Light 1[lahyt] (n): stimulates plants, attracts butterflies, repels cockroaches
This weekend, into Monday, churches up and down the land will host ‘light parties’, a positive choice to give children a safe joyful place as an alternative to the surrounding darkness of Halloween. Halloween costumes are shifting, as well as the tasteless combinations of lime green, lurid orange and black, with ‘traditional’ witches and spiders, we now see children dressing as intestine spilling mutants and worse. In the darkness, craving for the adrenaline and drama of shock, the grotesque intensifies. A society which considers it fun to dress 6 year olds as blood-splattered serial killers, needs to take a long hard look at itself.
This is my second blog of a series considering what it means ‘to be sent as Jesus is sent’, (see part 1 here )
Throughout his gospel John emphasises how Jesus saw his apostolic ‘sentness’ to earth as ‘bringing light into darkness’. To be sent as Jesus is sent, is to be the light of the world. Followers of Jesus, are sent by God to be ’light’ into our workplaces, communities, families and churches. Seeing yourself sent by God as light, is a biblical way to think about how God is sending you.
There is huge power in the simple truth that light overcomes the darkness, millions of great sermons have been preached on it, understanding light gives us limitless options to describe what it means to be ‘apostolic’. Here I’ll restrict myself to two.
Light brings life.
‘In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind.’ (John 1v4)
Whether or not we can remember the chemical equation for photosynthesis, (I can’t), we simply need to know that light enables plants to grow. Jesus was sent to bring life, we are sent to bring life.
How can we do that? How can you bring life into the situations you’ll be sent to next week?
One simple way to bring life, is to celebrate and value the life that is in others. To recognise it, comment on it, build up and not pull down. When you see something good about someone, their contribution to this planet – tell them! Speaking it out, illuminating the life in them, will make them more alive.
We’ve spent a lot of time with family and friends this week, I feel more alive because they have asked great questions, stimulating conversation, showing interest in others, giving them space to talk. Many of us come more alive, when we’re encouraged and enabled to express ourselves. Are you giving that kindness to others, are you able to bring life by simply showing interest in others? In reverse, have you noticed how stale a conversation becomes with those who were never parented into asking good questions, or have lost the confidence to do so? Help them come alive too, show interest in others and open up lively conversation.
John tells us that ‘in him, was life’. Jesus was bursting with life, he was creative, compassionate, and controversial. Yet in personal encounters he valued others enough to ask them questions, to bring them more alive, or reveal the characteristics in them which brought control and inevitable decay.
Secondly: Light attracts butterflies and repels cockroaches.
[©Mirai Takahashi and razordu30 on flickr.com]
John the Baptist came to bear witness to the light of Jesus. (John 1v8)
John the Baptist came to point to the light, coming into the world to help people to see. Due to the instincts of phototaxis, some insects are attracted to light, others repelled by it. The same pattern is highlighted in John’s gospel. Some are attracted to Jesus, the light of the world, because his illuminates them, he prevents them from stumbling and they can see he brings new life. He turns water into wine, heals sick bodies, multiplies food, and opens blind eyes. He enables others to see and therefore not stumble (John 11v9)
In your apostolic calling, to those you work alongside, or stand next to at the school gate, or serve you community with, you can shine light, to help prevent them from stumbling. They need the wisdom God has given you, we all need heavenly perspective as we scratch around in confusion and darkness. Again and again, I stumble into human folly, again and again my closest friends shine the light of wisdom through loving questions, to help me stand.
As I read through John asking the question ‘what does it meant to be sent as Jesus is sent?’ the clearest thing I noticed was that many rejected the light. To be sent, comes with it the possibility of being hated, just as Jesus was.
the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3v19-20)
Perhaps the greatest challenge we face is to be willing to be rejected for being sent as Jesus is sent. We so long for the good news of the kingdom to be palatable, we so long for the church to grow, we so long to heal the pain caused by callous or hollow religion, that we filter our light to make it acceptable to darkness. But through John, we see that to be sent as Jesus is sent, includes the courage to face rejection and persecution.
I’ve written, deleted, edited, deleted and restored the first paragraph of this blog about Halloween a number of times, concerned that by exposing the darkness of our society’s attraction to the grotesque, I could offend people, or seem ‘anti-fun’. In the grand scheme of controversies: where Biblical Truth collides with a consumer, desire-driven culture, this is hardly a complex debate. Yet I battled with the concern that shining light on the celebration of evil which we’ve become accustomed to, might upset others or cause a negative stir.
To celebrate witchcraft, murder, torture, fear and death is as far as we can get in contrast to the kingdom of light. To highlight the mess and folly of a world which has turned its back on God and refuses to surrender to him, takes boldness. I find that boldness in the model of Jesus. And the courage I need, I find in his promise to fill us with his Holy Spirit, to enable us to be sent as he is sent.