Updated: Sep 1
Dr. RB McFee
“You are the light of the world….”
As the days get shorter, and the hours of darkness increase, it is hard not to think about ‘light’ – physically, scripturally and spiritually.
And while we often think of Heavenly glow, the Star of Bethlehem, God’s angels’ halos of light and other Divine forms of brightness, it is interesting that Jesus affirms our ability to brighten the place up with our inner light, as He is quoted in Matthew 5, even though He is referred to as the Light of the world, the One Who promises if we follow Him we will never walk in darkness again. Nevertheless, He calls us “the light of the world!”
Which of course begs the question, do we shine brightly or “keep our light under the bushel” which is part of the longer version of that scripture. Do we squander our gifts of goodness, and the opportunities to use it? Do we stumble in the gloom, or are we candles helping to show others the Way?
14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
Matthew 5: 14 - 16
Put differently, it might be beneficial to think of that scripture from the imagery that we are in fact God’s little candles. And if ever there is a need for His people to brighten up the place, it is now.
Whether we think of His Light, our light as spiritual goodness or physical acts of kindness, every human encounter is a way to shine Christ’s Love onto someone else as a blessing.
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.”
Like the Ghost of Christmas Present in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – a spirit who had a torch that could bestow a feeling of inner warmth and make brighter the day of those he shared it with – we, too can bestow on others gifts of the heart, gifts of our essence in Christ that can brighten the moment, the day, the life of others…lighting up the world, or at least our little part of it, as one of God’s candles.
So where shall we be candles? Where shall we bring our inner light?
Ben Franklin is known to have challenged himself every morning by a simple question – (paraphrasing) “what good will I do today?” As if cofounding a hospital, a library, a fire service, oh and a nation, along with a bunch of inventions we still benefit from two hundred years later, weren’t enough, he then held himself accountable in the evening by this simple question – (again paraphrasing) “what good have I done today?”
As a keen observer, it wasn’t too difficult for Dr. Franklin to find a need and try to fill it.
To be sure most of us aren’t world renowned publishers, or uber wealthy people. But most of the dark places in the neighborhood, in the world can still be illuminated by just a few candles.
Having been involved in a variety of outreach programs, it never ceases to amaze me how much good can be done by the simplest acts of kindness, how someone can have their entire countenance transformed by a candle power bit of goodness.
And if you consider the most endearing enterprises that we look upon with admiration – whether Salvation Army red kettle ministry or Mother Theresa’s Sister of Mercy order to treat the sick, or the free clinic at Epworth Methodist, or Coventry House to rescue street kids, or the list goes on and on and on – each started out as an attempt to help one person, or a small group of people. None of these were started with the goal of changing the world. Each was started to spread a little light into the darkness.
When my students wanted to help a few homeless teenagers, little did they know that their candles shared in a small dark place would grow into a movement that would touch people in far off places.
God amplifies our candles when we shine for Him. God has a pretty awesome way of multiplying the light, bringing candles together in a candelabra of love – that is what people of faith can be, need to be.
As Christians, we can think in terms of being one of God’s candles, in keeping with Matthew 5. We can start our day with a simple prayer….“Dear God allow me to serve you, to bring light into the darkness of someone else, to be useful, to give kindness in the right place and not squander the day you have given.”
Whether we think of ourselves as God’s candles, or His agents of goodness and kindness, it is a daily task. God didn’t just have the sun wake us up, or bathe the planet for one day only. He set the sun on a daily course, and I suspect, you and me, too.
But are we just candles? Or can we be a little bit more?
Not too long ago a friend “M” was telling me about someone he respected at his church who had recently passed away. As a bit of background, both these individuals shared a common bond as Quakers; which is a Christian denomination that recognizes the inner light of each individual; the Light from Above that animates our capacity for goodness. Quakers believe each of us has that Inner Light.
What a powerful image. Straight out of Matthew 5 and other scriptures.
But here’s where the story becomes really powerful….
“M” told me his friend not only had a powerful inner light, but what was so special about the man – he could bring out the inner light in others. He made you better for knowing him.
Let me repeat that – his friend helped bring out the inner light in other people.
Wow, now that man sounds like a candle, and a match! He helped reignite, rekindled the candle in others so that they could burn brightly, too.
I’m sure if we pause a moment and think about the people we know in our church family, and circle of friends, we can think of someone who truly is a “light of the world,” who reflects the Divine Light of God, who emanates a sense of goodness – the Lord’s Goodness as transmitted through His mortal children.
Moreover, if we think deeper about this person and I can think of several at CCUMC, it can most likely be said that he or she “brings out the inner light in others,” that he or she is the match to our candle.
As a result, we are better people because of their presence in our lives. Our candle burns a bit brighter in their company because they brought the match, God’s match.
Can we be matches as well as candles? Can we wake up and wonder where to share our inner light, which is to say Jesus’ love and acts of grace, mercy, friendship, love, compassion?
It doesn’t have to be big ticket stuff either.
Have you ever had someone open a door for you with a smile and make you feel like you mattered? It’s maybe a tiny candle, but enough to warm at least part of your day, right? And because of your act, perhaps their candle started to glow a bit brighter. Maybe they even passed the light on to others?
Every act of kindness is a spark.
“It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s Love,
Once you’ve experienced it,
You spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on”
Lyrics from Pass it on by Kurt Kaiser
Regardless of whether today we are the candle or the match, in either, in both roles, we have the opportunity to reflect the Light and Love of Christ in a dark world desperately in need of His Goodness as shared mortal to mortal.
When I think about the ministries* we are involved in as a church – and the people who have been the match helping to light the candles in others – whether it is the homeless outreach (September 3rd at church), or walk to raise awareness for suicide prevention (September 10th join our team at Polar Park), or giving some TLC to a nature trail in Dudley every month, or the various nursing home outreach services we do, or supporting transitional housing or Abby’s House, or the many unsung hero moments where soup is delivered, or ‘cheer up’ cards are sent, or ‘I care about you’ phone calls are made –
….all of these are being candles – making bright the gloomy day of others, or the match that lights up someone else who then glows along the way, all of these together reveal Christ’s Light in still burning bright.
That said, is there a place of darkness that you as Christ’s candle can fill with your light? A need you can start to fill? A kindness that needs to be delivered? Or is there a person you can spark as Christ’s match to their candle, helping bring out their inner light?
10 “And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desires of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday.”
Isaiah 58:10 NASB
Never underestimate the power of tiny graces….It doesn’t take much to gladden the day of another….a smile instead of a frown, a hug instead of a wave, or a cup of coffee to someone who is struggling. Sometimes it is truly the little things that aren’t really so little to the one who receives it.
Yes the problems are great in the world. It has been that way since histories were written. No different than looking at the starfish washed on the beach after a storm. Some folks will lament these creatures are going to die. Then there are God’s people….those of us who will grab as many starfish as possible, toss them into the water, and know we did the best we could. For those starfish our act of kindness was life changing.
What good can we do….how can we brighten up the darkness?
When we recognize acts of kindness are sparks of Jesus’ Divine Light firing up our own inner light as a guide, a comfort, a service for others, we truly become “the light of the world” that our Savior invites us to become.
Whether being the candle, being the match –may each of us strive to be known as the one who helped bring the light out in others.
“Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person.”