We Were Made to Shine

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” Matthew 5:14 NRSV

The billowing smoke in the distance often gains the attention of many highway travelers. For some, it
may be a bit alarming and cause such individuals to ponder just what might be ablaze. For others, little thought
is given because it is that time of the year and they are well-aware of what is unfolding. It is the occasion of the
annual wheat harvest. For a few weeks at the end of spring/beginning of summer, farmers work the fields
gathering their grain and make preparations for its storage or sale. The massive combines collect the heads of
grain, separate chaff from quality kernels, and leave behind that which is of little value. With the exception of
those farmers who bale the remnant straw for animals, landscaping, etc., the broken stalks and stubble serve as
a reminder to many farmers of what has been.

Following the wheat harvest, it is common for farmers to prepare the ground for a second planting of
soybeans to compliment those sown weeks earlier. While opinions may vary from one farmer to the next, it is
not uncommon for some to set fire to the fields in an effort to reduce stubble and straw and create a surface
ready to receive the next round of seeds. Such fires are carefully maintained often with little, if any, effect upon
the surrounding landscape. Their impressive display of dark smoke fills the distant sky with people observing
from miles away as the wheat stubble meets its end.

Just days ago, I watched as smoke began to build in the distance while traveling US-264. Feeling
certain of its origin, I wondered how far away the field might have been that was burning. I thought about whose
farm it may have been and even how well that particular field could have produced. No, I am not spending my
entire article reflecting upon the wheat harvest and management of crop residue, but I do wish to share a few
thoughts related to letting our faith be noticeable to the surrounding culture. My observance of the burning wheat
field reminded me of how the practice of our Christian beliefs and values can serve as an “attention getter” for
those who may not have a personal/saving relationship with God through Jesus. No, this attention is not about
us, but rather enables others to see the Christ who dwells within us.

Recently, I came upon an advertisement for the Tokyo Olympics which will be held in a few weeks. It
stated something like “The world will be watching.” By this, it is meant that for a span of two weeks people from
around the globe will be fixed upon the events unfolding in a variety of competitions. Not only will the world take
notice of the Olympics, the world takes notice each and every day of how the Christian community lives into our
calling to be like Jesus. The integrity of our witness is measured by the consistency which exists between what
we say and how well we back up our words through proper actions.

A few summers ago, I wore a t-shirt during our Cragmont camp week that featured a picture of a salt
shaker and a lightbulb. Beneath the picture were written the words, “Be These! Matthew 5:13-14.” For the first
part of that day, a number of campers came up to me and said, “I don’t get it Mr. Kelley. What’s that supposed
to mean?” I was somewhat puzzled by the reactions to the t-shirt. Maybe it was somewhat abstract for the
younger campers, but a number of the teenagers were dumbfounded by the message. I encouraged each of
them, when they inquired, to look up the Scripture reference found in Matthew 5. Some took me up on the
challenge and came back later in the day with their answer. A few said sarcastically, “Why would I want to do
that? Just tell me!”

Of course, a portion of the answer is found in those exact words of the aforementioned reference from
the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said our lives are to bring illumination into our world. As we practice our
Christianity, we bring light to the darkness of our world. Darkness is found in the forms of violence, oppression,
hatred, negativity, and such, and it is our responsibility to cast aside such influences. Unfortunately, some
followers of Christ do little to dispel the dark conditions about them. If any of us are not careful, we may actually
enhance the already overwhelming presence of darkness. To be aligned with Christ is to be associated with the
one who is “The Light of the world.” Our lives must add more of what Jesus provides in order that others might

We must, however, be careful because being a light for the Gospel is not a matter of drawing attention
to our accomplishments or abilities. We are to function much like a flashlight in our world. When we have need
of a flashlight, we are not concerned about its appearance. We do not care if it is red, black, or yellow. We do
not insist that it be manufactured by this company or that. We want a flashlight that works when we need it and
to offer the right amount of illumination in the right location. Our witness for Christ is not about us, but rather
about the practical work of the Gospel through us. We must do what is necessary, when needed, as empowered
by the Risen Lord, in order that others may see clearly the love of God and avoid the pitfalls of this life.
Brothers and sisters, we have a great work ahead of us. Many people wish to see the reality of the
Gospel through the consistency of our faith. When we allow this to happen, the darkness does not stand a

Together in Christ,
The Reverend Kelley Smart