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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Show Up, Stand Up, and Shine!

Epiphany 5, Yr A
Matthew 5:13-20
The Rev. Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook

     I've always been a fan of the Olympics, and though at times the politics have tarnished their luster a bit, I hold on to my delight for a gathering of athletes who have worked so hard to arrive at that moment, who have dared to dream big and have the joy of seeing their dream realized. Friday night I sat down in front of the TV and settled in to watch the opening ceremonies. I'm a sucker for the "against all odds" stories, I'm fascinated by the different sports, and those darn Proctor & Gamble commercials can get me to tear up every time.
     My favorite part, though, is the stories in the parade of the athletes: the Nepalese bricklayer who does cross-country skiing and admits he'll probably finish last, the Norwegian biathlete who has been competing in Olympics for 16 years and is vying to set the record  for total medals, and, of course, the Jamaican bobsled team.
     How can you not cheer for a couple of guys from the Caribbean whose uniforms and sled blades were late arriving, who funded their trip by Internet donations and then asked fans to stop contributing when they had enough, whose country hasn't been represented for the past 3 Winter Olympics...and who still radiate joy? I imagine that deep in their hearts they harbor fantasies of being on the medal stand, listening to the strains of their national anthem...but their delight isn't dependent on a medal; it's simply competing in Sochi that matters, showing up and embracing the moment. Winston Watts, one of the two bobsledders, was quoted "All the guys in here, we are a family. All people love Jamaica. When Jamaica is not around, they're not happy because we are a fun-loving, caring group. We make people smile all the time even when they are having a bad day. We just keep them going." And why? "We are from the sunshine!"…“We are from the sunshine!”
     So are we! "You are the light of the world," Jesus said. Not "You are the light of the world when you win the gold medal," not "When everybody knows your name," not "When everything goes exactly according to plan," and not "When you are as rich as you can possibly be." Just "You are the light of the world." Period. You—and I—are the light of the world, because we are from the Light.
     You don't have to go to get an advanced degree, take up a new sport, or build an estate-sized bank account. All that's not the point. We're commissioned as bearers of the light exactly the way we are with what's already been given to us. Show up, stand up, and shine. This isn't to say that we shouldn't learn new skills, work hard, and push ourselves, but rather that those are tools for the job, not credentials for living as a light in the world.
     It's a challenge, too, though. We've been blessed so that we can be a blessing. The purpose of light is to brighten. To help people see more clearly. To reveal new paths. To allay fears. To be warmth in cold and darkness. If we're the light of the world, we ought to be acting like light. And Jesus adds a point of clarification: that includes not hiding under bushel baskets! Perhaps we're afraid that "shining" might be mistaken for "showing off." Maybe, on the flip side, we're worried that our wattage isn't high enough, in one respect or another. Or it could be that we're self absorbed, so busy shining our light inwardly that we don't share it with the world around us. Back to that quote from Winston Watts: "We make people smile all the time even when they are having a bad day." He didn't say that they make people smile when they themselves are having a good day, or not when the two of them are having a bad day; he's looking outward to bringing light into the lives of others. No climbing under baskets for him!
     This isn't just an individual challenge; it applies to churches, too, and we do well always to be asking if we're lights in our community or in some way putting a bushel over ourselves: of doubt and hesitancy, of comparing ourselves to other churches or "the way it used to be," of engaging in lots of dreaming without moving forward to doing. I don't think those are problems here, but I mention it because I don't want us ever to fall into those traps that hide the light God has shares with us and through us.
     In a few minutes we'll bless the team members going to Haiti this week along with our partners from Saint Mark's School in Southborough. It doesn't matter if they're fluent in Creole or know all the history of Haiti or have amazing skills in rural development; they'll bring themselves, they'll show up and shine, and their light will be magnified by the light of our friends at Ste. Marguerite's.
     We don't have to go to Haiti or be Olympians to do the same. Opportunities abound every day to reflect the brilliance of God's love, compassion, justice, healing, and consolation. We already are the light of the world because we are from the Light; we just need to show up, stand up, and shine!

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