"'I am the light of the world.'"
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Wednesday, March 17th: Psalm 107:1-16; Isaiah 60:15-22; and John 8:12-20. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus proclaims, “‘I am the light of the world.’” I think it’s interesting to note that we often contrast light and darkness. However, darkness has no real substance. It’s defined by what’s lacking. Darkness is where light is not. I create light by turning on a lamp. I don’t create darkness. I simply turn off the light and darkness returns.
However, darkness is the baseline, not light. Darkness is there already, uncreated, in Genesis 1:2. Light shows up at the next verse as God’s first stated command. If we turn to the scientists, the creation of our universe began some 14 billion years ago with the Big Bang. The baseline void, the darkness was interrupted by light. And if we listen to the scientists, the universe in some unbelievably vast stretch of eons will fizzle out once again into utter, complete darkness, the last black hole will evaporate in a brief burst of light and then there will be nothing, absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing but darkness.
When we use the imagery of light in religion, it need not be contrasted with deliberate evil. Maybe it can be set against the backdrop of nothingness, the abysmal baseline that is the constant, lurking alternative to light. When light fails, darkness does not win; darkness just waits for light to run out of energy.
The spiritual lesson may be that righteousness, the light, is most threatened not be active darkness, sin, but by the passive inattention to keeping Jesus’ light close. In C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, the sinners choose to venture farther and farther apart from each other until they can no longer be seen or see. They become the darkness because they have distanced themselves from Jesus’ light.
Not many people identify as sinners and but a few are categorized as sinners, but how much easier it is to grow more and more casual in our faith lives, to let the light of Christ grow farther and farther away, and then darkness returns ever so casually. The baseline reasserts itself. Christ is an active choice to stand out in the darkness, to be the light. Christ is the light of the world. Darkness is the passive alternative. May our time in Lent help to energize our faith, to stand with the light of the world.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.macucc.org/lectionary.
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