You are the light of the world. A town built 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.-Matthew 5.14-16
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Christ is the light that allows people to see things in their fullness. The precise and intended effect of such a light is to see Christ everywhere else. In fact, that is my only definition of a true Christian. A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude or reject anyone.-Richard Rohr, author of The Universal Christ
Let your light shine. For some really wonderful reasons, that phrase has been on my mind in the last week. It’s part of Jesus’ coaching of disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. He talks to that group of followers (in my mind, an ancient near eastern version of the Keystone Cops) and says to them: You are the light of the world. What kind of faint, flickering light were they? Even if it’s only the slightest glimmer, he tells them to let that light shine.
You are the light of the world. Not you ought to be. Not apply to be. Not work really hard to be. Not give it your best shot. But be who you are. It implies the amazing grace that there is the glow of God’s image in each one of us. A gift. It’s the amazing truth embedded in the baptismal covenant, the truth that Christ (the light of the world) can be sought and served in all persons. Even the jerks. Maybe even especially them. A friend who leads a church tells me she strives to see Christ in all persons, admitting that sometimes Christ comes very well disguised. As Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote, in her inimitable, expletive-laden way: My experience of God wanting to be known is much more in the person who is annoying me at the moment than in the sunset. I’m reading Richard Rohr’s book, The Universal Christ. There’s a brief excerpt above, pointing to the light of Christ showing up all over the place. Even in you and me.
I hear Jesus saying to disciples (again, you and me) that if we grasp the notion that we might well be the light of the world, we are to let that light shine. Let the goodness of God’s creation be seen. Implicit in that statement, as far as I can tell, is a caution. While the light of Christ resides in each one of us, there are things we might do to keep the light from shining. It’s not our light. It’s not something we can generate. But it is something we can obscure. Hide it under a bushel? No! Well, maybe occasionally.
What are the things that block the light from shining in and through your life? Deeply held resentment? Withheld forgiveness? The grip of envy or greed? The Prayer Book speaks of things that draw us from the love of God. They come to every life. They come in great variety. For some in our culture, it is simply the tyranny of busy, over-programmed schedules. David Zahl has written an interesting book called Seculosity. In it, he speaks of the things we try to put in place of God, good things to which we turn to prove we are enough. Examples include our commitment to career, parenting, technology, food, politics and romance. In contrast, our faith invites us to embrace grace, to turn to the light, to see the light of Christ and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. And to know that is enough.
This Monday morning, give thanks for the good news that you are the light of the world. You may feel dim, but God apparently does not share that opinion. You have within yourself the brightness of God.
And as you give thanks for the light that is in you, let that light shine, not so others will see how great you are, but so that by the light of your shiny life they will come to see something of the glory of God. Pause and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to let that light shine this week.
RenewalWorks For Me is a personal guide for the spiritual journey, providing coaching to help individuals grow. It begins with a brief online survey which assesses where you are in your spiritual life. We call it the Spiritual Life Inventory.
Once your responses have been processed, we’ll email a helpful explanation of our findings, along with some tips for improving your spiritual journey. You’ll also be given a chance to sign up for an eight-week series of emails that will offer some suggestions, coaching for how you can grow spiritually, and ways you can go deeper in love of God and neighbor. Learn more at renewalworks.org