The City, The Lamp and You
The City, the Lamp and You
“ You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others…” Matthew 5:14-15
In 1630, just prior to leaving for the Massachusetts Bay Colony on the ship, Arbella, Puritan leader John Winthrop, gave a sermon to all who were embarking on this long, difficult journey. It was a sermon of preparation as well as warning. In this sermon he hoped that the new colony would become all that Christ described in Matthew 5. Winthrop used the analogy of the new colony as being a “city on a hill.” Winthrop challenged the colonists to live their fullest for God and for each other. In strong terms, he reminded the group that the alternative would be failure that the whole world would see. As you can see, these words have come to exemplify trust in God and in each other.
At the height of the Cold War, President-elect John Kennedy also invoked the “city on a hill” to apply to us as Americans. Kennedy was well versed in history; he understood the deep impact and the eternal truths of Winthrop’s sermon. Here is what he said: “I have been guided by the standard of John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella...as they too faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. We must also consider that we shall be a city upon a hill - the yes of all people are truly upon us - and our governments in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill - constructed and inhabited [with all] aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities…”
In 1980, Ronald Reagan invoked the same challenge to all of us, as well as a call to self examination and a call to live out what we believe. Is that call to be that “city on the hill” still relevant? In our present time; where do we stand? Being a “city on a hill” calls for self examination. Are we ready for such examination? For with honest self examination comes recognition that we need to repent, to change our ways, our values and our ideas.
Despite limiting my intake of the national and international news, I still am impacted by what I see. I am amazed and disheartened by the constant controversy and politicizing that surrounds almost everything in America, whether it is sports, entertainment or culture. As I view the tumult on the national scene, my mind goes back to the warning that Winthrop issued so long ago. In the midst of this division, can that vision be recaptured? That depends on us.
Perhaps a starting point involves Thanksgiving. As I have said numerous times, Thanksgiving is not a holiday of turkey, trimmings and football. It is not a day assigned to the fourth Thursday of November. It is not a holiday that is exclusively American, nor is it about shopping on Black Friday. It is a time set apart to thank God for His love, providence and his eternal promise of provision through Jesus Christ. This does not mean that once a year we offer heartfelt thanks to God and resume the status quo the rest of the year. Instead, it is walking with God humbly each and every day. If we are to change the present direction of this nation, we need to start with ourselves based on our relationship with God. Have we taken the time to give God our first fruits? Have we prayed for whom we do not like or agree with? Have we asked God to be our guide and then have we followed his guidance?
What does the “city on a hill” look like? It is the gospel in action through our love, faith and commitment to the Word of God. It does not draw attention to itself, nor is it self-serving or pride based. People have questioned me over and over about these subjects. I must stress it is not a program or plan, but a relationship with God through Christ. Perhaps that is why in scripture we are told to plant the seeds of the gospel, and then wait and trust that God will water the seeds. We have to leave the details to God’s Holy Spirit.
This Thanksgiving, let us recapture that spirit of thanks. Let each one of us strive to be that “city on a hill”, illuminated with the light of Christ illuminating for all to see.
Thankfully Yours in Christ,