Visibility is a must

By Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor

I must confess that things that make life easier are often appealing. Life just gets busy sometimes.

In case you are wondering, this is my rationalization for the reason Rusty and I frequently eat out at restaurants. Of course, I do realize that if you ask him, he might tell you that there are better cooks at Lizard s Thicket and McDonald s than there are at our house. Either way, after a full day sometimes it is a treat not to go grocery shopping.

Such was our recent plan, when we drove to the Village at Sandhills to savor grilled trout at the local Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. From the road, we could see the familiar stores and restaurants with bright illuminated signs and buildings against the evening skyline. And then Rusty said, Oh, my goodness, I hate to tell you, but I think our Cracker Barrel has gone out of business.

Of course, with a growling stomach, I did not find his comment comforting at all.

Look for yourself, he continued. The whole place is dark and the sign is off. I guess they did not make it.

With questions rising, we drove into the darkened parking lot. There were a couple of cars parked there, but the only lights through the restaurant windows were very dim. I went to the front doors to see if there was an explanation posted on the door.

When I saw a few workers inside, I tried the handle. The door opened, and I timidly asked, Are you all closed? I didn t say it, but I even wondered if there had been a bad restaurant inspection reported on the news and everyone knew about it, but us. After words of reassurance that they were indeed open, we joined one other couple in the dining room to have our grilled trout.

The server was overjoyed to see us. He told us the lights were messed up. The manager could get them to stay on for a couple minutes, and then they would cut off again. We and the other couple were the only diners they had had all evening. He was glad we were so determined.

Let me recommend the grilled trout. It was wonderful and carefully prepared just for us. We had a great dinner, but this dining experience felt very strange. There were no cute little babies to notice. There were no children playing checkers in rocking chairs by the fireplace. There were no folks on vacation traveling through. There were no big families around a table.

An electrical problem with the lighting, if not corrected, could put our restaurant out of business. It comes down to visibility.

Across South Carolina, it is even more important that our United Methodist churches are a real and visible presence in their communities. Once people enter the church doors, I know God reaches out to hungry hearts. The question is how to get them to come inside.

Jesus talks about letting our light shine and that we cannot hide it under a basket. In marketing terms, I think Jesus is talking about the need for visibility.

What kind of light is your church casting in your community? The light of our individual faith and of our corporate faith together as the body of Christ must be seen. We are invited to share the light that takes away the sins of the world.

I fear that some of our churches are like the Cracker Barrel. The lights are not on, or at best they are not burning brightly enough for those who are on the outside to want to come in.

So let me ask this most important question: Are you letting your light shine? Do people know that your church is open, serving, praising, teaching? Jesus, the light of the world, invites us, you and me, to let His light shine in us and through us.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

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