Is a torch relevant to a dungeon?
By Reverend Donovan A. Coley, Sr., exclusive for ReSermon.com
The following is excerpted and edited from a sermon series, “Living Right In a World Gone Wrong: Relevance” by Rev. Donovan Coley, CEO of the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (www.TheRescueMission.net). Rev. Coley delivered this sermon on January 17, 2016 at Pathway Community Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. To see or hear Rev. Coley’s sermon in its entirety, click here. For more information about Clinton, visit http://www.therescuemission.net/about-us/staff/donovan-coley.
My marketing team at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission came up with a new game called “Secret Santa.” This might not be a new game to you, but I’m Jamaican, and I’ve never previously heard of Secret Santa. It was a fun way to practice elements of the Christmas season as we helped homeless and struggling people better appreciate the birth of Jesus Christ as well as better appreciate the Christmas season in general.
The concept of “secret Santa,” however, reminded me of some secret Christians I know, who mistakenly believe that being secretive in their spiritual identity was, in fact, a noble undertaking. Their modus operandi is to quietly go about socially helping their community and society without mentioning the Lord who so inspires their good service.
Torches are unashamedly relevant to dungeons, and dungeons do well to not philosophically quibble with torches about the meaning of light, the nature of light, the reason for light, the ideal location of light, etc. Search online for “church” and “relevance” and you’ll find voices in the Christian community arguing for a type of relevance that has a lot more to do with aesthetics, music style, social work and inoffensive theology. Christians, however, must realize that their relevance is born from theological light, and not simply fellowshipping over lattes and surface talk about helping the poor.
Jesus stamps a guarantee of relevance on his followers when he said in Matthew 15:14-15, “You are the light of the world.” He speaking of our identity, innate ability to illuminate and provide hope and spiritual direction to a world in darkness.
Verse 14 continues, “A city on a hill cannot be hidden, neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house.” This light is visible and cannot be secretive.
A “secretive Christian” is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a Christian whose Lord has told him adopt this posture: “Well, my Christian life and my spirituality is personal. I really don't want to offend anybody because what you believe is your business and what I believe is my business.”
In the world of serving the homeless and the marginalized, it is very easy to snuff out light as a strategic investment to serve those in the dungeon. Believe me, many more volunteers and donors from the Fort Wayne region and beyond would gladly help my ministry in both time and money if we would just consider asking Jesus to dismiss himself from our table. That way, these people would feel more comfortable writing checks, providing volunteers, donating resources, and so on.
But would doing so help or injure my relevance to those in the dungeon? Is having a tidier or more furnished dungeon more relevant than being able to see, perceive and understand?
We will not ask Jesus to dismiss himself from the table. He is preeminently relevant, and we are simply blessed to get a piece of his action as staff members of the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission. As a result of this commitment, even secular organizations are recognizing us.
Recently, Better Business Bureau of Northeast Indiana looked at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission among every single business entity in northeast Indiana (not just non-profits) and we received – I am not making this up -- the Torch Award.
By English: Cpl Erik Villagran [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons