I was interested in reading last week that China landed a rocket on the moon and obtained some samples from the moon’s surface. I am always fascinated by moon travel and expeditions to other planets.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that the worst thing humankind ever did was land a man on the moon.
Now, he says, everything is compare to that. We can land a man on the moon but I can’t get a decent cup of coffee. Or, as I heard recently, we can land a man on the moon but we can’t introduce reliable quarantine or contact tracing. I just love when it’s a full moon and in the early evening as it is rising it is so big you can see so much detail on it.
I’ve always thought that John the Baptist reminds me of the moon. He came rising onto the scene out of nowhere – from the wilderness – and told the people that he is not the light but was pointing the people to the light: He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. And that’s what the moon does. The light is not its own light but it merely reflects the light of the sun. And what’s interesting is that the sun is nowhere to be seen – it’s at the opposite end of the world. And yet it shines the sun bright enough to bring light in the deepest darkness.
And that’s what we are called to also be as Christians. Jesus says – “You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. So just as John was a witness to the light, we are to be a witness to the light. The light of Christ. And we do that by reflecting the light of Christ in all that we do. Because people look at us and they don’t just judge us by the things we do or say but they judge God as well.
As we look to see how we are reflecting the light of God it is often helpful to look in the mirror to see what others are seeing. Quite often we don’t realise what we are reflecting. We might think we are looking okay – until we look in the mirror and see our shirt button isn’t done up or we have some breakfast remains on our face. We might think we are leading great examples of Christian living but it’s not important what we think but what others see in us. And that’s why Luther, when he wrote his Small Catechism, always asked the question when reflecting on the Ten Commandments – what does this mean. And in each of the commandments he always explained them in 2 parts – what we call acts of commission and acts of omission.
We break the commandments not just by what we do – acts of commission – but by what we don’t do – acts of omission.
Usually we’re pretty good at refraining from doing the wrong thing – acts of commission. Such as in the 5th Commandment – you shall not kill. What does this mean – we are to fear and love God so that we do not hurt our neighbour in any way. Yep, I can check that one off. But Luther continues – BUT – I am to help him in all his physical needs. That I’m not always so good at – look, I’m a little busy at the moment – can’t somebody else help you. Or the seventh commandment – you shall not steal – we are to fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbour’s money or property – check. BUT – we are to help him improve and protect his property and means of making a living. But I’ve got my own business to worry about – I have to make enough to pay my mortgage – my credit card – save up for my retirement. Can’t my neighbour get his act into gear? I’ve worked hard to get where I am – why can’t he?
Sometimes it’s not the light of what we are doing that is reflecting on people around us – but what we are NOT doing that people are taking notice of. As the old saying goes – all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. Sometimes it’s the acts of omission that do the most harm. And so it can be a real struggle sometimes reflecting the light of Christ. And we need to remember that we will always be judged on the last thing we do – not by God but by others. We might spend our entire life helping our neighbour in need but one day someone will come up to us for help and we legitimately cannot help them – and that is what we will be judged on by them. They won’t care that you’ve helped out at every soup kitchen for the last 10 years – it’s that one time they needed help that they will judge you on.
And so it can be hard and challenging when we strive so hard and feel like we are not really reflecting the light God wants us to shine. And that’s when as Christians we can fall into the danger of not reflecting the light of Christ but trying to reflect our own light. A sort of – look at me – look at all the good things I’m doing. And that’s where John had to try hard to keep reminding people that he is NOT the light. He said – I’m not even Elijah or one of the prophets. I’m just one who is pointing you to the true light of Christ. St Paul shares with us how we CAN reflect God’s light which is not always in doing good works in order for the world to be impressed with our service. No, Paul says – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. What a freeing thing that is. Rejoice – pray – give thanks.
It’s so easy but it’s just as easy to reflect the opposite. To grumble about everything instead of rejoicing.
Like the Israelites who grumbled about their conditions rather than rejoicing that God had freed them from slavery in Egypt. And I must admit I was a bit like that coming out of restrictions. Instead of rejoicing that we were beating the virus and back at church, I was grumbling. How come we can only have 10 or 20 when cafes could have more. How come we have to wear masks in worship – rather than rejoicing that we were back and keeping people safe. Likewise, I became neglectful of giving thanks. That’s when I need to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself, what image am I reflecting to the world. What light am I shining? Am I shining my own light or Christ’s light?
So often we believe it is up to us to take the fight to the world. That it is up to us to defend the rights of God and the church. And often what happens is that we replace God’s light with our own. And that’s what John was avoiding – I’m not the Christ, I’m not Elijah – I’m not one of the prophets. In fact I’m not even worthy enough to untie the sandals of the one I’m pointing you to. Yes I know I want to defend God – I want to defend the church – I want to defend the name of Christ in a growing Godless world. But the best way I can do that is to rejoice in the midst of it all – give thanks in the midst of it all – and pray. And Paul says – pray without ceasing – because the challenges on the church and on God’s name are without ceasing. And in doing that you will be reflecting the light of Christ even if sometimes we don’t always live perfect lives. And even when that happens, we are assured by the Word of God: That the God of peace himself will sanctify you entirely; and your spirit and soul and body will be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.