Chosen to Be a Light

Chosen to Be a Light

The Servant’s Mission
Listen to me, O coastlands;
   Pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born;
   While I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
   In the shadow of his hand he hid me;
He made me a polished arrow;
   In his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
   Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
   I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
Yet surely my cause is with the Lord
   And my reward with my God.”

And now the Lord says,
   Who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
To bring Jacob back to him,
   And that Israel might be gathered to him,
For I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
   And my God has become my strength—
He says,
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
   To raise up the tribes of Jacob
   And to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
   That my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Thus says the Lord,
   The Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
To one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,
   The slave of rulers,
“Kings shall see and stand up;
   Princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,
Because of the Lord, who is faithful,
   The Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Isaiah 49:1-7 (NRSVUE)

Friends, I wonder, how does it feel to know that you have been chosen to be light in the world? Yes, you heard me correctly: you have been chosen to be a light in the world! Now don’t look at your neighbor or someone in another pew thinking that I must be talking about them. If you can hear my voice, then I’m talking about you. Because of that, I’m going ask you all to repeat after me: “I have been chosen”… “to be a light in the world.” One more time: “I have been chosen”… “to be a light in the world.” And now, let’s put it all together. “I have been chosen to be a light in the world.” I wonder, how does that feel? Affirming? Scary? Confusing? Overwhelming?

You may or may not know this, but growing up, I was very quiet and painfully shy. That’s one of the reasons why I think it is so important for our young people’s voices to be heard in worship here in Oldtown. As a young adult, I was always uncomfortable speaking in front of people, and if I had to do a presentation at school, I didn’t feel butterflies in my stomach, as people often say, I had 747s flying around in there!

Even when I began attending seminary at thirty years old, there was no way that I was ever going to take a preaching class or speak in front of others. I was only going to seminary to become a hospital chaplain. To sit with individuals and families and walk with them through times of crisis. Because I knew that there were lots of dark places in the world that simply needed a little extra light, and I also knew that deep inside, God had given me light to share with others.

Often in seminary, professors would begin class with a reading of scripture, a moment of reflection, and a prayer asking God to guide our time together. It was a ritual that became quite comforting to me over time. Well, one day in my second year of seminary, just as my class on Servant Leadership was about to begin, the professor announced that we were going to practice Lectio Divina. So instead of discussing the scripture, we were going to hear it read, take some time in silence, and then hear it read again. We were told not to try to put the whole story into context but to simply listen for a word or a phrase that might speak to us, kind of like what we do here in Oldtown on Sunday mornings. Well, the scripture the professor read was Isaiah 49: verses 1-7, just like we heard this morning.

The whole class took a deep breath, and the professor started to slowly read. Well, being the nervous student that I was, I started to panic. What if I hear the whole scripture and nothing stands out for me? What if I don’t make a connection or can’t remember a word or a phrase? What if the professor asks us to share what we heard, and I don’t have an answer? Suddenly, I heard him announce that we would now sit in silence for five minutes as we reflected on what we had just heard. Seminary professors are always big on sitting in long stretches of silence.

“What did we just hear?” I thought to myself. I was so busy with my own worry and internal negative conversation that I missed the entire reading! So, I decided to take the five minutes to calm myself down so that I would be ready to listen to the reading the second time through. I knew that I had to let go of my anxiety and concern if I was ever going to be able to connect with the reading. So, I took several deep breaths and tried my best to let everything go so that I would be fully present to the words that the professor shared. Before I knew it, the five minutes of silence were over, and he began reading again… “Listen to me, O coastlands; pay attention, you peoples from far away!”

“You heard them, listen!” I thought to myself as I squeezed my eyes together tightly, trying to concentrate. And then suddenly, I heard words that I had never heard before–words that spoke to the light that I always knew I carried within me. “The LORD called me before I was born; he made me a polished arrow; and in his quiver he hid me away.”

As I heard those words, tears came to my eyes. I suddenly felt as though I had been like a polished arrow that was hidden away in a quiver. All my life, I knew that God had been calling me to something. And though I knew I carried God’s light within me, I tended to hide in shadows of fear and self-doubt. But at that moment, I knew that it was time to step out of the comfort of that small dark quiver so that I could share the light that I had been given with others.

Friends, there are so many times in our lives when we worry that we aren’t smart enough, strong enough, or talented enough to share the gifts that we have been given and bring light out into the world. We want to step back rather than forward because we are filled with fear, anxiety, and self-doubt.

Friends, if we look a little further in today’s reading from Isaiah, Isaiah feels discouraged too, “I have labored in vain,” he says, “I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” Even though God hears Isaiah’s feelings of failure, God doesn’t try to comfort him or lessen his responsibilities so they are more easily attained. Instead, God says, “It is too small a thing to just send you to the tribes of Jacob. I am going to make you a light to the nations.” So, instead of pulling back on Isaiah’s responsibilities and calling someone else to take over his job, God expands Isaiah’s mission to the ends of the earth. Can you imagine?

Friends, each and every one of us was created in the image of God and given special and unique gifts to share with the world. As you said out loud just a few minutes ago, you were chosen to be a light in the world. God chose YOU to bring light to the dark places, maybe through acts of kindness or education, through advocacy or works of justice, through the physical, spiritual, or psychological caring of others, through acts of encouragement, love, mentoring, or counseling, through music, art, theater, writing, or dance, through listening, feeding, filling, or sharing necessities and even through challenging, inspiring, nudging, and cheering people on. My friends, the list of ways that we can share light with the world is endless! And the best part of sharing a light with others is that it always shines back on our own path, as well.

But every once in a while, light-bringing can be difficult because sometimes the world prefers the comfort of darkness and gloom, and they turn away from the light that you bring. If that happens, and you get your feelings hurt, or you begin to question yourself, or you wonder if this whole light-bringing thing is even worth it, just keep bringing and sharing the light! Just keep encouraging and loving and caring and singing! Just keep teaching and filling and feeding and inspiring because the world so desperately needs the light that you bring!

Oh, my brother and sister light bearers, we have so much work to do. So, as you go out into your busy week ahead, first take a moment to accept the challenge because, though God has chosen you to be a light in the world, it is up to you to say “yes” to the mission. Then, go out and let your light shine to all ends of the earth!

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!


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