Today we will have 26 more seconds of light than yesterday and tomorrow we will have thirty seconds more than today. The year has turned and almost imperceptibly the days are getting longer. It can’t happen soon enough for me: I love long summer evenings. Amazingly enough, light is so important to us and to our basic functioning that if we are severely light deprived for any length of time the neurons in our brains actually begin to die. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Jesus is called the light of the world. The Gospel of John says, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
But later Jesus told his followers “You are the light of the world” (Matt. ). The light which came into the world through Jesus is also the light which is in us. We prayed together the collect for today, “Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives.”
“Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives.” That’s what I want to talk about today. How do we become the light of the world? How does that light shining in the darkness become the light shining out of us into the darkness of a troubled world?
The first thing I notice is that John’s Gospel says, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” So light starts as life and that is where we must start. You all know that if I switch on a light but pull the cord out of the wall it will go off. You also know that it’s not magic, but inside the wall is a set of wires which transmit an electrical current. They get that from the wires coming into the building which get it from the transformer on the top of the pole by the road and it gets it from a cable which connects to an electrical substation and so on through the grid until we find the source which may be Diablo Canyon or may be the California Valley Solar Ranch in California Valley or somewhere quite different.
It’s the same way with spiritual light. We are not the source. We are the light fixtures and the bulbs. We get to radiate light but it isn’t ours and it never will be. In order to be the light of the world you have to be plugged into the life which is Christ. We don’t have long-life batteries so it’s not enough to plug in once in a while – you need to be plugged in to the source in order to shine and then we can let the life and light flow through us.
This is one of the most basic mistakes we make. We forget that light and power are always flowing and in order for them to flow through us we have to get out of the way. We have to become clear channels for the life of Christ expressed as light to flow through us as a blessing to our world. If we are full of ourselves there is no room for us to be filled up by Christ. Being full of ourselves can take many forms: it can be pride and selfishness, it can be worry and anxiety, it can be resentment and anger, it can be egotism and an unhealthy narcissism.
So step 1 is to get plugged in and stay plugged in. For most of us being plugged in is going to feel rather intermittent at times and that’s one of the reasons we need faith community – we can help each other to stay connected to the source. We may feel most connected when we’re alone looking at the sunset, but that feeling is fed and renewed by the spiritual rituals and practices we share together. Praising God, participating in the eucharist, prayer, Bible study, spiritual reading, and singing hymns and spiritual songs are the most time honored ways to plug in.
Once you’re plugged in Step 2 is to keep it flowing. “Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives.” To keep it flowing we have to get our little egos out of the way. We need to ask God to gracefully clear away all the blocks that prevent our light from shining brightly. And if we are serious about it, God will do just that. But it takes work from us too. We will start to notice places that we are out of integrity with ourselves. Little things like cursing at other drivers may start to feel not quite right. We may find that we have to go back and forgive our mothers, or our kindergarten teacher or the person who abused us. We may have to change some habits. Becoming a clear channel of God’s light is the process of sanctification or becoming holy and it is a process of cleansing and growing.
Step 3 is to give our light to others in service. This may not mean volunteering at the Abundance Shop or helping with Senior Nutrition. It may be simple things such as always smiling at people we pass or calling the checker at Vons by his or her name, or praying for each person we pass or each person we meet. It may be praying daily for a few people we know are in special need, or for those we identify as enemies. It is an inner attitude as much as an external activity. In fact I hesitate to make service Step 3, because it is really an extension of Step 2 – keep the juice flowing.
Electricity has to flow. If it stops it doesn’t work. It’s exactly the same with spiritual light. It has to keep flowing and every time we stop the flow we block the light. Every time we block the light we stop the flow. Having an attitude of service is vital to keep the channel clear.
As is humility. This is not about us. This is about the light, God’s light, coming into the world. We are the way the light gets externalized but we are not the light. As we connect more and more deeply with God’s unconditional love we get plugged in to the abundant life but it’s not something we get to keep for ourselves, it has to flow out to the world around us, and the channel gets stronger and clearer as we get our personalities out of the way. The miraculous thing is that as we clean up our acts and the light flows more powerfully so we are more fulfilled. So in an odd way it is about us. It’s about us because it is what we were made to do.
We are made to be the lights of the world. And there’s a sort of contagious activity – the more you shine, the more other people around you will shine, and those who are longing for the light will be drawn to you and will start to find that they too can plug in to the source so that it grows organically. There are people all over the world who are light-bearers and we can imagine seeing the world from a long distance how all those points of light will shine together forming a shining mass of light all around the planet. The brighter that light shines the more miracles we will see, the more civil wars prevented, the more cooperation developing, even between hardened enemies. That can’t help but happen because, “What has come into being in the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
I want to be part of that light and I hope that you will join me. Let’s pray together one more time the collect for today:
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.