Posts Tagged ‘light of the world’

I am 2It wasn’t the first time Jesus made “I am” statements. In fact, this is the 5th time he is recorded as saying “I am. . . .” The others (all somewhat cryptic and yet captivating as metaphors):

  1. I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  2. I am the Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. I am the Gate (John 10:9)
  4. I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  5. I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)
  6. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:16)
  7. I am the Vine (John 15:5)

But are they all metaphor? Instead, I can’t help but wonder if Jesus wasn’t using the simplest transformationof language to communicate the most complicated piece of information: his true identity. In all but one of these phrases, there is way-finding or sustenance. But in the 5th phrase, there is something else: transformation! In essence, he is telling us that without the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, we are dead. Jesus is life. Jesus gives life where there is death.

walking deadI’m not just talking about heaven and the after-life. I’m talking about now. Most humans are just “walking dead” (amusing that a television show of this title is so popular). And as long as people are dead, it’s hard to imagine life, true life. It happens in the most extraordJesusinary and paradoxical way. Instead of hanging on, we are to let go. Instead of hoarding, we are to give away. Instead of certainty, we are to walk by faith. Instead of wealth, we are encouraged to embrace poverty.

Authentic Christianity, and by that I mean true Jesus followership, is mind-blowing.

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There’s not much glory in being the sidekick, particularly if the person is true to his/her mission.

A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light. The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light. [John 1:6-10, CEB]

It’s an interesting story, this tale of John the Baptist, who made such a huge splash (pun intended) in Judea, living on the fringe of society, prophesying endlessly, drawing colossal crowds, and calling on the people to ceremonially cleanse themselves in preparation for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. He was all fire and determination. But he was also a catalyst.

John did not ride with Jesus and yet he was one of the key disciples. John moved things along. He challenged the norm; he challenged Jesus himself. (See Matthew 14.) John instigated the situation with Herod and knew that condemning a leader’s actions would get him put into jail. He was no fool. But he also knew he had to step away from the limelight in order for Jesus to take the reins of that moment in history.

Up until then, Jesus was doing a lot of teaching along with a few miracles and he built his team of twelve and even sent them out to try their hands at ministry, but he hadn’t really inflamed the leadership. But after John was in prison and eventually beheaded, Jesus began manifesting a series of fantastic unexplainable miracles from feeding thousands of people to walking on water and even transcending our three-dimensional world on Mount Tabor during his “transfiguration.” He stepped up his game.

John was the sidekick who was willing to sacrifice everything for the mission of Jesus. John the Baptist had been in the limelight and turned that light toward his cousin Jesus.

In our modern world, people are not always as willing to step aside or step down for the sake of the friend or partner or colleague.

I complain so often that my young adult children still believe the world revolves them. But perhaps I am no better. Can I learn from John and say, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29b, NIV]

Turn your eyes and look with me this day.

Advent: Day five.

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Painting by Chris Easley

Painting by Chris Easley

Although I know this story well of Jacob wrestling with an unknown man (an angel? who knows?), I had not paid attention to the meaning of the name, Israel (“struggles with God”). And for me, a new scenario emerges of Jacob actually struggling with himself, that part of himself who was named usurper or supplanter. His history was full of deception and trickery and this night, I believe he struggled with that self in order to emerge new.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. . . . Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” [Genesis 32:24, 26-28, NIV]

I am a bit of a Doctor Who fan (not a serious fan, but I do enjoy watching the show on occasion). It just so happens I watched an episode reminiscent of this Jacob story in which the Doctor and his companions are challenged by a foe called the Dream Doctor who tells them they must choose between two dreams, which is real and which is a true dream? If they choose the correct plot, they will all live, but if they choose incorrectly, they will all die. It’s a mystery of course. But in the end, the Doctor figures it out and realizes that both scenarios are dreams and he destroys them both in order to live in reality (a paradox, of course). But the key to the story is the identity of the Dream Doctor who the companions don’t recognize, but who the Doctor says he knows very well, his very own dark side.

We all have this dark side and it is through our journey in faith, in Christ, that we are gradually able to bring that side forward in order to wrestle with it. Most of us tend to hide the dark side as long as possible, but truthfully, only when the dark side is brought to the light, can we be healed. As long as the dark side stays in the dark, it is safe to live on. (Oh, how Star Wars that all sounds. Sorry.)

These are my late night ramblings as I consider the meaning of Israel as a word. And if I was a true historian, there is probably more depth in it when it’s applied to the nation Israel. But I won’t go there in print. 🙂

I give thanks, instead, to the Christ who does battle for me and with me in the name of God, the Light of the World.


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I am no scientist so I don’t have much to add to any discussion about “light” as a phenomenon. I know that light travels very fast and mostly we see light as a reflection. I know light can be a wonderful respite in a dark place and intolerable with a migraine. But am I in relationship with Light?

I John 1:5, 7a
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. . . . But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, . . .

It’s difficult to talk about light in some new way that hasn’t already been investigated, sermonized, or otherwise been fully covered through exegesis. The only opening in this very crowded marketplace would be something very personal.

So what could that be? How do I engage light in my daily life? The light I read by at night in my bed? The lights of my car when I’m driving at night, less and less securely? The light of the computer screen? The light of candles that dot most of the surfaces in my home? The only time my family doesn’t complain about the candles are those infrequent days when the electricity goes out. There is the light in the refrigerator that I take for granted. There is the light in my stove that has never worked. There is the street light outside that manages to seep through my blinds and twinkle just enough to wake me in the middle of the night. There is the light show from my cable and router, day and night, pulsing out the information bits that stream across my desk.

But all of these lights are outside of me.

Do I know the light within? Is it just an idea, a way of expressing an unknowable, unseen presence? Or is there light in the soul, the heart, the spirit?

Other faiths speak of the light as well. New Age folks as well as various Eastern religions follow the idea that the light within is one of the most powerful energies in the Universe. The Light of the World.

Light to light: heart to heart: human to human: God to human and back again.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to artificially “glow in the dark” which is apparently now possible in animals through some kind of scientific hi jinx. Here’s a story about glowing cats. But I would like to experience the light within in a tangible way. Is that stupid? I suppose some would say I’m talking about “aura” or some other para-psychological phenomenon.

I don’t mean that either. God is Light and God is within. Therefore, light is within and that light must be of greater value than just a nice metaphor.

Relax, everyone. I’m just thinking out loud. Has anyone out there had a Christ-based experience with Light? I’d be interested in your stories.

From the web: (an excerpt from the publication, Sacred Architecture)
Light, then, formed the “medium and message” for illiterate Christians of the Middle Ages, using narrative and metaphoric imagery to convey the truths of the Faith while steeping the faithful in the spiritually evocative experience of the beauty of God with a mystical atmosphere created by jewel-toned pictures written in light, as well as subtly changing colors in the air and on interior stone walls. The faithful, accustomed to learn aurally, received the message of the Gospel verbally—but with reinforcing visual images created by light, sources of beauty and awe that, it was believed, could mystically connect the eyes of the beholder with the truths depicted, and thus remain lifelong reminders of catechetical knowledge and of the experience of God.

The modern church would do well to rediscover these proven catechetical techniques, filling church interiors with beautiful images of colored light, thereby satisfying human desires for visual stimulation, symbolic representations of theological truths, and the touch of the mystical in prayer. Modern eyes are exposed to so much sophisticated visual imagery; our catechetical efforts should include much more than written words by building upon the rich heritage of visual catechesis displayed by the traditions associated with stained glass windows. The Church teaches that eternal bliss in Heaven is the Beatific Vision—an experience expressed as a “visual” encounter with the knowledge of God, a “light” that fulfills and completes each person’s existence for all eternity. By providing visual and atmospheric beauty that captures the eternal truths in “lights of Faith,” the windows in our churches can teach as before and give an experience of the transcendent to the faithful, to “go beyond mere teaching—unless the sudden instinctive recognition of beauty is the greatest lesson of all.” — Lights of Faith, Stained Glass Windows as Tools for Catechesis by Carol Anne Jones

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Photo by Marc Adamus

This is another one of the “in” phrases that really strikes hard on my heart. IN! On the inside! And that inside glory will manifest. And that’s amazing. I believe it. Jesus had that “in” stuff and that would make the most sense as to why people were drawn to Him. Light, love and glory.

II Thessalonians 1:10
When He comes to be glorified in His saints [on that day He will be made more glorious in His consecrated people], and [He will] be marveled at and admired [in His glory reflected] in all who have believed [who have adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Him], because our witnessing among you was confidently accepted and believed [and confirmed in your lives].

One of my favorite signs in American Sign Language is glory. One hand lies on top of the other and then is arced across the body with the fingers waving. It’s like a shimmering rainbow. I imagine that coming out of my own body one day.

I confess this is one of the reasons why I love reading fantasy fiction, stuff like that happens. Magic and wonder and light and transformation are commonplace. But things of the Spirit are no less fantastic and full of marvel. We’ve lost that in our faith. We’re all about justifying our faith, getting it to make sense, trying to convince others that God is real and Christ really did all those miracles, etc.

I’m all about the wonder right now and I’m all about the presence of the Holy Spirit within. And one day, there will be an outpouring of light from within.

That’s the “mark” I want everyone to see. People get entangled in their fears of the “mark of the beast” and forget about the other signs and wonders. What will the glory look like in me. . . in you?

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It should be fairly simple to sew something from a pattern. And yet, no matter how many times I’ve tried, I muck it up. Either the directions have vocabulary I don’t understand or I can’t fit the pattern to my body. The other day I found one of these projects, pins and all, folded up in a storage box.

Philippians 3:17
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

There’s a book I read some time ago called Becoming a Resonant Leader by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, and Frances Johnston. In general, I enjoy books on leadership principles and this text is one of the better ones. However, I hated the very first exercise: “think about how you came to be the person you are today, and think about who helped you along the way. ‘Who Helped Me?'”

This exercise was intended to reveal to me the many people who helped me along my path. Instead, my mind drifted to all the people who didn’t help me. Instead of feeling better and stronger from these memories, I felt empty and alone. Who did I admire? Who mentored me? Who helped me get a job or learn a skill?

Of course, there were people along the way, but it was always in pieces and not the whole. My mother taught me to persevere, my brother taught me ambition, and there were friends who answered questions and held my heart while men and lovers betrayed it.

Perhaps that was one of the reasons I grabbed on so tightly to the cloak of Christ. Here was a flawless mentor.

But then, I ran afoul of the Christ interpreters who laid out Christ patterns before me to follow. Play nice in the sandbox. Be humble. Don’t confess fears or pain that show lack of faith. Don’t swear. Watch what you say. Love your neighbor. Stay married. Submit. Dress quietly. Sing loudly. Speak softly. Dance. Praise. Tithe money, tithe prayers. Let go of dreams. Serve the poor. Go to Africa. Live in the ghetto. Adopt the orphans. Sell everything. Give more. Be strong. Be weak. Be happy. Weep with those who weep.

Nothing really so wrong with any of it. But the patterns were too hard to follow. And so I folded them up and put them away.

The way may be narrow, yes, but the yoke is supposed to be light.

So, here’s what I think today: when I feel lost, I can look ahead and see others who have blazed a trail for such a difficult time as this. There’s a light ahead and I can follow it. But there are also times when I can make my own trail. And, if I look back, there may be people who need my way and my light.

When Jesus did miracles, they were all different. Sometimes he spoke a word, sometimes he laid a hand, and one time, he spat and created mud from the earth. He intentionally avoided a set pattern because life isn’t like that.

Christ patterns are made with dotted lines, not fat magic markers. God allowed each of us to be unique: eyes, nose, mouth, voice, skin color, abilities, etc. Doesn’t it make sense that the way would also be unique? My pattern is not your pattern. My pain is not your pain. My healing is not your healing.

Eyes on the prize from the inside out.

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We are asked to put on God’s armor in order to stand against spiritual forces from the dark world. Sounds like fantasy but there is a decision to be made here: truth or fiction? I’m leaning toward the truth side. And if true, the real battle has been waging on without me.

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I have not been asked to advance against the enemy, merely to stand. And yet, I have not been moving forward or standing, not really. Instead, I have been buffeted about internally. My mind has been captured by the distractions of the world, my spirit veiled by self-absorption, and my heart hardened.

The greater fool, I, for trying so hard to do battle in this 3-D world. I’ve been totally caught up in my ambitions, my weight, my aging, my eyesight, my losses, my children’s successes or lack thereof, and so on. I’m not even on the right playing field.

Currently, I’m reading the Suzanne Collins trilogy, Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. These stories take place in a futuristic world where our country has been divided into districts, all serving the “Capitol.” Each district has a single industry. Once a year, each district must send two “tributes” (teenagers) to fight to the death, with only one victor. The victor’s district is then blessed with extra food etc. for that year. In the second book, because the lead characters foiled the Capitol in book one, the games take on a cruel turn. I won’t give that away, but a phrase has stayed with me that is relevant to my discussion here: “Remember who your enemy is.”

In our world, we have forgotten who the true enemy is as well. Instead, our countries fight wars, terrorists prevail, our sons and daughters die violently, people starve, and natural resources are despoiled. We continue to struggle with the symptoms instead of the root causes.

Photo by Angelo Juan Ramos

It all comes back to the Light and illuminating from within: living a life of love, submitted and thereby filled with the Holiest Spirit, who works in union with my personal spirit. And out of that life pours forth compassion, forgiveness, and beauty.

I can go about serving others, visiting the sick and dying, feeding the hungry, comforting the homeless, and giving from my livelihood. But if I do these things without the Light, they are band-aids.

It’s time to stop living as though it’s such a great mystery. The mystery has been revealed through the Christ and is a living, powerful presence in me through the Holy Spirit.

I want to stand today. I want to be counted as one standing. I want to shine.

(FD 15)

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