by Serena Sinclair – Associate Pastor – Adult Ministry
Living in the Light
Light holds a magnetic force that draws people in. For centuries people have gravitated toward sources of light, for some, these sources were lifesaving. Lanterns strategically placed in a window welcomed weary travelers, those travelling by sea peered through darkness searching for lighthouses to signal land and illuminate treacherous rocks. Even today campers stoke the flames of their campfire to keep wild animals at bay. In the 21st century we command light at the flip of a switch and program home lighting systems to preferred settings when we’re away from our houses. The convenience of light has not by any means diminished our fascination for luminosity. Recently our nation experienced the heartwarming lighting of the torch at the opening of the Olympic ceremonies just as it was lit in the ancient games in Greece. The heart stopping and ear deafening firework displays on July 4th continue to thrill us, and if we’re lucky enough to go a concert were mesmerized with laser beam light shows. When we’re on the road travelling at night, light is reassuring. The dazzling glow of urban lights, as we drive through remote areas, enable us to breathe a sigh of relief because we’re reminded that a comfy hotel awaits us with fast food, restaurants, and affordable entertainment. Light captures our attention.
If you’re like me, you often take the illumination of light sources for granted until they flicker and threaten to stop emitting light and electricity for air conditioning and appliances. Growing up in the country we did not experience blackouts, the greatest liability was the party line phone service. In the country, light sources were significant in the evening. Farmsteads had at least one beacon of light shining between the barn and the house. Of course, in the plain states, wheat farms are parceled out in huge spreads of land making windmills or lonely unlit barns crucial landmarks when driving at night. Unfortunately, landmarks are difficult to spot when the moon is but a small sliver in the nighttime sky. Such was the case one evening when I was driving friends home after visiting a larger metropolis of lights. At sixteen I borrowed the family car, a Chevy Caprice, really a boat on wheels, although it could safely transport a good number of friends. That evening I had invited Mary, a new girl who was visiting her grandparents for the summer. In the succession of “drop offs” Mary was the last person to take home and I was unfamiliar with the location of her grandparents’ farm. Mary had no problem navigating me straight to her farmhouse. Soon I was speeding down a country road proud of myself for delivering all my friends to their homes before curfew. However, before long I realized I was engulfed in darkness and no farms were in sight. Without road signs or familiar mile markers, my headlights beamed down endless stretches of dirt roads. It’s amazing what darkness can do to one’s sense of direction.
Reflecting upon years of transformation, I’ve recognized that Life Groups have been a source of light for me since I graduated from college. Being with friends, studying God’s word together, sharing our stories and encouraging one another in our faith walk has been FUN and empowering. When Brent and I lived in Norman, OK we began attending a Life Group led by our friends. One evening my leader, Barbara, prayed over me, she declared Matt 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” The fact that her prayer remains etched in my memory bank thirty years later bears significance. I wondered at the prayer, and why she would pray that particular verse. I certainly had little idea of what it meant to be a “city on a hill cloaked in light.” Interestingly enough, my Life Group Leader did not have years of experience as a leader, and we were both in our twenties. Barb did possess a strong heart for God and a bold, confident faith that provided life giving light to many people. The evening Barb prayed over me, she became God’s mouthpiece to “speak light” and to “be light.” This is exactly what Jesus did in Matthew five as He spoke to a large crowd of curious people gathered on a hill: He tells them they are “light bearers,” and they are to shine their light wherever they go: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt 5:14). It’s important to note that Jesus probably wasn’t talking to the rich, famous, and educated. His followers were often the oppressed, poor, and marginalized. He also doesn’t tell His listeners they would become “light bearers” when they could quote Old Testament prophecies or explain a passage and make cultural applications for the sermon He preached. Instead, He simply states, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Once more in John 8:12 Jesus addresses a crowd at the Festival of Tabernacles. The Jews are feasting, singing, and dancing as they commemorate their deliverance from Egypt. For six nights elaborate candelabras have illuminated the shadows of the temple courts reminding them of the pillar of fire that led them through darkness of the wilderness. On the last evening of the feast, people gather at the temple as the celebration ends. On this particular evening the flaming candelabras, that light the courts of the temple are absent. And Jesus, the true Light, stands in front His own temple, saying, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12).
Wherever there is light, darkness retreats. Light overcomes darkness. What are your sources of light this week and how can you “be light” to those who need light? Never doubt the power of a single prayer, or the eternal significance of a Scripture God puts upon your lips. To a darkened world, you are light to those without hope and direction. God has strategically placed you where you are to “be light” and to “speak light.”
I never want to underestimate the power of God’s light at the gathering of Sunday morning services, or the light of God’s presence through my friends in Life Group, or the light that shines when our Life Groups serve others in our community. The power of darkness is thwarted in the presence of the Light.
“You are light. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” Matt 5:14.