Shine Through

Sermon for Sunday, February 9, 2020 || Epiphany 5A || Matthew 5:13-20

“You are the light of the world.” Just let that sink in for a moment. It’s an astounding claim that Jesus makes. “Let your light shine before others,” he says, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Let your light shine. We remember so many of the commandments Jesus gave us: Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, love one another as I have loved you, go into all the world and preach the Gospel. And here is another commandment of Jesus hidden in the midst of the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount. Let your light shine before others.

The song begins at 8:30 in the video.

What would our lives and our relationships look like if we actually followed this commandment of Jesus? Let your light shine. These four words are so freeing. Each of us has the light of Christ shining within us. This light is our spirits, the parts of us that God animates to make us come fully alive. The light shines forth from us when we unabashedly embrace ourselves as the people God has created us to be. We embrace our passions and recognize our growing edges. We embrace our gifts and use them for the building up of God’s reign. We embrace all the pieces of ourselves that God can use to connect us more deeply to each other and to God.

Let your light shine before others. Oooo, it’s the “before others” bit that’s tricky. How often do we wish to shine our God-fueled lights, but the moment we get in a room with others, the bushel basket comes out? Jesus knew that human tendency – how many times do you think he was tempted in his childhood not to be the person God made him to be because of all the expectations his birth and lineage placed upon him? I bet he was well-acquainted with the bushel basket. And so he heads that particular tendency off at the pass. “No one,” he says… “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.”

And yet, we learn from an early age to make prodigious use of that bushel basket. As children we showed an interest in something only for others to slap us down. 

“Ballet is stupid. Only girls do that.”
Dungeons and Dragons? Stop being such a nerd.”
“You want a science kit? How about a nice dollhouse instead.”

We take these early rejections and internalize them. And we learn the wrong lesson from them. We learn not to shine our lights because shining forth who we really are makes us easy targets. We take that wrong lesson with us into adulthood, and we spend so much time and energy constructing versions of ourselves that we think might be accepted by some nebulous group of gatekeepers. This false self becomes the one we inhabit most of the time, and so we don’t even realize that we’re living beneath the bushel basket. 

The bushel basket becomes armor that we wear against the slings and arrows of the world. We begin to conform to the shape of the armor. We build our identity based disproportionately on external stimuli: advertising, commentary, historic roles of gender, race, class, and sexuality. We think that if we just mold ourselves to a particular shape, we will find the place where we fit. But this molding is really contorting. Our identity does take cues from the outside world, yes, and God has placed within each of us the light of God’s truth about who we are – who we are in all our beautiful particularity, who and what we love, how we are meant to embrace life, and why our passions bring us fully alive.

When Jesus commands us to let our light shine before others, he invites us to unleash this God-given truth of ourselves, no matter how scary embracing such freedom might feel. Because this God-given truth is how God sees us. God sees the light, and I believe God yearns for us to see ourselves how God sees us, and then to show that vulnerable and beautiful version of ourselves to others.

So let your light shine. Here’s one of the ways I shine mine. This is a song I wrote over the course of several years. I met so many young people in my early days of ministry who were so afraid to shine their God-given light. Many of them were dealing with body image issues and low self-esteem, and they were trying to figure out how they fit into a society that only seemed to value them in one narrow, shackling way. I wrote this song for them because I believe God sees the truth about us and yearns for us to shine our light before others. This song is for them, and for me, and for you. This is “Shine Through.”

Shine Through

Download the mp3 here

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not beautiful,
Especially yourself.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter
You matter to me, you should matter to you.

Your beauty is yours to hide,
Not for anyone to take from you;
But beauty is the image of God,
So let it shine through…shine through

Don’t hide behind your hand in that photograph—
Don’t turn your back.
Don’t let that airbrushed magazine cover
Feed you ten steps to a perfect version of you.

Look in the mirror and what do you see?
Not perfection, I know.
But the grace in not being perfect
Is the chance to grow.

So glow and let your light shine through;
Show the way that God sees you.
I know it’s so much simpler to hide,
But you can’t shine through 
with your light locked up inside…so glow.

Don’t let today’s darkness steal light from tomorrow:
The sun will always rise.
Don’t see your weakness through a funhouse mirror:
You’ll find someday you’re stronger than you know.

This world of our diminishes us,
And the truth we bear fades away;
But even just the hint of a flame
Will keep the darkness at bay


Look upon God and be radiant,
Look upon God and be radiant,
Look upon God and be radiant,
And let the Lord shine through.


Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not beautiful.

Photo by Rita on Unsplash.

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