Summary: A reminder that, just as Jesus is the light of the world, we are called to be his lights in the world
The Light of the World
Our gospel reading this morning is Mark’s telling of the transfiguration of Jesus. It is a fascinating story, and quite unusual in the ministry of Jesus as Moses and Elijah are brought back to life in a scene witnessed by three of disciples. The heart of the story is Jesus’ clothing glowing more brightly than anything the disciples had either seen or could have imagined in a way that is reminiscent of the time that Moses’ face glowed brightly after he met God to receive the commandments. In both these events the idea of God and light are presented together although the real message of the transfiguration was to establish for the disciples, and us, the fact that Jesus was God.
It is that idea of light and God and us that I want to concentrate on today. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians which we heard earlier his message is heavily focussed on the light of the world. Let me remind you of three of the verses from that reading, ‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’.
Light is a gift from God. In the third verse of the Bible we have God’s first recorded action when he spoke, saying, ‘Let there be light’ and the universe of darkness changed forever. Light is so important in our lives and our language and behaviour reflect that importance. If any of you have ever been on a tour of deep caves you may have encountered the point in the tour when you are all standing looking at a vast cave and they turn out the lights. Even though they have warned you it will happen, any feeling you already had of claustrophobia is instantly accentuated and after only a few seconds many people become frightened.
The idea of light and darkness are caught up in our Christian view of the world and we use it in so many symbolic ways. We have a quite normal fear of the dark because we have no sense of what is happening around us. Not surprisingly, criminals use darkness to cover up their nefarious activities. So the Devil is often presented as the Lord of the Darkness and we associate good with light and evil with the absence of light.
Keeping somewhere clean is much harder where the place is dark or gloomy because you cannot see the dirt and grime and dust. The absence of the light of God makes it just as difficult to keep ourselves clean and free from sin. Of course, we know that on judgement day, a light will be shined on our sins and they will become visible if we have not maintained our right relationship with him; if we have not lived in his light.
I am a director of a public body which is being closed down by the Government. Over a period of two years we must run down the work we do and either make people redundant or help them find employment elsewhere in the public sector; and cease our own jobs. It is not an enjoyable task and we often talk about which person will be the last to leave. We use the phrase, who will be the one who turns the lights off and closes the door. When that happens, the organisation will be dead but note that symbolic use of turning off the lights to symbolise that ending. When our spiritual life is turned off by a failing relationship with God, then we become spiritually dead and our potential for eternal life is dimmed.
Forgive me if you have heard this humorous illustration before, but I do love it so much that I cannot resist it.
While out on manoeuvres, a battleship’s captain received a call from the lookout to say that he could see what appeared to be the light of another vessel in the dark, foggy night. After checking the light’s coordinates, the captain realised that his ship was on a collision course with the other vessel. The captain called out to his radio operator, ‘Signal that ship as follows. We are on a collision course, I advise you to change course by 20 degrees to the east’. The return signal came quickly and countered, ‘It would be advisable for you to change course by 20 degrees to the west.’ The irritated captain signalled, ‘I am a captain, please change course by 20 degrees immediately.’