By, Isam Itson III
Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
When our family lived in Las Vegas, we frequently drove back and forth between Vegas and Southern California visiting family or for church business. If we were coming home from San Diego we would often travel through Joshua Tree National Park. This leads you through the middle of the California desert. For miles we passed all of those deserted, decaying, houses and gas stations that you see in the movies. Desolate country. No exits, no fuel, no food, no services. Just sand, rocks and cactus. Not a place you want your car to break down.
Finally, we would turn onto I-15, the main highway between Vegas and Southern California, and then we could see civilization and all that it promised looming on the horizon. How much more can we imagine the same anticipation for people traveling along the highways in ancient Israel as well. Moving back and forth through the desert wilderness between Jerusalem and the Greco Roman cities around the Sea of Galilee, people looked forward to seeing the cities in the distance. They promised fresh food and water, and a place to recover from traveling on foot.
Living as that hope for others is exactly what Jesus was talking about in this text, how citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven were to live in relationship to God, each other, and the world. Though the church consists of followers of Jesus Christ from around the world, I want to specifically focus on the church as an organized local community. A community of people committed to taking responsibility for one another’s well being in relationship to God, each other, and the world, all to the glory of God.
The local church is a group of people committed to building each other up in love as members of the body of Christ, the family of God. Writing to the local church at Ephesus in Ephesians chapter six, verses one through twenty (Ephesians 6:10-20), the Apostle Paul pictures us as Roman soldiers standing courageously, shoulder to shoulder, and shield to shield, against all of the spiritual and personal attacks seeking to destroy our faith in God and our loving, sacrificial, commitment to each other. When we come together worshipping God in word, song, and prayer, we are refreshed and encouraged to keep honoring God’s love for others in our daily lives.
As a city on a hill, a community of believers, we promise encouragement, restoration, and hope to all who enter our sanctuary, as they experience the love of God in Jesus Christ, through their time spent with us. As members of our local churches, all of us are called to love and serve each other within our congregation, while working together to extend hospitality to those who join our services. As a worshipping community we are a city on a hill that attracts and serves the road weary travelers in our communities.
1. The Bible speaks of us as members of Christ’s body, brothers and sisters in a family, and a closely knit unit of soldiers. How deeply connected am I to the other members of my local congregation?
2. As groups of members within our local congregation, are we meaningfully and consistently engaging in the life of our local community? Why or why not?
3. Are there needs that we could address in our communities if our time and energy were unlimited?