into the frigid, lightless night, I thought of what remarkable and profound hope the sight of a lighthouse must have been to sea captains and sailors on nights like this.
In our gospel lesson for today, Jesus is just getting started in what will be a roughly three chapter sermon. It began with the beatitudes from last week’s text: all those “blessed”s. Today, he continues to teach his followers about the kingdom of heaven and how the people of that kingdom act in this world. Jesus uses the symbolic image of light and it must have been one of his favorites because he uses it frequently!
In this section he tells his disciples and us: You are the light of the world! ….
Let you light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. We have those words in our baptismal rite. Just after the central piece of the baptism, the water part, the family or sponsors present a lighted candle to the newly baptized and say those very words. That is a very important part of our baptism and of who we are as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We’ve all been given light; light that come from Jesus himself.
Makes me think of that children’s song: this little light of mine. Can you remember it? It is simple but it teaches a profound truth. No matter how little we are, we have light. No matter how small, insignificant, helpless or even powerless we may feel, we still have that light…..