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John 1_29-42

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TITLE:  I'm Gonna Let It Shine!   SCRIPTURE:  John 1:29-42

   This little light of mine (hold up index finger), I'm gonna let it shine.

   This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine,

   let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

   Won't let Satan blow it out (blow on finger).

   I'm gonna let it shine.

   Won't let Satan blow it out (blow on finger).

   I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

   Hide it under a bushel (Cup finger over hand) - NO! (Remove hand).

   I'm gonna let it shine. 

   Hide it under a bushel (Cup finger over hand) - NO! (Remove hand).

   I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

When I Googled "This Little Light of Mine," I was astonished to find two video clips on YouTube of Bruce Springsteen singing that song.  If you can stand a few minutes of pure fun, watch those videos -- two concerts -- two versions:

I also found one by King Louis Narcisse leading an African-American congregation in singing that song.  That was fun too!

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine."  That comes from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said:

   "You are the light of the world.

   A city built on a hill cannot be hid.

   No one after lighting a lamp

   puts it under the bushel basket,

   but on the lampstand,

   and it gives light to all in the house" (Matthew 5:14-15).

So we sing, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine."

I can remember singing that song as a child. It was FUN to sing!  It was FUN to do the motions!  It was FUN to shout NO! and not get into trouble for it.

Even as a child, I had some idea what "I'm gonna let it shine" meant.  I understood that I was pledging to let my light shine for Jesus.  I wasn't sure how I could do that -- or even IF I could do that -- but I knew it was a promise -- and I wanted to keep the promise!

"I'm gonna let it shine."  Are you letting your little light shine for Jesus?  Some people in this congregation ARE letting their lights shine.  Some of you have public roles, like the pianist or those who read Scriptures or lead worship -- some of you shine your lights in quieter ways.  Some of you teach Sunday school or sing in the choir.  Some of you serve as ushers.  Some serve on committees.  Some invite friends and neighbors to come to church with them.  Some give generously to support local missions.  Some volunteer to drive young people to their events.  Some just have a kind word and a smile for everyone they meet.

Some of you do several of those things -- many of those things.  I have heard it said that in most churches twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work.  That is probably true. When it comes to letting their light shine for Jesus, some people are like a thousand-watt light bulb.  They shine their light so brightly that they light many different corners.  Their work brightens all our lives. 

I have always wondered what it would be like if we could have thirty percent of the people involved like that -- or forty percent -- or a hundred percent.  After all, every Christian ought to be letting his or her light shine for Jesus in some way. 

John the Baptist was not even a Christian, but he let his light shine.  God had NOT called John to be one of Jesus' disciples, but he HAD called John to point others to Jesus.  That's what we see John doing in our Gospel lesson today. 

To understand what John was doing, we need to know a little about him.  John was a prophet -- the first prophet Israel had known for 400 years.  People flocked after him.  Instead of setting up a tent at the edge of a city, John went to the desert to preach -- and people came by the thousands to hear him.  He had many disciples.  He was like a religious rock star.

But one day John was standing with two of his disciples when he saw Jesus walking by.  John said to his two disciples, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" -- at which John's two disciples left him -- and began to follow Jesus.

John was letting his little light shine -- and it cost him!  In this case, it cost him two disciples.  John must have grieved to see them go, because they were his disciples and they were his friends.  But we don't get any indication that John was disappointed at their leaving or that he was jealous of Jesus.  Whenever we hear about John, he is telling everyone how wonderful Jesus is.  John knew that God had sent him to prepare the way for Jesus, and he was happy to do that.

John!  John the Baptist!  Letting his little light shine!  

Two of John's disciples left him and began to follow Jesus.  One of the disciples was Andrew, and we don't even know the other disciple's name.  We don't know much about Andrew either.  Andrew is one of Jesus' disciples who mostly stands in the background.

BUT quiet Andrew did one thing that turned out well.  He went to get his brother, Simon Peter, and said, "We have found the Messiah!"  He brought Peter to Jesus, and Peter became the leader of Jesus' disciples. 

Andrew!  Letting his little light shine!  Andrew!  Bringing his brother to Jesus!

That's the way it works, you see!  One Christian lets his or her little light shine, and that light changes another person's life.  Then that person lets his or her light shine, and that light changes someone else's life. 

It is like throwing a stone in a lake and watching the ripples.  How far do the ripples go?  How many lives do they touch?  It is not possible to say.  God can keep the ripples going for a very long time.

I am reminded of Mordecai Ham.  Mordecai was an evangelist.  In 1934, he conducted a revival meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.  One of the people who came forward was a tall, gangly boy who had just turned sixteen.  I don't know how many other people came forward.  I don't know whether Mordecai felt that he had conducted a successful revival.  I doubt seriously that he remembered that sixteen year old boy very long.  But that boy was Billy Graham, who took the light that Mordecai Ham had given him and held it aloft for everyone to see. 

When we let our little light shine, how far does it shine?  How much good does it do?  Does it change lives?  Does it help people?  Only God knows!  But God is faithful.  If we go through life letting our light shine for Jesus, we can be sure that God will make something of it.  We won't know the full effects during our lifetime.  But just wait until we get to heaven.  I believe that God will reveal to us wonders that we never imagined.  I believe that God will show us that our lives really counted for something -- if we were letting our little light shine.

So what do we have to do to let our little light shine?  That depends on what God calls us to do.  God calls some of us to be preachers-- and others to be Sunday school teachers -- and others to be choir leaders or choir members -- and others to work with youth.  But, most of all, God calls us to be Christians -- people who try to live as Jesus would have us live.  That, in itself, can be a powerful witness.  Philip Yancey, the Christian author, asks:

   "What would happen in the national consensus

   if these nine words came to mind

   when you said the word, 'Christian':

        love, joy peace,

        patience, kindness, goodness,

        faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?"

Those are the nine things that the Apostle Paul listed as the fruits of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatian church (Galatians 5:22-23):

   "Love, joy peace,

   patience, kindness, goodness,

   faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?"

Not all of us are called to be preachers.  Not all of us are called to be Sunday school teachers.  Not all of us are called to be choir directors.  But ALL of us -- ALL of us --are called to bear the fruits of the Spirit.  What could God do with your life if the people who know you best would think of you as a person filled with:

   "Love, joy peace,

   patience, kindness, goodness,

   faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?"

Today, I would like to call you to do some soul-searching.  God wants to make something out of your life.  God does NOT want you to live a life of drudgery.  God does NOT want you to go through life just putting one foot in front of the other.  God wants you live a joyful, productive life.  God wants you to be a light shining in the darkness -- helping others who are trying to find their way.  At the end of the day, God wants you to feel that it was important that you were alive.  At the end of your life, God wants to greet you and show you all wonderful things that your life accomplished -- with God's help -- when you let your little light shine.

So what can you do? 

-- The first thing is to pray -- asking God to reveal what he has in mind for your life. 

-- The second thing is to listen -- to hear God when he speaks. 

-- And then, when God shows you something that needs doing, do it.  When God shows you someone who needs helping, help them.  When God shows you a problem, start looking for a solution. 

With God's help, you will be astonished at how important your life can be -- if you just let your little light shine.

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