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When I was stationed in Germany with the Air Force, I worked in a bomb dump. These are parts of the Air Force bases that the military kept the bombs and explosives in concrete and earth covered buildings we fondly called igloos because they had rounded tops and looked like elongated Eskimo igloos, only these structures had grass growing all on top of them. Inside, these structures were large rooms, usually something like 80 feet long by 40 feet wide or bigger, with a curved inner ceiling. On the front they had very large, heavy steel doors that were sometimes very hard to open, especially in the winter.
One afternoon, I was called by the egress shop and asked how many explosive bolts they had on stock in our courtesy storage igloo because they needed some for an ejection seat. I said I would go down to the igloo to check and give them a count. I checked out the keys to the igloo, hopped in a bobcat pickup truck and drove down to the igloo to check. When I got to the igloo, I unlocked the heavy padlock and swung the heavy steel door open and pushed it towards the door catch sticking up out of the concrete. There was a catch in the concrete that was supposed to secure the door open so it would not suddenly close on somebody while moving bombs or other explosive materials in and out of the igloos. I looked at my paperwork and began making my way down the left isle of the igloo. Inside this building were many pallets situated in grids on the floor. Some had items such as ammo cans containing bullets stacked 5 feet high, while others had items stacked only a few inches high depending on what was being stored. So it was kind of like a maze to go back and find the items I was looking for deep inside the structure. I didn’t turn the lights on as I entered the igloo because I was only going to run down to count the items and report back. The explosive bolts were about 2/3rds of the way towards the back of the igloo, and I was just getting to the correct pallet, when suddenly the steel door shut behind me and latched.
“What?” I said as I turned towards the sound of the door. I say the sound of the door because in an instant, I was plunged into complete darkness. “Hey!” I shouted towards the door, “I’m in here!” but no sounds came back my way from the outside what-so-ever. “Crap,” I said as I took a step in the direction I thought was towards the door, and immediately walked into a pallet, catching my foot between the boards and falling over the items on the pallet. I skinned my shin and laid on the cold concrete floor holding my shin and letting out a string of curse words. I shouted out to whoever was outside playing the prank on me, “If you’re playing a joke, I’m going to kill you!” but nobody was outside the door laughing. Even if there were, I wouldn’t hear them on the other side of the thick steel door. I laid there for a few minutes and thought that if someone was pranking me, they would eventually give up and open the door very soon, but no such luck. After a few minutes, my backside was feeling the cold of the concrete and so I decided to stand up and try to find the door.
I stood up. Now you would think that there would be some sort of emergency lighting inside these structures for such an occasion, but no, there was no such light. It was pitch black, so dark inside that space, I literally could not see my hand just an inch in front of my face. And worse yet, I had no idea which way was the door. So I slowly moved myself in a circle, hoping I could see some sort of light creeping in some crack around the door, but no, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I crouched down and began feeling my way in front of me like a blind person towards what I hoped was the door, but really, I had no idea which way I was going. I figured that if I could make my way towards the wall, I could try to make my way down to either the front or the back of the igloo. Well, it was tough moving because there was a maze of pallets in front of me, behind, to the left and the right, but I was confident I could find a wall eventually. So I started out and began singing a little song to myself about how stupid I was to not make sure the door was in the door catch, and as I stretched out my hands, I found another pallet, tried to move around it, and moved on to the next one.
After a while, feeling my way over and around pallets, I had to stand up and stretch because the cold concrete was getting to my knees and hands, but when I did, I smacked the back of my head into the low, downward curving concrete ceiling. “Agh!” I said as I saw stars in front of my eyes and quickly put my hand on the spot I hit. I didn’t feel any blood, but I felt a goose egg instantly forming. “Man that hurt,” I said to nobody in the room. I took a step back to steady myself and fell backwards over a pallet. “Crap, crap, crap!” I shouted as I went down backwards. “Dam it!,” I shouted at myself. I sat there for a few minutes and then reasoned with myself. “Okay,” I said out loud, “If I crawl straight ahead of me, I should run into the wall, then I can follow it down one way or the other.” So I turned over, got on my knees, and began feeling my way out in front of me, moving an inch at a time, until I found what I thought was the wall, but it wasn’t. It was another pallet. “The wall should be here,” I said to the darkness, but it wasn’t. Apparently, I was crawling out towards the middle of the igloo and away from the wall. The trouble with having absolutely no light at all is that one also loses all sense of direction as well. These structures were made to survive direct bombing from above, and being covered in dirt made them extremely efficient at keeping out any noise and light. “This is going to take forever,” I thought.
How long I was in that igloo, I have no idea. I conceded to myself that I was not going to find my way out any time soon, so I could either just sit here and wait for somebody to notice the keys to the igloo were out, or I could keep fumbling my way around in the dark. If I wait, I at least knew that people checked all the keys at the end of the day, and if a set was missing, somebody would come down to investigate. “Did I have the keys in my pocket?” I thought as I ran my hands into my front pockets, “Crap, No!” I said out loud. I left them in the padlock hanging in the padlock box on the outside of the door. “I hope whoever comes down will think to open the door to look inside and not just lock the door and take off,” I thought as I straightened up to stretch my back. I sunk to the floor and decided to beat myself up a little bit for my stupidity. “What an idiot I am,” I thought. “I should have made sure the door was secure in the catch before I came into the igloo. It’s going to get damn cold in here tonight and watch, I’ll die in here and be granted the Air Force’s medal for stupidity posthumously, of course. I can just see them giving me a military funeral. My sergeant would turn to give my mom the American Flag, but instead, he’ll say to my mom, ‘Uh, I’m sorry Mrs. Taylor, but we don’t give out American Flags for stupidity.’” As I contemplated my stupidity some more, I suddenly realized I had to pee. “Great,” I thought. “How am I going to do that in here?” I tried to get my mind on another subject and decided to get crawling again to take my mind off the new problem I was facing.
After I don’t know how long of crawling, I suddenly froze in place. I just saw it for an instant. “Did I really see that?” I thought as I tried to adjust myself back just a little to see if I could see it again. There it was again, between all the pallets of stuff, was a tiny sliver, a pin hole really, of something very faintly glowing. I moved towards it slowly because if I moved just the wrong little way, I lost it and had to try and find it again. I crawled and crawled. My eyes fixed on that little tiny pinhole. My knees ached from the cold concrete underneath them, and my hands felt raw on the palms. Finally, as I got closer to the tiny little light, I could see it was a tiny pin hole of light coming in from the bottom of what had to be one of the doors. From that tiny pinhole of light, my heart was encouraged and I felt like I was going to make it out of there. After a little while, I stood up and stuck my hand out to feel the darkness in front of me. When I did, I stubbed my finger on the door itself. “Oh thank God,” I said out loud in relief. I felt for the handle, pulled it up and pushed the door open. It was windy outside like a thunderstorm was brewing. The light outside hurt my eyes only for an instant, but once I stepped through the door, I dropped once more to my hands and knees and said, “Thank God!” I picked myself up and turned to secure the igloo door, jumped into the bobcat truck, and drove back to control room office.
When I got back to the office, I got out of the truck and realized just how filthy I was crawling around on those dirty concrete floors and dirty pallets of munitions. I walked through the door and began to say, “You won’t believe what,” but I was cut off by Sergeant Alvey, who barked at me, “Where the hell have you been, box dumb ass? It took you long enough. The egress shop has called back twice now. We were just going to send somebody to look, why the hell do you look like that? Oh, and what’s the count?” “The count?” I asked really more to myself than to Sgt. Alvey. “Crap!” I said out loud. In all that, I never did get a count. “I’ll be right back,” I said to him as I turned and ran back out the door.
Light is really important. It is the first of God’s creation that God calls good. Light is also really important to those who are in the dark. Which is why God told Israel in Isaiah 49, verse 3, “And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, whom I will be glorified.” Verse 6, He says: “it is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.“ God is saying through the prophet Isaiah that Israel is God’s servant to bring the light of God’s salvation to the Gentiles. The Hebrew word for light is “ore,” which means illumination, and the Hebrew word for nations is “goyee.” Israel has the law and the commandments, which is compared to light in the Hebrew Bible. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” Psalm 119 states, and they were meant to be shared with all the world so that all the nations could come to know the Holy One of Israel.
Now hundreds of years later, Jesus is sitting high up in a mountain. He waited for those serious enough to climb the mountain to hear his words. The fickle crowds stayed below, but his disciples climbed up to him and Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount to them, which outlines the values of the Kingdom of Heaven. He then tells them that they are salt in the earth and they are the light of the world, because it is by these values their good works and good deeds will be done before others and those who see them will come to know and glorify God.
But notice, Jesus is not starting something new here, because each of the values of the Sermon on the Mount are found in the Psalms and Proverbs of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus stated himself that he had not come to abolish the law or the commandments because as long as heaven and earth remain, so would the law and the commandments. He is not telling them to go out and start a new religion that will obsess over him or his mother, rather than learning what he taught. No. He gave them an interpretation of the values already given in the Bible and reminded them of what God had already said through the prophet Isaiah, that Israel would be light to the nations so God’s salvation would reach the ends of the earth.
Jesus is not wrong, for each of them already sitting around him were already bar mitzvahs, that is, sons of the Abraham and Mosaic covenants. They were already sons of Israel, and they were supposed to be the light of God’s salvation to the pagan world around them.
This is why Jesus told them that salt, if it loses its saltiness it is no longer of any value, and a lamp hidden under a basket is of no value to anybody in the room. This is what it means to have the values of the Kingdom of Heaven that God had given them, but never putting them into practice. We can say we believe something all day long, and we can even go to places where a bunch of people say they believe the same thing all day long, but until we actually put into practice what we say we believe, it is of no value to us, or anybody else for that matter. Even the brother of Jesus, James wrote once that “faith without deeds is dead.” It’s like walking along the edge of a lake and seeing a man drowning out in the water. So we yell out to him, “I know how to save drowning victims,” but we never dive into the water to help him. What good is knowing how to save him if we never actually save the drowning man?
It is no different today for those who strive to follow these same values of the Kingdom of Heaven. If these values never influence our behavior, if they do not guide each step for us along the spiritual road of life, like a pinhole of light in a very dark room, then they are of no use to us or anybody else around us. So I encourage you to take these values into yourself, let them guide you down your spiritual road of life, and in doing so, you will also be blessed. Amen.
Pastor Robbie Taylor