This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.
Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but that you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
– John 1:6-9, 14
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
– Ephesians 2:8-10
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.-Matthew 5:14-16
Jesus doesn’t say: Try to be the light of the world. You ought to be the light of the world. You better be the light of the world. He offers a declarative, unequivocal statement. A statement of fact to his followers. This is who you are. So be who you are.
Do you feel like a light this morning? I often feel like a dim bulb, stumbling in the dark. That makes it hard to believe that I can provide light for anybody else. Not enough wattage.
But Jesus says let the light that you have shine. Not so that people will say: What a great person that guy is! Our lights are meant to point beyond ourselves to an experience of God (see bit about John the Baptist above). Our lights are meant for people to see good works and by the light of those good works, to have a sense of the glory of God.
What do we know about the glory of God? In reflection on these verses, I kept thinking about St. Irenaeus, who, in the second century said that the glory of God is the human being fully alive. We shine a light on the glory of God when we live fully into what God has called us to do and be. Jesus said that he came to bring life and to bring it in abundance (John 10:10). Our good work is to live into that abundant life, to love God and love neighbor, to be fully alive in a world where powers of death are strong. The letter to the Romans (6.11) speaks about how we formerly were dead to sin. The letter to the Ephesians (2.1) says we were dead in trespasses but are made alive in Christ by grace.
So we, beloved children of God, objects of grace, are called to let that light shine, not because we’re so awesome ourselves (though you are a great group of readers) but because God is awesome. We can be light because Jesus is light.
Of course, that old ego (You know that ego is really an acronym for edging God out) finds its way into our psyche, into our hearts. I find it almost impossible to avoid self-consciousness about good works. (How lucky God is to have me on the team!) When I become aware of a good work, the next step often can be to compare and contrast with others, asking why don’t those folks do the kind of good works I do? Why don’t they care about causes I care about? What’s wrong with those spiritually deficient folks? The good works clearly can become fertile ground for the most unattractive qualities of religious folk
But thanks be to God, All Saints’ Day is still fresh in mind. I love the phrase from the Prayer Book that speaks about saints as lights in their generation. For all the saints (i.e., all of us) have light to share, as I often hear at the end of yoga practice, where the teacher will say some version of the following: The light in me sees and honors the light in you. How will you let your light shine so that people can see something of God’s activity, so that people can come to understand something of the love of God, the grace of God, the glory of God? How will you live into that call to reveal the glory of God by being fully alive this week?
Here’s what I propose for this Monday morning: Confess that there are always mixed motives. Our light can flicker. Get over that and then think about how your own life can point to the glory of God, how you can let your light shine this week.
You are the light. Be the light.
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