Guarding and proclaiming the unchanging truth in a changing world

In thanksgiving… for light upon a hill (Matthew 5:15-16)

25th November 2020
Audio: 

In thanksgiving… for light upon a hill (Matthew 5:15-16)

The Rev. Clint and Laura Werezak

It was early April. Our family of four huddled inside our New York City apartment, learning, pastoring, and teaching in new ways online. As we sat at our screens, the sound and flash of ambulance sirens put a knot of anxiety in the pit of our stomachs. At the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, our city experienced multiple days with a 911 emergency call volume that exceeded that of September 11, 2001. New York state lost 30,000 people in just a few months. We experienced this great upheaval through the news and the restrictions, but also through the sudden, suffocating silence that descended upon our beloved city. Fear and uncertainty filled the air. The comforting background hum and honk of a busy city fell eerily silent, yet night and day, every 15 minutes or so another emergency vehicle sped up the hill toward the hospital.
 
Now six months later, much has happened. The days are growing dark as the weather gets cooler. The pandemic persists. The fear and uncertainty mix with unemployment, racial unrest, political polarization, greed, and selfishness.  Restrictions are still in place on large gatherings. The city averages ten protests a day. Some blocks have more shuttered businesses than open ones. People are on edge. We sit down again at our desks and read Jesus’ words telling us that “we are the light of the world”.
 
Light is one of the chief metaphors used in scripture to describe God, his creative and restorative acts. In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul tells us that the same God who created all things, “ ‘who said let light shine out of darkness,’ is the one who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In the Apostle Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount we listen in to Jesus himself explaining how his light, freely given to those such as the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, the peacemakers, and the persecuted shines not just for their benefit but for the entire world. In Christ, we are the light of the world.
 
This light is not meant to be hidden away but displayed. Jesus says that the good works of God's people shine the light of the gospel to those around us. We preach the gospel and we live it as well. People encounter Jesus in what we do. Over the past few months, church has looked very different here in New York: Online meetings, limits on in-person gatherings, masks and hand sanitizer when we can meet with other believers. But we have also experienced great blessing. God is lifting a basket that has hidden our light. 
 
Christ's light shines all throughout the city right now. Down the street from us at a local church, a group of believers from many different church traditions meets every Thursday. We set up tables on the sidewalk. We fill up carts with vegetables and cereal and meat to feed the hungry. We pray for those who wait in line. We share the hope we have in Jesus, and people have found healing and hope in Jesus.
 
That is not all. As churches hold services outdoors, when we proclaim, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth” it catches the ears of those passing by. Churches have built relationships with local businesses weathering the economic downturn. And others advocate for the marginalized and oppressed as our disrupted routines expose injustice hiding in plain sight.
 
Though this time has been difficult and our city seems dark, We are thankful that we don't have to live hunkered in fear but can boldly shine the light of Christ through our acts of service. How does the light of Christ shine hope where you are?

The Rev. Clint Werezak 
Deacon at Emmanuel Anglican Church NYC (Anglican Diocese of the Living Word) and is the NYC Program Director at Street2Street. 
Laura Werezak
Teacher at the Geneva School of Manhattan and the author of the book: “Attend: Forty Soul Stretches Toward God.” 

Prayer: 

A Prayer for Those Who Serve Others:

O Lord our heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served, but to serve: We ask you to bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others endue them with wisdom, patience, and courage, that they may strengthen the weak and raise up those who fall, and, being inspired by your love, may worthily minister to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the sake of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

BCP 2019, p. 660

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