- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Edward P. Harding Jr. at Prince George's Community Church.

Jesus took his disciples up in the mountains, and during His Sermon on the Mount, it was probably getting dark. He tells his disciples, "Be a light to the world" [Matthew 5:13-16].

A lot happens in the dark that doesn't in daylight. That's why they light up the ATM machines. The criminal element loves the night. They arrested Jesus at night. A Pharisee named Nicodemus only went to Jesus at night.

Yet Jesus says, "You are light." My first thought is that God provides us the gift of self-illumination. In Bible study we have seen that the kingdom of God is not out there somewhere, but inside. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, just as it is in heaven." The benefits of the kingdom are now.

When Jesus told His disciples they were "the light of the world," He spoke of what they would become. He said to Peter, "You are a rock," when Peter looked and acted nothing like a rock. Yet Jesus knew the potential in Peter. He became a rock. You want a genius at home? Don't call him stupid. There is power in speech. To raise a champion, don't call him a klutz. Jesus said, "You are light." God provides this gift of self-illumination.

John wrote his Gospel to "bear witness to the light" so that "as many as received Him, He gave them the right to become the children of God." Before you can be a light to others, you must have the light yourself. You say, "How do I know, pastor, that God has given me this gift of self-illumination?" Because God is the architect of our nature. Before I ever was, He designed me as light.

The monarch butterfly each year travels some 1,800 miles. But it was born a caterpillar. Some of you think caterpillars are not desirable: slow, lethargic, unattractive. But the essence of the butterfly began in the caterpillar… . We are going through a process of spiritual metamorphosis. I may have been in the dark, but I'm on the way to the light. That's the way God designed me… .

We are made in the image of God. We are human, made of spirit and dirt. We return to the earth. When God created, he spoke to the earth for plants and to the water for fish. He spoke to Himself to create us. Our essence is God, and God says we are light.

Whatever comes up in this world, God has given us the power to overcome. Setbacks can't sideline you and heartaches can't get the best of you. Headaches will pass and sickness can't keep you down. Because your essence is God, sorrow can't overwhelm, rumors can't wreck you, divorce can't keep you down and crisis can't cripple. Death is no defeat… .

John says, "Don't take your light and put it under a bushel." God rejects self-deprecation. Why do you feel bad when you get a promotion and they talk about you? Why feel bad at a new house or when God blesses you with a new car? You hang your head, "Oh, I just don't deserve it." But this is not humility, it's self-deprecation. You are hiding God's blessing. Humility understands God's greatness; self-deprecation presses it down. The text says, "Don't hide your light under a basket."

Let people see the blessing God has given you. What you are hiding is God. If you get a new house, clean the window, hang the curtains and put a sign out front, "God's Blessing." Is your testimony better when you are down or when you are up? This self-deprecation has to go. Nelson Mandela said in his inaugural address, "It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us… . As we let our light shine, we give other people permission to do the same."

If God opens the door for you, then you should give the glory to God. God wants you to light up. When you walk into the office, when you get home, light it up. Light it up at church, that's what you were born to do.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Roderick D. McKee at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Beltsville.

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