At week’s end it will be Valentine’s Day, the once-a-year occasion to find ways to express the big L word, Love, to that special person, whoever that person may be.
The Bible is like a huge Valentine’s Day card intended for each and every person, with the shortest, most straightforward line being:
“God is LOVE.”
The big L word Love which the Bible expresses in the other L word: LIGHT; appearing in the opening lines in the Book of Genesis as an unknown poet musing over how the heavens and the earth came into being, imagined the Creator’s first command was,
“‘Let there be light; and there was light.’ and God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:3)
God’s love shining like light to illuminate all that is good in God’s creation. Only at this time in February the rays of the sun shine on a deep crevice in the rocks in Yosemite National Park and turn it into a waterfall of brilliant light that is a breathtaking sight.
Centuries ago Moses found himself standing on a mountaintop, set aglow with the brightness of God’s presence that stayed with him when he descended back into the plains and the people, clutching the tablets of stone with the ten commandments, God’s laws for living, which would later inspire a Hebrew composer to sing:
“Your word (your Law) is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)
God’s love shining like light on humans, illuminating them with a goodness that becomes a beacon for others to turn to one another and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’ (Isaiah 2:3)
God’s intention: to shine on us with light beams of love, that set us aglow to attract others to come together as a world-people who live in community, in harmony, in peace, achieved by “walking in the way of the Lord,” the way mapped out in the Ten Commandments.
God’s marvelous plan for humanity extinguished by a human determination to love darkness rather than light, to walk in one’s self-chosen way, as ugly, grotesque, and demonically divisive as that way may be.
So the God of love decided to put on the garb of human flesh and live among us in Jesus Christ, Who in straightforward words would say,
‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12)
What a promise! What a Valentine card, signed by Jesus, for all to read,
“Whoever follows me…will have the light of life.”
The people to whom today’s Gospel was addressed received those words as an amazing gift. They looked at the simple clay shell filled with oil and a wick, and saw themselves as being like the first humans molded from earth’s dust and brought to life with the animating breath of their Creator.
Now God in Christ was igniting them to glow with the Light of His life and be a blazing witness to Isaiah’s hope for a people who would:
… loose the bonds of injustice,
undo the thongs of the yoke,
let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
… share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked cover them,
and not hide yourself from your own kin…
The light which Jesus said was still the lamp oil of the Ten Commandments, now burning with His love, reflected in His followers for all the world to see, like Jerusalem’s temple clad in gold, set ablaze by the torch light around it, “a city that could not be hidden.” a lampstand life that gives light to all in the house.
An image of a peasant’s one-room home where many of Jerusalem’s first Christians lived, with one clay shell casting its light on everyone in that household, A testimony to the influence of just one person set ablaze with Christ’s love that invites Isaiah’s prediction:
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rearguard.
Isaiah’s words now personalized for us with Jesus’ invitation:
…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
A story from South Africa in the last days of apartheid tells about a Black woman (Lindiwe Macozoma) who worked as a domestic for a white family. On her first day her employer showed the family’s dishes and fine china. Then she opened a cupboard under the sink and showed a set that was clipped and scratched from years of use, and said,
“These are the dishes you are to use when you eat your meals at the table in the kitchen.”
The next morning the domestic brought a set of her own beautiful dishes to use at mealtime. When her boss came into the kitchen, she stared at the plates and asked where they came from.
“My family,” said the domestic, “we may be poor, but we manage to buy the finest china which we tend with great care.”
Hearing that, her boss changed her demeaning rule and said she could eat her meals from their family’s dishes. From dishes to the Gospel’s lampstand, every human is worthy of being an illumination of Jesus’ description:
“You are the light of the world….let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
God’s intention: to shine on us with light beams of love that turn a simple song into a year ‘round Valentine’s Day card and a lifelong commitment:
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!’ Amen.