Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world…” (John 8:36) “You are the light of the world– like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
At the inaugural celebration this morning, the Unites States Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gordon read a poem for the occasion, entitled “The Hill We Climb.” The transcript of the poem is available here: https://thehill.com/homenews/news/535052-read-transcript-of-amanda-gormans-inaugural-poem
Her words end like this: “For there is always light if we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” Hearing those words on a rare brilliant sunny day in this dark winter is moving. I don’t know about you, but I’m certain I suffer from some kind of seasonal affective disorder, especially this winter! Isolated and needing to largely remain inside, I simply can’t wait for spring’s warmth and light. Soon enough.
Much more importantly, though, is the poet’s image connecting light to living, which gives hope for the future. This is a deeply biblical idea. We are to love God with all of who we are, and that love issues in the face of our neighbor. Jesus, who looks out into the world one day and says, “I am the Light of the world” looks at his disciples and says on another day, “You are the light of the world.” For us as those who follow Christ, this means that we are to live out the very love of Christ — in the world, now, just as he did long ago. A world that is dark, divided, violent, and power-hungry, we are Christ lights that shine into it all with unity, peace, and righteousness. Into the darkness of injustices of many kinds, we speak and act with courage for what is just. It is a constant process of hits and misses, of confessing our failures and starting anew, again, with new possibilities at hand for Kingdom come.
Maybe when Jesus said not long before his death to his friends, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…” (John 14:12) this is what he had in mind, that we, who are filled with the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, might not underestimate what we are capable of doing to redeem, to do what is right, to act justly.
What we DO know for sure is how often we don’t think we’re capable — because we are allured with power, or because we are afraid, or because we’re too focused on on our own security and comfort — because we’re human, after all. This is why these words of Jesus are hard to understand and make us uncomfortable. What we MUST remember is that we are capable of good and powerful, holy activity — together as the Church, great works that keep Jesus’ body active and present and at work in the world.
So I am renewing my commitment to trust in Jesus, and to embrace fresh attempts at courage, love, and self-sacrifice. Can you join me? Can we do it together and find strength to renew our world, even on or little corner? We must see the light, and we must be the light.
Lincoln’s words, spoken one hundred fifty-six years ago, remind us that this struggle for light, for right, for love is nothing new: “With malice toward none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan– to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
Every time we pray “May your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it its in heaven” we must remind ourselves that we bear this responsibility, that we engage in this work, and that we have everything we need to do it. The Love of Christ fills our spirits. The Holy Spirit empowers our spirits. We must engage the work of making this world new. We might imagine as we pray that we hear God speaking to us and praying, “May my Kingdom come, and my will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The future unfolds with limitless possibilities for us to do God’s work.
So In a new way, let’s see the light, come home to the love of Christ, the grace of God. Then, in a new way, let us as the Christian Community join together to be the very light of Christ, actively shining, like a city on a hill, with all kinds of good and right consequences. God bless us, one and all.