“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
The water tower in the town where I went to college and seminary has been on my mind lately. I don’t, on the whole, think about water towers much. But I do this one. In the past few days it has become the center of controversy. The water tower in Wilmore, Kentucky is a light colored tower with the words Wilmore printed on it. It sits on a hill on the campus of Asbury University, high enough that it’s easily seen from most vantage points around the community.
So far, nothing that controversial. It’s pretty much what you would expect from any small town water tower in central Kentucky. But this one has committed the audacious crime of having a lighted cross on the top of it. Rather than describe it further, let me show you.
The cross isn’t new. It’s been there since the water tower belonged to the university. It was given to the city back in the fifties with the stipulation the lighted cross would stay. All these years it’s not created any controversy. Until now. Now the Freedom From Religion Foundation has, or intends to file a complaint that the cross on top of a city water tower is in violation of the separation of church and state.
There is a lot I could say about a group based in Wisconsin filing a complaint against a small community in Kentucky, where no one has complained about it for over sixty years. I also have a lot to say about the complete misunderstanding of the intention of the separation of church and state, and religious freedom in general. Don’t worry, I’m going to spare you the histrionics. I’ve always felt those types of things need to be said when one can have a dialogue, not a bully pulpit.
But I do want to say a word why this water tower is important to me. It was in that town that I experienced most of my spiritual formation in my formative years. I became a Christian there. I learned about a life of Holiness there. I learned about the richness and uniqueness of our Wesleyan heritage there. I learned what it meant to form small groups of people who loved you enough to keep you accountable. In many ways whenever I came into the town and saw that cross it was a light that beckoned me to Jesus. It drew me home. I still feel that way. Whenever I come to WIlmore and see that cross I feel I am home and I feel closer to Jesus.
In Matthew, Jesus tells us we are to be the light of the world. Well, that’s not exactly correct. Jesus says we ARE the light of the world. No hesitation of equivocation. When we give our lives to Christ,we become the light of the world. So what does it mean to be the “Light of the World” I want to look at this idea over the next several weeks, because the answer is deeper than what we can address in one blog.
We, as the light of the world are called to function much as that lighted water tower cross does for me. We are to live our lives in such a way that we draw others to Jesus. We should be so full of the light of Christ that we beckon people to come home. We ought to be so full of the love and grace of Jesus that how we live draws people into HIs presence.
I think we sometimes forget this aspect of our faith. We can work so earnestly at “being right” or getting our own way, or “being prophetic” (although we need to be prophetic) that we forget we are to be people of love and grace. I’ve observed that the people in my life who draw me in. Who give me a sense of love and grace are the people closest to Jesus.
That’s the type of light for Jesus, I want to be. I want to shed more light on Him than I do myself. I want to be so full of His love and Grace that it draws people in, helps them to feel at home. I want, in my own way, to be a light in the darkness that draws people to Christ. You are the light of the world. What type of light will you be?
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones