This week Jesus tells his disciples to be a city shining on a hill. This is a lovely metaphor--imagine being a traveler in ancient times, alone, in the dark, scared of bandits and robbers, either walking or on some kind of animal, with only stars to guide you, worried and afraid of what lies around you. And then, suddenly, you see before you the bright lights of the city, where safety, warmth, and comfort beckon. Now imagine being that for others--an example, a place that repels fear and intimidation, that settles the surrounding countryside with law and justice.
When the Puritans came to the US, the wanted to be a city on a hill, but they hoped they would shine so brightly, they would be asked to return to England so they could set things aright there. Instead of coming home in glory, they almost died and then spent a century bickering themselves apart. The Hutchinson Parkway is named after one of the dissenters.
But somehow, between the Puritans and President Trump, the nation that was founded on these shores became a beacon of hope for many around the world, just as it became a source of fear and intimidation. As a nation, we are always struggling with the tensions inherent in our history--do we exist purely for the profit of some, or are we a people that hold and exemplify high ideals?
But now Jesus would come to us and say, you've got it all wrong. I'm talking about the city that shines with the light of the Holy Spirit. This city does not have walls, it does not have borders, it is for every ethnicity, every human who seeks shelter and truth and beauty. My light fills this city such that there is no need for sun or moon, but all shine with the presence of God.
That's the beacon we raise. That's the light that beckons each of us. That's the city that awaits us, even as we stumble and fear the dark.
On Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at OSA, we are joining with churches in our community for a vigil of solidarity with immigrants and refugees, that I hope will reflect at least some of this light. I hope you can come and shine with this whole community, as we try to shine brighter, sing more joyously, and celebrate the light of God's love for everyone.