The Light of Grace
Jesus made a practice of telling people who they were and what they could do.
He told a paralyzed man he could walk; he told a guilt-ridden woman she was forgiven; he told a three-day dead Lazarus to come out of his tomb.
In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus told his disciples then and tells us now by the Holy Spirit that they were and we are the light of the world.
You might think it's too high a compliment to call the Church the light of the world. Are we really that good, that significant, and that radiant?
And yet we can no more disclaim being the light of the world than could that lame man refuse to walk when he heard Jesus say "Take up your mat and walk," or could that woman turn her back on forgiveness when Jesus told her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more," or could Lazarus remain in the tomb when he heard the voice of Jesus calling to him, "Lazarus, come out!" The word of Jesus is a word of power. His word tells us who we are, what we can do, and makes it so.
The Sermon on the Mount, from which today's Scripture is taken, has a very specific setting. If you check Matthew, Chapter 5, verse 1, you'll find this arrangement: Jesus, then Jesus encircled by his disciples, then the disciples encircled by the crowd.
Jesus is the center-point. He is the light source, just as John 8:12 affirms: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 NRSV).
The disciples have the light of Jesus in them, and they in turn can share the light with those around them. You see it, don't you? We are the light of the world because we stay close to Jesus.
Gardner Taylor, whom many consider to be the dean of American's Black preachers, tells a story about when he was a young preacher in Louisiana during the depression years. Electricity was just coming into that part of the country and he was out in a rural Black church tha ...
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