The Collect for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In coming days, Monday Matters will offer reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.
Let your light shine
I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.
One of my favorite phrases from the Prayer Book appears when, in the course of the eucharist, we remember a saint. That person is referred to as a light in their generation. It says that we have the freedom and responsibility to be that kind of light, something suggested in the collect we heard yesterday in church, when we prayed for the grace to shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory.
I often don’t feel that bright, spiritually and otherwise. This bit about shining becomes aspirational. It is something that Jesus suggests is the call of disciples. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples: Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Which leads me to wonder on this Monday morning: What does it mean to let our light shine? What does that shining actually look like in life these days?
The first thing to note from the collect is that we don’t shine with our own radiance. Rather it is Christ’s glory shining through us. I take that as a relief because in my heart I know that deep down, on my own, I’m a fairly dim bulb.
At the same time, the temptation comes to all of us (especially clergy) to think that we are the light, the star of the story. Our faith reminds us that God is the star of the story, that we shine with Christ’s light.
So what does it take to let our light shine, to open ourselves to God’s light shining through us? Many things may block that shining light. I was interested in this bit of wisdom from Brené Brown, as she speaks of what it means to let our light shine:
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.
If we’re wondering what it means to let our lights shine, it can help to remember saints in our generation who have done that. We have set aside today as a remembrance of the life and ministry and witness of Martin Luther King, who had this to say about light:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; Only love can do that.
Use this holiday as a chance to reflect on the light and love he showed. Perhaps read the dream-filled speech he gave on the mall in D.C. Or maybe read the prophetic speech he gave the night before he died. The letter he wrote from a Birmingham jail cell has a powerful word, especially for clergy and others who hang around churches.
Take stock of what might be getting in the way of letting your light shine. And say a prayer that God will grant you the grace to let that light shine this week.