“New Year Same Promises,” under this title, we have been meditating on God’s unchanging promises to us as we opened a new year. The first promise we reflected on was God’s promise of new life made through baptism. By the power of baptism, we all are invited to enjoy this new life in Christ as we practice to die to ourselves and live only with Christ. The second promise we pondered together was God’s promise of faithfulness. The Bible testifies that no matter who we are, God is faithful to us in God’s love and grace. The third promise we contemplated was God’s promise of ministry. Because of Jesus who comes to us and calls us always, we can keep on doing our ministry whether our circumstances are favorable or unfavorable. The fourth promise we examined last Sunday was God’s promise of blessing. We saw that our God is the one who speaks a special promise of blessings for those who are in seemingly unblessed situations.
Today the promise of God we are looking into is God’s promise of guidance. When we think about God’s guidance, we usually get reminded of the image of God who is present in our lives, walks beside us, and leads our ways. Yes, I believe our God does work in such ways and does not leave us undirected. But what I would like to lead you to think through today is the God who constantly guides us by showing us who we are and telling us how God sees us and how God define our lives.
Something strange surely happens to astronauts when they get to see the earth from space. The experience of viewing the earth made Apollo 15’s Jim Irwin an evangelist and Al Worden a poet. Apollo 16’s Charlie Duke became a born-again Christian. And Apollo 14’s Edgar Mitchell left NASA to form the Institute of Noetic Sciences, an organization dedicated to the science of inner wisdom. Psychologist Frank White called the lump sum of these life-altering experiences “the overview effect.”
When astronauts experience this overview effect, they are overwhelmed by the sense of “wonder and awe, unity with nature, and transcendence.” They feel sort of universal fellowship with other humans and creatures in the earth. As they look at the earth from space, national boundaries vanish, and conflicts and antagonisms that divide people from people disappear. Then, they get a deep understanding of who they truly are in the earth.
Astronauts also find the earth as “a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.” They notice that the earth is vulnerable. It needs special care. And it becomes obvious and imperative for them to create a planetary community to protect this beautiful planet. So afterwards, many of them change their career to make the earth a more peaceful and habitable place. Indeed, when astronauts come to understand who they truly are, they become naturally awakened to what they really need to do in the world.
What does this interesting concept of the overview effect tell us? Overviewing our lives from outside can enlighten us to see a deeper dimension of who we are, and also, determine what we do. Today, we are facing many challenges in the US and in the world. There will be greater social, political, economical, religious challenges that will overshadow our lives. In this time of uncertainty, we may need an overview of our lives. We may want to see our lives from a different point of view and know who we are and what we need to do here and now. But to have an overview, we don’t have to go outside the atmosphere, and see the earth from space. As Christians, our overview effect takes place when we see the cross of Jesus from where we are now. The self-giving love and grace Jesus showed us on the cross gives us so much life-shaping wonder and awe that we can redefine ourselves and understand what we are really called to do.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus also especially offers us a clear overview of our Christian lives. Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth”; “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). With these simple and plain words, Jesus defines us—we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And this identity of who-we-are-meant-to-be naturally determines what we are meant to do. Here, our being and our doing are not separated. And our doing is never only for ourselves. As the salt, we are meant to dissolve in the world to make the world savory and flavorful. We are meant to dissolve in the world to preserve the world from decaying. As the light, we are meant to shine our light and expel darkness in the world. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, we are meant to shine our light by caring the poor, removing the yoke of the people, keeping us from blaming others and speaking evil, offering our food to the hungry, and satisfying the needs of the afflicted (Isaiah 58:7; 9-10).
We just entered Black History Month. As you know, the Civil Rights Movement was formed and led by Christian leaders who surely knew their Christian identity was not separate from their action. Their efforts were not just to be fair, but to reveal God’s justice in the world. When they viewed the cross, I am sure that they had an overview of themselves…they were ensured with who they were and what they should do. And they became the salt that changed the world and the light that illumined others. There were many struggles, and there still are. We all know lots of work should be done in our world. I believe God’s guidance is there among our struggles when we look at the cross from where we are, when we reaffirm who we are, when we do what we are called to do as Christians striving to live Christ-like lives in the world.
In this time of challenge, let us see the cross of our savior. By his death on the cross, Christ saves us and calls us to be the children of God. In this relationship, Christ lives in us, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and God gives us the overview on the way we are called to be and the way we are called to do. In this time of trial, let us also trust our God who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator of the universe. This God promises us guidance, the consistent sharing of how God sees our lives. You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world! This is a profound blessing, commendation, affirmation, and commissioning. We are by nature the salt and the light. Because we are here, the earth becomes a delightful place to live. Because we are here, the world is brightened. As the salt, let us go into the world and melt ourselves away to change the world a little by little. As the light, let us go outbound from within to dispel the darkness in the world place by place. Let us be the change as we face the turbulences of the world. Let us be the change as we share God’s vision of the kingdom with each other today. Amen.
 Caroline Beaton, “The Overview Effect: How To Get Unstuck And Shake Up Your Professional Perspective,” Forbes 08.24.16
 Ian O'Neill, “The Human Brain in Space: Euphoria and the ‘Overview Effect’ Experienced by Astronauts,” Universe Today, 05.22.08