“Christ is Seen Through Us”
2 Corinthians 4:5-10
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 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.
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
I have a confession to make to you all: I am very bad at listening to sermons. My mind races to a million different things. I squirm and wiggle in my seat. And I often don’t remember the sermon just a couple weeks later. There may be a reason God called me to preach, because I do a lousy job of sitting still and listening. Not saying that you all need to sit still. You are more than welcome to squirm and wiggle, write and draw, get up and shout Amen.
But there is one sermon I do remember very well from my childhood. And it is because it surprised me so much. It was a sermon after Easter. My pastor was talking about how Jesus conquered death, was raised from the grave, and now had a message and good news for the whole world to hear. There was this great mission and work ahead for spreading this news of forgiveness, salvation, and new life. But then, he said, “Jesus left this great mission in the hands of a dozen or so followers. Jesus didn’t call down angels to do this work. He hadn’t recruited an army of heavenly beings for it. He ascended to heaven. And he gave this mission to his ragtag group of disciples and friends, those who had just days before left his side and said they didn’t know him. He left it in their ordinary, everyday hands to share this message of God’s love and salvation with the world.”
And then he went on: “And that is what God still does today.” Wow! For the teenager Alex sitting in church, this was scary! God trusts this great work to us. To people like me! To me! God has given us this incredible mission.
When I first heard this sermon, I wanted to say back to God, “No. This is a bad plan God. Don’t send us. Send better people. Better creatures. Send armies. Send angels and archangels. Do it through miraculous signs and earthquakes and stars. Not us. We aren’t the ones you want to call for this. We are no heroes.
Last week, a group of us from Stone House were at a workshop called, “Worldchanging 101.” And I have to admit, I was fairly skeptical going in. I wasn’t sure world changing was something I could do. I don’t have powerful contacts in Washington. I don’t have a huge following online. I can’t fly or repel bullets. I’m not going to be the doctor who cures cancer, or the inventor who gets us to move to all renewable energy. In short, I’m not going to be the hero who saves the world by himself.
But the main message of the workshop was this: the world doesn’t need you to be a hero. It needs people doing small, but powerful work together.
The speaker, David LaMotte invited us to look at some of the great movements of the past hundred years, movements like civil rights, women’s suffrage, and the end of apartheid. And there are names we know from these movements of great people who helped lead it. But they weren’t the reason the movement succeeded. It was because people joined in together. People stood up. And not just at rallies and marches and speeches, those things that make the news. But it was the everyday work that made the biggest difference: typing up notes after a meeting, being treasurer of a local club, bringing food to local gatherings, looking up laws, printing off copies and flyers, watching children, walking to work with one another, tutoring, teaching, praying, and singing.
The world changed not because a superhero came on the scene, but because people joined in and followed.
And while David never directly mentioned it, the same could be said about the church. Yes, it started with the only true superhero of history, God’s own Son breaking into our world, teaching and healing, dying and suffering, and rising again from the dead. But for his message, his light to spread and be shared, he didn’t need superheros to follow after him. He just needed ordinary, everyday people like you and me to join in the work.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It is the day we remember Jesus taking Peter and James, and John up on the mountaintop to see the glory of God. Now Peter, James, and John are three names now famous as leaders of our faith. We might think of them as heroes. But in their time, they were not famous. And they definitely wouldn’t have thought of themselves as heroes. Far from it. They were three ordinary, young, fishermen from the small fishing village of Capernaum.
And like us, when they saw Jesus shine the light of God, saw Moses and Elijah there with him, and heard God’s voice bellow out: “This is my Son, the beloved,” they wanted to simply observe. They wanted to create dwelling places for them and stay up there and get to be in their own private audience of God. This is it. This is everything they’ve ever wanted to see. This work is for you, Jesus, and Moses, and Elijah. Not for us. They just wanted to stay up there forever and watch.
But of course, that wasn’t Christ’s plan. After God speaks, Christ has them go back down that mountain. These three needed to watch and observe and soak it up, but they can’t stop there. They needed to share what they saw. They need to proclaim a message. That light of God they saw burst forth. It wasn’t meant to be kept secret and secluded and hidden up on a mountain. The light is for the whole world to see. It was made to shine through them. They had to come down that mountain and be more than observers. They needed to join the work. They needed to help the world see new light.
In our scripture reading for today, Paul tell us that the treasure of the gospel of Christ is in clay jars. Those clay jars are us. We are the ones made by the potter’s hands. We are mortal and fragile, cracked and imperfect. We are not God. We are not the source of light. But we can help people to see that light. We can carry the light in us.
I believe the light of Christ shines in each one of you. It just shines in different ways. In some of you, it may be preaching and teaching. In others, it may be serving and loving your neighbors outside in the community. For others, it may be working with children and helping them grow. In still others, it may be showing hospitality and welcoming people into your church, your homes, your lives. For us all, it is praying and worshiping and growing more in God. For the light to shine in you, you don’t need to perform a miracle or predict the future or have all the answers. You just need to join in.
If you are around me enough, you will realize that I hate the phrase “Go to church,” as if we are going to a play or move. As if we are going to be an audience. We don’t go to church. We are the church. We worship together. We come to this building to gather as one body to be recharged, refreshed, to plan and minister, to support and uplift. But we aren’t here just to watch and stay on our own private mountain. Because that’s not where the light is needed. The light is needed to go outside these doors, to go into schools and neighborhoods, workplaces and families. It is meant to go to more places than I can carry it on my own.
We aren’t Christ. We aren’t the savior of this world. But people can see Christ’s love through you. People can see Christ’s grace through you. People can learn about forgiveness and mercy, welcome and love, God’s presence and peace and good news of grace through you.
As Paul writes, “…the life of Jesus may be made visible in our bodies.” That can be a scary thing. But it also should be joyous. You are changing the world. You are shining a light. Don’t worry about being a hero. We already have the only one of those we will ever need. Just join in. Because together, we can change the world. Together, we can shine that light. Amen.