You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see.” Jesus, Matthew 5.14
Several weeks ago, Rev. Watson and I were discussing crime in our city. He suggested that we needed to “light up Birmingham,” by adding more lights. There are too many dark places and spaces in our city. Although he was speaking very literally, there is a spiritual point to his words that cannot be ignored. At the Unity Breakfast on MLK Day, one speaker invited the audience and all of us to “turn on the lights.”
As I focused on those words by Rev. Watson and the newly elected Jefferson County District Attorney, Danny Carr, there is a lot of truth that needs to be heard and heeded. Yes, we need more lights in dark corners and places in Birmingham. Many crimes do take place in those places. However, if there was more spiritual light and people were encouraged to walk in and felt comfortable walking in that light, there might not be a need for additional lighting in places where crime continues to happen. When lives are changed and when hearts are transformed people must seek to do good and not evil.
Light exposes darkness. Light causes growth and development. Light gives warmth and assurance that life exists. Light redeems and transforms. Light is not to be hidden. As Jesus stressed, it should be elevated for all to see and be blessed by it.
In situations where communities are deeply affected by negative incidents, it is often said that the church should be doing more, that institutions that provide services to the community should do more. I suggest that churches and social service agencies continue doing what they do with greater intensity and sensitivity. We are aware of what many people are going through. Pastors, church workers and volunteers hear the stories and try to resolve them to successful outcomes. Yet, there is always a need for more intentionality in what we do.
I suggest that believers and followers of Christ should light up Birmingham by turning on the light of Christ. We must live the life Christ has called us to live. If you see sickness, heal it. If you see hunger, feed it. If you see homelessness, house it. If you see storms, bring calm. If you see chaos, make peace. Whenever we see hate, make it our goal to love.
Let’s light up Birmingham and turn on the lights by doing what we have done for 132 years. It is not by accident that in renovating the church, we wanted exterior lights and the lights that illuminate the large window on the balcony level to be evaluated. Those lights, along with our internal lights offer a sense of hope to all of us and to our neighbors.
This year, let your light shine while seeking constructive ways of lighting up and turning on the lights in Birmingham. The light of Christ cannot be hidden; it must be elevated for all to see. Amen.