NBW on How the Light Gets Out

Those who’ve just received the new issue of know that it includes a fascinating interview […]

David Zahl / 6.24.14

Those who’ve just received the new issue of know that it includes a fascinating interview with preacher/ pastor/author Nadia Bolz-Weber. We’ll be posting some excerpts once our esteemed magazine editor returns from honeymooning, but if her words have left you wanting more, here’s an excerpt from an incredibly powerful sermon she gave earlier this year on Matthew 5:13-14, ht LM:

nbwIt’s so easy for us to default to hearing Jesus’ sermon on the mount as pure exhortation. As though he is giving us a list of things we should try and be so we can be blessed – be meeker, be poorer, and mournier a little more and you will meet the conditions of earning Jesus’ blessing. But the thing is, it’s hard to imagine Jesus exhorting a crowd of demoniacs and epileptics to be meeker…

I [used to think] that to be the light of the world, to let your light so shine before men, you have to be whole, be strong, be perfect. That special class of people I’ll never belong to. But perhaps this is when we best listen to the words of the prophet Leonard Cohen: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There’s a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.” In other words, it is exactly at our points of weakness, of pain, of brokenness, of insufficiency that force us, like those who originally followed Jesus, to stand in the need of God. To stand in the need of the true light.

So perhaps those cracks… made from bad choices, from anxiety and depression, from addiction, from struggle and remorse, maybe those cracks are what lets the light of God’s love in. And maybe those same cracks are also how the light gets out.

We perhaps should not miss the fact that Jesus does not say “here are the conditions you must meet to be the salt of the Earth.” He does not say, here are the standards of wholeness you must fulfill in order to be light for the world. He looks out into the crowd of people in pain, people who have been broken open – those cracks that let in and let out the Light, who have the salt of sweat and tears on their broken bodies, and says you ARE salt. You. You are light. You have that of God within you, the God whose light scatters the darkness. Your imperfect and beautiful bodies are made of chemicals with holiness shining in it… you are made of dust and the very breath of God.

In other words, you are a broken jerk and Jesus trusts you. Don’t wait until you feel as though you have met the conditions of being holy. Trust that Jesus knows what he is doing. And that you already are salt and light and love and grace. Don’t try and be it. Know that you already are.

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9 responses to “NBW on How the Light Gets Out”

  1. the Old Adam says:

    The Light is let out of our sin?


    It’s let out for sinners in Baptism. In the Supper. And in the absolution.


  2. Sherri Losee says:

    Awesome perspective. We are not loved in spite of our sin. God’s love is made perfect because of it.

  3. Steve Martin says:

    As if God needs our sin.

    Sure, He uses it. But He doesn’t need it. But it’s as good an excuse as any(to continue in it and revel in it).

    • Ian says:

      Well, only so long as you refuse to acknowledge the new reality that you’re dead, right?

      • Steve Martin says:

        “We are to consider ourselves dead to sin.”

        Yes. But we don’t revel in our sin and believe it to be necessary for God’s light to shine through us.

  4. Sherri Losee says:

    Steve, if we are made in the image of God, then we manifest some of God’s nature – and, for us, it is no big deal to love someone who we see as worthy. We must struggle with the loving the “unlovable”. If God, like we, struggled with loving the cursing demoniac, how is He/She different? Now do you see? God’s perfection is unconditional love.

  5. Steve Martin says:

    Yes. But His love is NOT dependent upon our sin to make it (His love) shine for others.

    God hates sin. He uses it for His purposes, also, but His Word is how His love is made manifest.

    In preaching and teaching, in the Bible, and in the sacraments.

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