Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Epiphany 5

"Are we Lighthouses or Rusting Relics?"

Matthew 5:14-16

Feb. 5, 2017

A while back, I was watching a documentary on lighthouses. With the coming of radar, sonar and GPS systems, most of them are now considered obsolete. Once upon a time, lighthouses provided an important navigation service for ships. They showed them that land was close-by and warned of dangerous shoals. Now, many of them are little more than rusting relics. They're pretty to look at but have no more than decorative function.

When our Lord taught His disciples on the mountain side, He told them that they were to be the light of the world. We are the church. We are the city on the hill. We are to be lighthouses shining the light of Christ into the spiritual darkness of the world. As we look about us, the question we must ask is this: Are we lighthouses or rusting relics? Listen again to the words of our Lord.

Matthew 5:14-16. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 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 who is in heaven.

Jesus tells us we are the light of the world. Here's the question. What does it mean for us as a congregation to be the light of the world? We are supposed to shine the light of Christ into our neighborhoods, community and the world. We are to witness the love of Christ in our words and actions. When others take note of this, we don't point to ourselves seeking their applause. Rather, we point them to the Father through whom we have become a blessing and light.

As we survey the impact of the church in the world today we must ask ourselves: are we lighthouses or rusting relics? What happens when a lighthouse no longer serves the purpose for which it was built? It becomes a museum to the past. Often, these rusting relics become too costly to maintain. Without some dedicated volunteers they fall into a state of disrepair. Sooner or later they either fall down or are torn down.

You don't have to look far to see congregations that have become rusting relics. Oh, often the shell is there. In fact, it may be a beautiful shell just as many old lighthouses are beautiful. Yet, they no longer shine the light of Christ into the darkness of the world. Look at all the beautiful churches in Europe that are little more than museum pieces. Once they were lighthouses, now they are relics because they no longer shine the light of Christ into the world.

What does it mean for us to be a lighthouse? The light from the lighthouse: penetrates the darkness, warns, invites, guides and comforts. The Light of Christ in and through us does the same thing. Through us, the Light of Christ penetrates the spiritual darkness of the world. The question we need to ask is: are we a lighthouse? Is the Light of Christ still shining from us into the world?

Why is the light of Christ so important today? Most people understand there is evil in the world. Yet, they like to downplay just how much evil permeates every aspect of life. Evil comes at us in its most brutish form as we see murder, mischief and mayhem. Evil is more subtle in the gossip and innuendo of casual conversation. Nevertheless, the purpose of evil is destruction. Evil doesn't care if this destruction is physical, emotional or to one's reputation. In the end, when the deed is done, evil triumphs.

The antidote to evil is the Light of Christ. Just as the light from the lighthouse penetrates the darkness of the night, so the light of Christ shines into our darkened hearts. This light brings us hope and healing. When the light of Christ penetrates the darkness of our hearts, it shines forgiveness of sins and restoration as children to the Father.

The Light of Christ warns. In the Light of Christ we have both the Law and the Gospel. The Law continues to provide its functions to us as a curb, mirror and rule. The Law shows us our sin and our desperate condition before God. The Light of Christ not only shows us our sin but shows us our Savior in His Gospel.

The Light of Christ invites us to find safe haven in His church. The church is the city on the hill. Like the old forts on the American frontier, it provides a place of haven and safety when the hostiles of the world seek to over-run and destroy us.

The old forts on the frontier were busy places. They not only provided a place of shelter but they were busy out-fitting the people for their travel into the new land. They equipped those getting ready to settle with the tools and information they needed to put down new roots in the land. They refreshed the travelers and sojourners before sending them on their way again. Every Sunday and Wednesday when we gather to hear, learn and share the Word of God, we function in the same way.

The church is supposed to be a busy place sheltering, equipping, encouraging, strengthening and helping one another grow in Christ. After we come to be refreshed in the Word and the sacraments, we are sent back into the world bearing the Light of Christ. Even as we leave, the church remains a lighthouse to our community.

The Light of Christ guides us just as the light from the city on the hill guides people. You can't accomplish much if you're groping around in the darkness. The light draws you. Ships on the sea used the light to guide them to the safety of the harbor.

The Light of Christ comforts. If you're being tossed around in a wild storm on the sea, the light from the lighthouse immediately brings a sense of comfort. Jesus offers us His comfort in the cross. We have the assurance of God's love and His forgiveness. Yet, the cross is not supposed to be simply decorative. It is a sign to us of our blood-won salvation in Jesus Christ.

A lighted cross atop a church steeple, is supposed to be a reminder of the hope and comfort we have in our Savior Jesus Christ. If the building that cross sits on is no longer a lighthouse but a rusting relic, it no longer serves its purpose. The light is just another light in the night and little more than light pollution. It's no longer functional.

By God's grace, we pray that we will continue to be God's lighthouse in our community. We pray that we don't become another rusting relic that no longer serves the purpose for which it was built. Once again, we rejoice that the Lord comes to us today in the Word and in the sacrament to assure us of the forgiveness of our sins, restore, refresh and empower us to leave here as those who let the Light of Christ shine into the world that all we say and do will reflect the love of Christ in, through and among us to the glory of the Father. Amen.


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