Monday, February 10, 2014

Let Others See Your Good Works

When I was on internship you had to fill out a midyear self-evaluation of your performance.
Before I filled out my evaluation my supervisor pulled me aside to give me some advice.
He told me to make sure that I was honest about my work.
“Don’t hide your light.”
He wanted to make sure that I gave myself credit for the work I had done in the Church.
He was worried that I would undersell myself.
I think we are often like this in the Church.
We are harder on ourselves than we should be.
And in the church in order to look humble we don’t do a good job of letting our light shine.
We don’t want to be seen as bragging.
So what we do is a bad job of sharing with the world the work we do for others.
It probably seems wrong to brag about our Gospel work.
But this is just what Jesus asks us to do.
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.”

Jesus is not addressing us as individuals.
When he says, “you are the light of the world.”
He is addressing us as Church.
The “you” in the Greek has no official English equivalent.
But it is best translated in the southern part of the United States, when they say,  “Ya’all”.
Ya’ all are the light of the world…
We together make up the body of Jesus and together we represent Jesus in the world.
People, for good or bad, see Jesus reflected through us as the Church.
We are called to be the spice of God’s passion for the world God loves.

And yet we are often no good at letting that light Shine.
We are not good at letting others know all the good that we as a congregation do together.
This morning if I was to start pointing out what we do it might make some of us uncomfortable, or embarrassed.
Some might think that sharing our accomplishments as inappropriate.

But what happens when we don’t share our light is that others don’t see it and judge us accordingly.
Can we blame others for not seeing our good work when we are not good about telling about it?

Today after worship we are going to be hearing from some nones.
Nones are folks who check the box, “none of the above” when asked what religion they identify with.
I want to give some context to this phenomena.
First, they are the fastest growing religion in America.
It was first reported through a pew poll entitled, “the Rise of the Nones” in 2010.
In that poll 1/5 of all people identified as nones, and 1/3 of all people under 30 unidentified as nones.
There are people who are studying this growing trend.
They are doing that by talking to nones.
The thing about nones is that they are not necessarily atheists or agnostics.
Most of them still believe in God, they just don’t like the Church.
They have a really bad picture of what actually happens in Churches.
I know that many of our first reactions are going to be defensive.
I want to ask you this morning to get all of that out now.
(I will give you a few minutes.)
OK. Now I want you to listen to what is being said.
I want you to understand what is being said.
So for just one example, a none from Kansas had this to say about the Church.
“the big church organizations—Habitat [for Humanity] or whatever—will do things like (help others in need). Or, maybe after a hurricane.
But day to day, week to week, you don’t really see [churches] where you live being involved—out on the streets with homeless people.
I think most of them are just trying to hold on to the members they have, to make them happy and comfortable.
They take care of their own, in my experience.”
It is sad to me that this is how we are viewed.
My first thought after reading this is that she doesn’t know our congregation.
She doesn’t know that we are all the time helping “homeless people”. (By the way I have given up using the term homeless people because it is offensive. I try to use the phrase, “people experiencing homelessness”.)
She doesn’t know that we care a great deal about people experiencing homelessness.
She doesn’t know that we serve at the friendly kitchen.
That people in our congregation fold clothes for Rise Again.
That people in our congregation volunteer overnight at the emergency cold-weather shelter.
That every week we collect food, and other items for people experiencing need.
She doesn’t know that for two years we have been helping a refugee family.
She doesn’t know that just last week I spent a half of my day driving someone experiencing homelessness to the veterans hospital in Vermont to get medicine they needed.
Or that last week one of our members spent half the day helping someone get clean clothes and a shower.
She doesn’t know that we helped someone experiencing homelessness get a car and an apartment.
Or that we were the first congregation to sign up to be a host congregation for Family Promise (A program that helps families and children experiencing homelessness).
Or that we gave money this year so the guidance counselor at our local school could give our clothing to families in need.
She doesn’t see all the people we helped with rent through Emergency Assistance Network.
Why doesn’t she know this?
We often don’t do enough to share it.

There is no excise in our day and time for not getting the word out there there are tons of ways to share our good works, to let our light shine.
There is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, newspaper, tv, radio, ect…
We can use these to help us get out the word.
We can use these tools to better share our good work with the world.
Most important we have to stop being afraid to let our light shine.
We can stop hiding it.
And perhaps we can turn the tide a little bit at least.
I had a colleague tell me that people at the cold winter shelter were talking about the work of our congregation.
And in fact all the churches in Concord and how much we do to help those others.
Perhaps we can make Christianity known for our works of compassion, service, and giving, instead of being in the known for the things or people we denounce.
We have to say what we are for and not just what we are against.
We can let our light shine, and others will see it and give thanks to God.

And this light it comes naturally.
What Jesus says is that we are already the light of the world.
“You are the light of the world.”
He doesn’t say that we will become the light of the world, or that we could become it.
But that right now today we are the light.
We can let it shine and let others praise God for it.

I saw this great quote about the folk singer Pete Seeger.
It was from another favorite folk singer of mine Anni DiFranco, “He was a great teacher of the activist spirit-that you don’t fight to win, let alone for your own glory.
You fight because it is a joyous thing to do.”
We don’t do the things we do for our own glory, or to win the day with our ideas.
We do them because it is a joy.
Because in doing them we serve God.
We do them because we are the light of the world.
Let us share that with the world.
Let us sign it from the highest mountains, yell it from rooftops, and to all who will hear and listen.
So that they might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

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