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A presence of light

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, our theme at Redeemer University College this year, calls us to be a faithful presence – to be salt and light.

A presence of light

Students participate in Deedz – a regular Friday night, student-led program of handing out hot chocolate and engaging in conversations, often about faith, with Hamiltonians in the downtown core.

When I was a kid, we lived on a country road, where there were no streetlights and a rather long driveway. I can remember on cold nights, during winter storms, shovelling that driveway. I would get to the end and look out into what seemed like infinite darkness and cold and swirling snow.

Turning back, I’d see warm lights beckoning from the inside of the house. How awful, it would strike me, to have to spend a night out in that dark and cold. I felt drawn back to that warm, secure presence, thankful for its glow and the promise of rest.

It’s in moments like these that the Gospel metaphor of light is so apt. That light pierces the darkness and provides hope and comfort. The Bible has many references to a light shining in the darkness, but in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – our theme on campus this year – it’s a little different. Here, he calls us to be a faithful presence – to be salt and light.

In Jesus’ day, salt and light were crucial elements to make life more livable, more full, more complete. Salt preserved food and was a seasoning used to make meals flavourful. Light gave warmth and security and allowed for life indoors and after sunset. As soon as the sun disappeared from the sky, precious fuels would be used to create light.

As a community, Redeemer is exploring what it looks like to be that salt and light. How can we be as essential to the life of our communities? How can we be a presence that makes life flavourful for others and brings warmth, security and welcome? And more than that, why does Jesus call us to this?

A five second scan of my Facebook feed shows me how messed up and hurting our world is. We don’t need to look far to see the pain of disease, natural disaster, bombastic pride, racial injustice and moralizing judgment. It’s a broken world.

Action is important. But action alone – no matter how compassionate, just, successful, inclusive or generous – is not enough. Action ultimately must point to the King and His Kingdom.

The world needs Christians who will do amazing things in law and in medicine, in music and in environmental science, in business and in education, at home and in the community, and in many other areas. But it needs Christians who do these things with the kind of presence that points to hope and truth. The world needs the healing that only Jesus Christ can bring. In my travels for Redeemer University College, I am constantly encountering alumni doing amazing things, big and small – with that kind of salt and light presence.

Growing up, I used to think the Beatitudes, that start the Sermon on the Mount, were about other people. That has changed. I now believe that they are about the kind of people that God wants us to be. For 35 years, Redeemer has provided an holistic university education where Christ is both the centre of the classroom and the centre of campus life. With almost 6,000 alumni, Redeemer continues to foster a generation of Christian leaders who will be a faithful presence in our culture and communities, so that others may see their good deeds and glorify their Father in heaven.

This article is sponsored by Redeemer University College.

About the Author
A presence of light

David Zietsma

David Zietsma, PhD, is vice-president, external relations and enrolment. To find out more about Redeemer University, visit