The Parable of the Lamp
4:21 He also said to them, “A lamp24 isn’t brought to be put under a basket25 or under a bed, is it? Isn’t it to be placed on a lampstand? 4:22 For nothing is hidden except to be revealed,26 and nothing concealed except to be brought to light. 4:23 If anyone has ears to hear, he had better listen!”27 4:24 And he said to them, “Take care about what you hear. The measure you use will be the measure you receive,28 and more will be added to you. 4:25 For whoever has will be given more, but29 whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”30
The Parable of the Growing Seed
4:26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. 4:27 He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 4:28 By itself, the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 4:29 And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle31because the harvest has come.”32
This Sunday is the third week of Easter, and what an Easter it has been. God continues to do amazing things in us, through us, and sometimes despite us. God works in the details of our everyday lives and reminds us of his presence when we wake, work, play, and sleep. God is growing the seed of faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.
How long will it take us to realize that we are not alone in this world?
There are things in this world that I am in control of, and there are things in this world that I have no control over. Recognizing that makes a world of difference. I am still not sure of all that God has called me to do, but for this moment, I will put one step in front of the other and trust in God’s unfailing grace.
It seems a little odd not to be preaching about the appearances of Jesus to the disciples following the resurrection. It’s not that those are not important events, but I wanted to take a look at these two parables in the darkness of Good Friday and the light of the resurrection.
When I was a child, I would go fishing with my grandmother and family on the St. Lawrence River. It was a yearly tradition to spend two weeks in the summer catching fish, resting and playing playing. In the darkness of the morning, before the sun came up, I would hear my grandmother stirring. I could hear her footsteps on the old floorboards of the cabin where we stayed. I would wake and beg her to take me out on the river with her. She reluctantly agreed. We would climb the stairs down to the dock and put out into a 16-foot aluminum fishing boat. The Humm of the Johnson Motor and the smell of oil and gas would fill my nose. I would cough a little, and then we were off into the fog that lay on the water. We would work our way across the bay and into the shipping channels. It was magical. The only light we had was from the sun starting to break and a steel lantern with a red marker light with a single beam that resembled a car headlight. My grandmother would stop and prepare her trolling rod, and I would get to run the motor. She would tell me, “go slow and zig-zag across the water.” I listened. She was trolling for Muskie and Northern Pike. This particular morning, we caught nothing. The fish were out there; they weren’t biting on her Johnson Silver Spoons that had been passed down from her father. We spent about 2 hours in the cool summer winds going back and forth across those shipping lanes. At one point, she had a strike on the line. She reeled it in to find a perch that wasn’t big enough to keep. I took point on the boat with the steel lantern. I had the red light on and was looking for the bay. We pulled the boat to shore and were greeted by my brother and sister, eager to know if we caught anything at all. My grandmother replied, “We caught cold.” I turned out the lamp, and we went in for breakfast -hot eggs and bacon. We would go out later in the day and try our luck once more.
All the time on the river, I thought about the fish we might catch. I thought of winning an award for the largest Muskie or Northern Pike caught. I had nothing to show for our time on the water, but I suppose fishing wasn’t the point of that trip. During that time, my grandmother taught me many things about fishing. She taught me how to fix a reel that had jammed. She taught me how to steer the boat and navigate by the horizon. She also told me that the most important thing you can do is to help someone light their lamp when theirs had gone out. She taught me about friendship and life. She said, “Life is what’s happening when you're making plans.” Something tells me she might have been a fan of John Lennon; she wasn’t telling.
John Lennon’s light in this world went out on December 8, 1980, when Mark David Chapman brutally gunned him down. His poetry, music, and legacy live on in all of his fans today. I don’t know if John Lennon knew Jesus, and I don’t want to get into a debate as to what his eternal destination may have been. I do know that whenever a light goes out in this world, it is devastating. Whether expected or not, it shakes us to our core.
The light shining into the darkened tomb tells me that God is with us in life as much as in death. The past couple of weeks have been filled with stories of innocent people dying at the hands of police, and murderers. There is loss and emptiness. There is despair and hopelessness. We ask, “Where is God in these moments?” God asks us, “Where were we in these moments?”
In the city of Syracuse this week, three children were shot by a 23-year-old man. The eleventh-month-old baby was killed instantly, and the 3-year-old and 8-year-old cousins were in critical condition at last report. The mother was simply driving her car and caught in the middle of this nightmare. God asks us, “Where were we when this happened?”
The reality is we have become numb to the violence. We have exhausted the comment, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” When will enough be enough? When will we love God more than our guns?
Jesus uses this illustration of a lamp being lit. He says, “A lamp24 isn’t brought to be put under a basket25 or a bed, is it? Isn’t it to be placed on a lampstand?” You see, unless a lamp is placed on a lampstand, it is useless. If it is placed under a basket, it will go out. If it is placed under a bed, it will be hidden from all who are to see, and we will stumble in darkness.
The darkness of the cross and murder will linger with us if we don’t see the light of the resurrection. If we can’t open our minds to it being God who rolls away the stone, we will miss the point of Easter. This week there are people all over the world burying their family members. A mother in Syracuse is burying her 11-month-old baby and praying that her two cousins survive the weekend.
“Where are we in the midst of this tragedy?”
The light of Jesus Christ is with us not so much so we can illuminate our souls, but that we might share it with others who need help, hope, healing, and a touch of God. We must not keep that light hidden under a basket. We must respond and focus on the living who are grieving the dead. I am not trying to be a downer this morning, but I want us to examine our motives as Christians.
How long will we remain silent in the wake of these tragedies?
I am trying to get Facebook’s attention this week. In light of the mass shootings, they have been sending out ads that support the AR-15 assault weapon. I have been reporting these ads and railing against them. I assume that eventually, I will get put in Facebook Jail. This media outlet is complicit in allowing these advertisements to take place. They have no problem silencing journalists or people that don’t think as they do, but yet they line their pockets with ad monies from gun manufacturers.
We must shed the light of Jesus Christ in this darkened world. People need to know there is a light following death and resurrection that conquered the gates of hell. People need to know the Jesus we talk about and sing about each Sunday. Things in this world will not get better unless we stand up for what is right and take back the city streets that lie in the darkest parts of Syracuse, NY.
The following parable that Jesus speaks of is the seed that is planted and grows. Many of you have spent most of your life in the church; you have heard the Word preached. You have sung hymns, and you have participated in mission work. That’s great. However, there is more work that needs to be done. You have not reached full maturity yet. You are still growing in the grace of God. It’s your job to help others grow in faith, and they may not be in your neighborhood. They may not look like you or speak your language. They may not have the same level of education or income. They may not have had all the opportunities that you have had. It’s time to look past the doors of this building and declare that we will help others grow and light their lamp so that Jesus may shine in this dark world. The stone has been rolled away; the light of the resurrection is shining. What will you do with the light you have been given? It’s time to stop playing church, and it’s time to walk forward in solidarity with the victims of violence as they grieve.
On April 29, a Mother in Syracuse will be celebrating the birthday of her dead child and hopefully nursing her cousins to health and wholeness.
The violence and bloodshed must end, and we must be the body of Jesus Christ redeemed by his shed blood on the cross. We must carry this message forward for all the world to see. Our lamps have been lit. Let’s light another’s candle and give hope to the hopeless. Remember, we are called to “Seek, Serve, and Share God with others.”
-Rev. Daniel J. Bradley is a Licensed Local Pastor serving in the Upper New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is the Pastor of Faith Journey United Methodist Church, 8396 Morgan Rd. Clay, NY. He is a graduate of Ashland University, B.A. Colgate Rochester Divinity School, M.Div and is currently a Doctoral of Ministry student at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. He can be reached at email@example.com.