Fr David's Sermon
25th September 2005
When you are by the sea on a dark evening you can become aware of bright flashes in the distance. At first you think you imagined it. Then you see it again. Then you realise it must be a lighthouse. You cannot fail to see such a bright light even in the dark. That's the whole point of a lighthouse. It's the same in the countryside when flashing car lights reveal a hidden lane on a hillside. Woodland cannot obscure the light. Even a candle burning in a dark room reveals its light.
Jesus described himself as the light of the world. In today's epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of the 'light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.' But there is a problem; unlike all those other lights, the light of Christ doesn't shine clearly. As we know, as he knew, most people don't seem to see it. Why?
That Jesus is the image of God seems clear to us. We gain great strength from our faith. It gives meaning to our lives. It lightens our darkness. Yet to many of our neighbours Christianity seems meaningless or irrelevant. We often wonder why. Why are we different?
St. Paul obviously wrestled with the same question. His answer was that the gospel was veiled. 'The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers', he says. Blind, they cannot see the light of Christ.
There is more. He speaks of the cost of Christianity as well of its joys. That he says 'since it is by God's mercy that we engage in this ministry, we do not lose heart', suggests that losing heart is a temptation. He also lists some of the things Christians are called to give up, 'shameful things that one hides... cunning... falsifying.'
Christians no longer proclaim themselves. Rather they proclaim Jesus as Lord and themselves as slaves. Seeing Christ as the image of God, seeing him as light means changing and giving things up. It is God who calls us to change and enables us to change if we let him! St. Paul expressed it like this: -
' For it is the God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,
who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.'
St. Matthew, our Saint, was one who lived in darkness. As a corrupt tax collector, no stranger to bribes and extortion he was very rich. He was also hated and terribly isolated and alone. That was until he heard the call of Jesus, 'Follow me'. At that moment he saw the light of Christ. He changed he became a new creation he joined the party with all those other illumined tax collectors and sinners. Materially poorer he had discovered true riches. In the words of Proverbs he had found wisdom, something surpassing silver, gold and jewels.
The tradition of the Church came to see wisdom as the Holy Spirit, the same spirit that enlightened St. Matthew, giving him fullness of life.
Ours is an age of relative comfort and wealth. Some of course remain disadvantaged and in poverty but many have great riches in material terms. When we have riches we tend to want to cling on them and to acquire still more. But says the Gospel riches can get a grip on us. What the collect calls a possessive love of riches can all to easily turn off the light plunging us in to darkness. That seems to give an accurate spiritual diagnosis of modern Britain. Someone is switching off the light.
As we give thanks to today for St. Matthew we can pray that we too may be similarly illumined so that we can see in Jesus the image of God. We can also pray that we may be so lit up with Christ light that others will see too. In our 125th year we can pray that our church will be a Christian lighthouse in our community.
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