Hespeler, 23 February, 2020 © Scott McAndless
Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 99, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9
When, six days later, Jesus came up to Peter, James and John and quietly said, “Hey, what do you say that the four of us take a hike and climb up to the top of that mountain over there?” did they have certain expectations about what he was saying and what might happen? There are all kinds of reasons to think that they did.
Ever since human beings (or maybe even their primitive ancestors) first stood up on their hind legs and raised their eyes to the distant horizon, those eyes were drawn to the hills and mountains that punctuated that horizon. And from very early times, they seem to have come to see those mountains as significant mostly because they were places where extraordinary things happened.
In Southeastern Turkey, not far at all from the place that the Bible seems to be talking about when it describes the location of Garden of Eden, there is a mountain called, in the local language, Göbekli Tepe. In recent years, archeologists have made some amazing discoveries at that location. They are unearthing structures made of massive stones carefully arranged in circles with even bigger t-shaped stones standing in the middle of them.
The site was clearly built up over many centuries, but the truly surprising thing about it is that there are absolutely no signs of inhabitation – there are no remains of houses, of fire pits, or of the garbage heaps that human beings seem to be so good at leaving wherever they go. Nobody actually lived there, but large numbers of people built it and visited it over many many generations. Even more astonishing, the site is over 11,000 years old.
Do you have any idea how old that is – 11,000 years? That is older than the invention of agriculture. So it wasn’t built by farmers but by people who are sometimes called “hunter-gatherers.” At some point, there were primitive hunter-gatherer people who lived in that part of the Anatolian Peninsula, what is today Southeastern Turkey, who one day looked up and saw, in the distance, that mountain of Göbekli Tepe and said to one another, come, let us go up that mountain and spend enormous amounts of time and energy constructing massive circles of stone on that mountain, but let’s not live there, let’s just visit from time to time.
Now, hunter-gatherers don’t necessarily have a lot of extra resources to spare. They tend to live at pretty close to subsistence levels. So, this was no minor decision they were making. It would have cost them a whole lot. Why, then, did they do it? The only theory that the archaeologists can come up with that makes sense is that they believed, in some sense, that if they went to the top of that mountain and built those massive structures, they would be able to encounter God, or maybe gods, there.
And that speaks to something that I suspect is built into the human psyche. We seem to think of mountains as places for divine encounters. This is something that cuts across all people and all cultures. The ancient Celts spoke about the idea that there are places in this world, they refer to them as “thin places,” places where the boundaries between this world and some other reality that we can’t even imagine are easily penetrated. And mountains seem to be particularly thin places for many peoples. Maybe this was an idea that first occurred to people because they thought of their gods as living in the heavens and mountains were as close as you could get to the heavens while still remaining on earth. But I think that this is about more than just geography.
The Bible records many divine encounters on mountaintops. Most significantly, God invited Moses to the top of a mountain to give him the law. And it just seemed to make sense to everybody that such an important encounter had to happen in such a place. Such dynamic revelations could only happen in elevated places. Later, it would make sense to everyone that the only place to worship God was upon his holy mountain, as we read in our Psalm this morning: “Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy.” The impulse to seek to encounter God on a mountaintop is deeply ingrained into our human souls. Maybe it has been ever since Göbekli Tepe
So yes, it seems quite likely that, when Jesus invites the three to go up the mountain with him, they are expecting that they might experience something divine. And indeed they do! They have an experience that is very much a parallel to the story of Moses on that other mountain. There is the same encompassing cloud, the same frightening light and Moses himself even shows up for the party.
There has been a lot of talk down through the centuries about what actually happened on that mountain and what it means. The story has a certain otherworldly quality to it, as if it is not quite real. Jesus himself refers to what happens on that mountain as a vision, which adds to that impression. But, whatever it was, what they experienced there seems to have been a powerful confirmation of what they had only begun to suspect about Jesus: that he was not just an ordinary person and that God was uniquely present in him.
This was not something that was clear under ordinary circumstances. Surely, as Jesus moved through the towns and villages of Galilee, he appeared to be nothing more and nothing less that an average Jewish male just like anybody else. But the unique setting of the mountaintop was a place where the inner truth of who Jesus was could literally shine through. God’s presence in Jesus became undeniable.
I think that we are all offered moments like that in our lives – moments when God is present in powerful ways. They may not all be quite as dramatic as this gospel story, but they are real. God does break through into our reality at certain times and places. There is a universality to such experiences. Not every individual has them, of course, but every society seems to have individuals who experience such things. I think our hunter-gatherer ancestors experienced such things on Göbekli Tepe. Maybe their understanding was limited and they couldn’t interpret what they saw as clearly as Moses would on his mountain or Peter, James and John would on theirs, but that doesn’t mean that God wasn’t there for them on their hill.
I think we do have such experiences, but the real question in this story is how are we going to respond to them. Peter’s first impulse is significant. His idea is to make three dwellings, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. There is something about that that seems very familiar to me, something that has been there in the human spirit for at least 11,000 years. Just as the ancient hunter-gatherers encountered something divine on top of Göbekli Tepe and said, “Guys, we have got to build something up here. I don’t care if it takes us centuries and consumes all of the extra energy of our primitive hunter-gatherer societies, we are going to build something on top of this to contain and preserve this experience so that we never lose it.” Peter is possessed by that very same spirit.
Why do we do that? Why do we build shrines and temples and churches on those locations where we, or perhaps where our ancestors many generations before, had those significant experiences with God? I believe it stems from a desire to tame or control such powerful experiences. We want to bind the experience within a structure or institution so that we can maybe come back and visit it from time to time, but it doesn’t escape and begin to change everything in our lives.
Remember how I said that the ancient people who built Göbekli Tepe expended all of that time and effort building the shrine but that nobody actually lived there on the mountain? That was all about keeping the experience of God at a distance – letting God or the gods know that they don’t have a place to speak to our daily lives but that we promise to visit them on special occasions.
Well, things really haven’t changed in the many millennia since. Peter is still reacting just like the hunter-gatherers who had come to Göbekli Tepe. Though he calls what he wants to build “dwellings,” (some translations have “tents” or “tabernacles”) it is clearly not because he wants to live on the mountain. He wants Jesus and Moses and Elijah to stay on the mountain so that he can go on with his life without Jesus, Moses and Elijah interfering too much. He wants to keep the powerful experience of God safe and remote on the mountaintop.
And again, all of this is quite understandable. It is, as I say, what people have been doing to their powerful experiences of God for at least 11,000 years! The really surprising thing about the story of the transfiguration is not that they had that really extraordinary encounter with God, the really surprising thing is that they learned that day to deal with the experience in a new way.
God speaks. God steps into the story in a very powerful way at this point as the voice of God thunders from the enveloping cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” That is a pretty impressive way of making sure that we pay very close attention to what Jesus says next. Peter is given a warning that, if he ignores the next thing that Jesus says, he will be doing so at his own peril. And with such a setup, you might expect that Jesus will have a lot to say. He, like Moses was when he was covered by the enveloping cloud, is in a perfect position to deliver an entire law code and Peter, James and John would be bound to receive it as a new law.
So, our anticipation builds; what is Jesus going to say? What he does say, of course, doesn’t seem to live up to the hype. All he says is, “Get up and do not be afraid,” and then he presumably says, “Let’s go back down the mountain.” That is it: don’t be afraid and let’s go. But what he says must be loaded with meaning because we have been warned to pay heed to it.
And indeed it is. It marks a stunning new teaching, undoing the thing that has been built into humanity since Göbekli Tepe. For Jesus is announcing to us that, because he has come, the experience of God is not something that we have to respond to in fear. We don’t have to keep the presence of God locked up in some safe spot in a temple, dwelling or tabernacle on some mountaintop. We do not need to live in fear of it because Jesus has come and brought God near.
But old habits die hard, don’t they? I think that, in many ways, we are still very much like those hunter-gatherers on the ancient Anatolian Peninsula. We still want to keep God at a safe distance in some special place. Sometimes we treat our holy places, like for example, this sanctuary here, as if they were on some remote mountaintop far removed from our daily lives. We visit here, but we don’t bring our whole selves here. We leave the rest of our lives out there and we try not to let the one affect the other. When Jesus said that he came to announce the arrival of the kingdom of heaven, which was his way of saying that that separation was over, God’s reality was about to spill over into the daily world.
This is not a place for you to merely visit from time to time and reconnect with God, this place is where the revolution that the world still needs is supposed to begin. God is not safe here, kept apart from the struggles of the real world. The God you meet here in Jesus Christ is going with you and before you out into the world and into daily life. If that sounds like something that might change everything, you’re right it is. Jesus came to change everything, especially about how we relate to God in our daily lives.
Hespeler, 16 February, 2020 © Scott McAndless
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 119:1-8, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37
How would you recognize an immature Christian – someone who was just starting out in their walk of following in the way of Jesus Christ? I’ll bet if you surveyed your average group of Christians, you would probably find a great variety of answers. Say you went to a fairly normal congregation like this one and asked people, confidentially of course, who they felt were the most mature Christians among them, they might say something like, “Well, brother Bob over there has taken many courses in theology and Bible study and he probably understands more about God than just about anyone. He is a very mature Christian.” And then someone else might say, “But look at sister Susan over there, she has served as an elder for so many years she has chaired many committees and even headed up that big building project. Now there’s a mature Christian for you.” Or someone else might point out brother Phil, who can pray like nobody’s business, or maybe sister Catherine who has taught generations of students in that Sunday school room.
Those are the kinds of things that we look at. We look at education, leadership, ability and service. We look at what people have accomplished and sometimes just it how long they’ve been around to judge whether or not they are mature in how they live out the Christian faith. And, I’ll be honest, that is generally how I think about it too. And I will say that I have certainly been blessed, down through the years, to have known many mature Christians according to those criteria. That is why I was kind of shocked when I realized what it was that the Apostle Paul was saying in our reading this morning from his letter to the Corinthians.
Paul speaks to the Christians in Corinth and sadly tells them that he can’t treat them as mature Christians. In fact, he says that they aren’t just immature, they are babies. He has to feed them milk, he says, and not solid food. Paul is speaking here as if he were a nursing mother with a little baby. Nobody knows for sure how long mothers nursed their children in the ancient world. There are some indications that they may have nursed them until they were at least three or four years old! But they still must have introduced solid foods well before that age. Perhaps they exclusively fed their children on milk for about the same period of time that modern mothers are recommended to do so by the experts today: about six months
So what Paul is implying to the Corinthians is not merely that they are immature. He’s suggesting that they are little more than newborn infants. He’s actually casting himself as a nursing mother with a baby who cannot even handle pablum. But what is really surprising is how it is that Paul knows that they are immature because he doesn’t look at any of the things that we would look at. He doesn’t look at education or experience or service or ability or any of that stuff. There is only one indication that matters to him. “For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?” The fact that they are quarreling with each other is all Paul needs to look at to know that they are spiritual infants.
What would it be like if we in the church today had the same understanding of spiritual maturity as Paul? Because I’ll tell you that we don’t tend to think that way at all. We often go to the other extreme. What do you do, for example, if you have a person in your congregation who is, let’s say, really forceful when it comes to getting their point of view across, who has this way of making sure that everybody goes along with their plans? What do we do? Well, we usually let them do whatever they want because we are scared of how they might react if we don’t. We also tend to look at them and say, “Wow, there’s a leader for you; there’s somebody who knows how to get things done.” And so we advance them into leadership or put them in charge of some project.
And then, before too long, you find yourself in a position where almost all of your leadership team is made up of exactly that type of person and if you don’t watch out you soon have them butting heads with one another because, I’ll tell you, none of them are about to back down on anything. We behave as if these people are the spiritually mature, responsible leaders and not the spiritual babies that Paul would have seen. We act as if quarrelling and fighting are an essential part of being the church and even reward the behaviour.
And I know that we often excuse it. We say that people are not really fighting because it isn’t physical. We call it being passionate or forceful and often even push the blame onto those who complain or feel hurt by the process – tell them that it is their fault because they are being too sensitive. You know, maybe we ought to check with Jesus before we say things like that.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment,’” and we agree. We think, that because people aren’t murdering each other everything’s fine. We’d go even further and say that so long as nobody’s having fist fights in the parking lot or keying people’s cars, we must be all good. But here’s the thing. Jesus said that in order to reject it and say that it wasn’t good enough. He said it in order to say, “but I say unto you…”
Jesus is giving us, in this short passage from the Sermon on the Mount, some instructions on becoming the kind of mature Christians that Paul was looking for but didn’t find in Corinth – the kind of Christian who doesn’t give into quarrelling and fighting. And this first instruction is key. He says that it’s not just about not murdering each other. It’s not just about avoiding actual physical violence. We need to look at deeper questions about how we treat each other, how we speak to each other and how we behave. Words can hurt just as surely as blows can. Raised voices and aggressive movement can frighten and even terrify.
And I know that some people might find that to be too much to ask. How can we censor our every word and movement all the time? It is a lot to ask and I know that it is something that we will all fall short of at least from time to time. I fall short often enough. But Jesus never said it was supposed to be easy. He demanded more of his followers and it is the kind of maturity that we may sometimes fail to achieve but that we must always aspire to.
But that is just one part of the advice that Jesus gives to us as he encourages us to maturity. He also teaches us to, “Come to terms quickly,” when we are faced with such strife. That is (I suspect Paul would agree) what a mature Christian should do rather than quarrel and fight. Now, coming to terms is something that takes some work, it takes some communication and in some cases it might take some mediation. It might even take some give-and-take or what you call negotiation. Sometimes it’s really hard and sometimes it is nigh impossible, but coming to terms is something that we can all work towards together.
But I’ll tell you something that coming to terms isn’t; it isn’t what we often do. What do you do, for example, when you find yourself in a situation, whether in the church or someplace else in life, and somebody begins to act inappropriately with someone else – insulting them, making fun of them or maybe speaking in inappropriate racial or sexual ways? I know how people often react and I’ve done it, sadly enough, myself. People withdraw, look down as if they had suddenly become very interested in their shoes. And I understand why we do that, we are afraid to speak up, afraid of the discomfort of it or that maybe the person who is misbehaving will turn his or her attack on us. We hope that maybe, if nobody says anything, it’ll just be over and we can pretend that it never happened. And, indeed, that is exactly what we sometimes do afterwards as well. But let me ask you, is that kind of response what Jesus was thinking of when he said that we should “Come to terms?” No, he was not.
But, of course, that is just one way that we deal with the discord that sometimes arises among us. Sometimes, when somebody has hurt you in some way, maybe even without realizing that they have done it, you might respond by withdrawing from that person, becoming cold and even hostile in your reactions to them. I get that reaction. It can really feel so good, you almost feel as if you are getting back at them by doing it. But, let me ask you, do you think that that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said “Come to terms”? No, it was not.
Okay then, how about, “agreeing to disagree”? Is that what Jesus was talking about when he spoke about “coming to terms”? Sometimes, I will admit, that is a position that we’re going to have to take. The simple reality is very clearly that we are not always going to agree about everything. There is no escaping that. But sometimes I feel as if we can say that in a rather cynical way, as if we are grudgingly giving someone permission to be wrong from our point of view and somehow I really don’t feel that that’s what Jesus was getting at when he spoke of “coming to terms.” Surely there are ways to say that and to truly respect and honour that person who holds a different point of view, to be willing to learn from them even if, in the end, you don’t agree. I think that could be close to what Jesus was talking about when he said, “come to terms.”
But most of all, what I think Jesus was saying was that we need to truly love one another. And if you truly love one another and you run into one of those inevitable patches when you see something differently or are hurt by something that somebody does either intentionally or unintentionally, then you are going to put in the effort and the time to actually communicate what you feel and what you need. You will put in the time and effort you need to understand where somebody is coming from and why they might be feeling the way they are (which, I have found, often has little to do with the disagreement at hand but with something deeper that might be going on in their life).
It also means you are going to be willing to tell somebody the hard truth, like how they might have hurt others with their behaviour. That is a hard thing for anyone to hear, but when it comes from a place of love, it can be a transformative moment. I think that that might just be a piece of what Jesus was getting at when he told us that we should come to terms.
Is any of that easy? Of course it isn’t. Is any of us going to be able to do that all the time? Of course not. We will all fall short at least from time to time. But, as Paul makes very clear, our failures to do this do not mean that we are not followers of Christ or that we have no place in the kingdom of heaven. It means that we are immature Christians who can’t quite handle solid food. But full maturity is what we should all desire. It is what Christ has called us to. So let us all put in the work to get there.
Hespeler, 9 February, 2020 © Scott McAndless
Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 112, 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, Matthew 5:13-20
God, I don’t mean to complain, but I’ve got to ask, what is the problem here? I mean, we Presbyterians, we have got it all figured out, don’t we? We believe all the right things. We have to because we work so hard at getting it right. We believe in God the Father the creator of heaven and Earth. We believe in Jesus Christ his only son and all the right stuff about his life and his death and his resurrection. We believe correctly about the nature of Christ and the nature of the trinity even if (if I can be candid here for a moment) it doesn’t make a lot of logical sense to us.
We believe all the right things about the church and how it should operate. In fact, we are so careful about that that every time we even think of making any change in church policy we send it out to all the committees and go over the wording with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that we’ve got it just right before we adopt it. We don’t care if it takes us years, maybe even decades, we will not make that change until we get it just right.
We are so careful and so correct, and yet what do we see happening in our church? As our friend, John-Peter, shared with us a couple of weeks ago, we find ourselves today in a denomination that is undergoing a steep decline, a decline that has been fairly steady and straightforward ever since 1959. Day after day we seek you and delight to know your truth and be correct in all of it, and yet this is what you let happen to us?
Why do we work so hard to be right, but you do not see? Why convince ourselves that we’ve got the answers, but you do not notice? Well, I guess the only thing we can do is just try harder to be all the more right all the time. Surly you will soon come around and give us what it is that we most desire.
I puzzled for a long time over our reading this morning from the Book of Isaiah. In it, the people of Israel are clearly going through a difficult time. They are feeling as if God is not giving them what they think they need. Now, I could probably tell you what it was that they were struggling with. Biblical scholars actually have some pretty good ideas about the enemies that surrounded them, the hard economic times they were dealing with and things like that. But I really think that the point of us reading it today has less to do with the things that they were actually struggling with and more to do with the things that we today sometimes struggle with.
The main point is that they were struggling just like we sometimes struggle. But they were complaining to God specifically because they figured that they were doing everything right and so God ought to be giving them a better time. And, honestly, I think there are times when we also feel like that. So this passage suddenly seemed very relevant to me.
But here was my problem: the thing that they figured they were doing right was fasting. Now, fasting is something that does come up in the modern world from time to time, usually in the form of a diet craze. For example, these days everyone is talking about the 5:2 Diet where you eat normally five days a week and then fast two. But they weren’t fasting for health or because they were hoping to lose some weight. They were fasting because they had this notion that, if they went without food and suffered because of it, God should notice and give them what they really needed. And, what’s more, they figured that they had this fasting thing just right, that not only did they have the hunger pangs, but they were also bowing down and humbling themselves just beautifully. It was a perfect fast. That is why they thought that their complaint against God was so legitimate. They were doing everything right, but God wasn’t holding up his part of the bargain.
And I, honestly, have a bit of a rough time identifying with that. I mean, I know that there are some Christians in the world today who really get hung up over carrying out religious actions like prayers or fasting or rituals and doing them just perfectly, but that’s not really how Presbyterians or most Protestants think about these things. You would never catch us suggesting that the only way to solve some problem we are having is by finding a certain ritual and executing it perfectly. So, it really seemed like there was no way for us to relate to the people that the prophet is addressing in this passage.
But then I thought about matters of belief. Protestants, you see, have this obsession about believing all the right things. I guess that, when we understand that we access our salvation by faith, it does make a certain amount of sense. If faith is so key, then surely what you believe matters. What’s more, we all believe the truth matters and if truth matters, well, then it matters that you believe true things.
That is all fair enough, but there is a dangerous leap that we tend to make within that logic. We easily seem to fall into thinking that faith is just a matter of believing the right things about God, about Jesus, the Bible and a host of other things. And when we think that way, the stakes are suddenly very high. Suddenly, if I believe one thing and you believe something that’s maybe slightly different, that is not just a matter for discussion, it becomes a matter of salvation! Suddenly questions of belief become things to fight over, maybe even die over. We also begin to expect that God should reward us and give us preferential treatment because we happen to believe all the right things.
But just as the prophet came to the people of Judah in our Old Testament reading this morning and said, “Do you really believe that God is going to give you all of these things that you think that you need simply because you do the right kind of fast?” so would God come to us today and say, “Why should I grant to you, as a church, all of these blessings and victories and growth because you think that you figured out all the right stuff to believe?” Just as they were focussing on the wrong thing by trying to get their fasts right, I believe we might be doing the same thing in our focus on belief and doctrine.
Again, this is not because these things don’t matter. Of course, they matter. They are of ultimate importance. But there is a great danger when we put all of our energy into working out these things that we miss the bigger aspects of our calling. What happens when, for example, we substitute “right belief” for fasting in the prophet’s diatribe?
“Look,” he might say, “you may get your beliefs all right, but you only seem to be serving your own interests as you do so. Sure, you do an admirable job in figuring out the right things to believe, but you seem to only do it in order to quarrel and fight with each other. Such good doctrine will not make your voice heard on high. Is this the right belief that I choose, creating perfect statements of doctrine and theology? Is this belief that is acceptable to the Lord?”
Now, to be perfectly clear, the prophet was not trying to suggest to the people of Judah that fasting and other similar religious observances and practices were bad things. On the contrary, he believed that fasting was a good thing. In the same way, the prophet would not chastise us for our quest to work out a belief system that is most perfectly aligned with the truth about God, the universe and everything. His caution was that the pursuit of that good thing was preventing them from seeking the better thing. Even worse, he was accusing them of substituting the good thing for that better thing that was absolutely needed from God’s point of view.
And what is that better thing? That better thing is justice. That better thing is the pursuit of a world and a situation where all are treated fairly, where outcasts and marginalized people are welcomed in and where those who are enslaved in any way are granted freedom. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
I can only imagine how that was a problem with the ancient Judeans – how they were so obsessed with pleasing God with their perfect fasts, piously going without food and feeling so holy for it, that they totally failed to notice the people next door or homeless in the streets who were going without food for anything but pious reasons. I can only imagine how it was for them, but I know exactly how it is a problem for us. When we get caught up in believing the right things, it can be so easy for us to reject certain people because they do not fit our idea of what a Christian is supposed to be or of what righteousness is and, even if we may not intend it that way, the result is often rejection and deep wounding.
Jesus understood and believed in the importance of right belief. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” But he taught that compassion and care, especially for the outsiders, the rejected, the sinners and the forgotten, always trumped the importance of right belief. For what was the point of having the light of the knowledge of the truth if it did not shine before others. “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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Our Old Testament prophet is very clear about how that could happen. It was only when you learned to prioritize justice, when you reached out to those living in the margins and when you shared what you could with those who did not have enough, that this promise was activated: “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard… If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”
Jesus understood that and agreed. It was what he was talking about when he spoke of the lamp set up on the lampstand and the city built up on the hilltop. It is still the only way for us to be what Jesus envisioned. So, by all means, do think about and joyfully discuss the things that you believe. They matter and it matters that you get them as right as you can (for none of us, I believe, will ever understand it all), but know that, far more than that you believe the right things, Jesus requires of you that you live out the faith in practical terms, that you act with compassion, love and understanding, because Jesus really does want your light to shine forth.