I travel at roughly 186 000 miles per second
I am sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle
I have energy which can be tapped and used to heat your home
or make your plants grow.
I can make you feel warm.
I can turn a piece of paper yellow or even burn a hole in it.
I can make you want to get up in the morning, or make it difficult for you to go to sleep in the evening.
I enable you to see, to navigate your way around the world.
Too much of me can be blinding.
Not enough of me can make you lacking in energy.
I can be split into different colours.
I expose what is there
and show you all the things you want to see
like your flowers and your children
and all the things you’d rather stayed hidden,
the cobwebs in your sitting room, the streaks on your windows
and the ever increasing number of grey hairs on your head.
What am I?
Well I think you probably know the answer! Light!
There are parts of creation that thrive in the dark – bats for instance. But much of our world is only there because of light. Sunlight in particular. And humans need light to survive. We need light to navigate our way round the world and see any dangers about. We need light to grow the plants we eat. We need light for keeping our bodies healthy. And we need light to keep our energy levels up and our moods good. It is no coincidence that many early human cultures thought that the sun was a god and worshipped it.
And because light is vital to our very being, it is not surprising that we use light as a metaphor too. We talk of “shedding light” on a problem when trying to solve it. We talk of “seeing the light” when we suddenly realise that something we have been thinking or doing was wrong all along. And we talk of “light at the end of the tunnel” when we start to see a positive outcome emerging from what has been a long and unpleasant or difficult situation.
In his letters to the early churches, the Apostle Paul makes much use of light as a metaphor for God, Jesus and all that is good. In this evening’s reading from his letter to the Ephesians, he begins by declaring that the people of the church of Ephesus are light. They used to be darkness, but now they are light.
And he wants them to live as “children of light” or “fruit of the light” . More metaphors. What might they mean?
Well if you consider that…
the child of a cat is also a cat,
the child of a mouse is also a mouse
and the child of a human is also a human,
We could say that the child of light is also light!
The Ephesians, and by extension all Christians, are being reminded that because God is light, so we are light. We are children of God.
What does a child of light look like then? Well a child of light will look like the light. He or she will be strong and warm. He or she will have the power to enable others and the rest of creation to grow and flourish. She or he will show up all that is good. But she or he will also show up what is not good, and expose the things we’d rather not see. In short, a child of God, who is light, will look something like God.
We are now halfway through Lent. Over the next few weeks we will begin to focus on Jesus’ passion, arrest, trial and death, the darkest hours of the Christian story. And then on Easter Saturday, we will keep vigil. The church will be in darkness whilst we remind ourselves through familiar Bible stories of the bigger story we are part of – the story of creation, of the Exodus, of the Exile and the prophets. Stories of trouble, but also of God’s promise of restoration.
And then we will light the new Easter candle. This represents the light of Christ, who came to banish darkness. We will each take light from this candle and gradually process into church. Lots of little lights will begin to expose what the darkness has hidden. And then the lights of the whole church will be switched on and our Easter celebrations will begin in full. The service is known as the Service of the Light.
As part of this service, as a reminder that we are Children of the Light, we will renew our baptismal vows. The Easter candle will then be lit throughout the Easter season. After that it will be lit again at baptisms. Its light will then light candles which are given to the newly baptised. It will also be lit at funerals, a time when people feel great darkness. A reminder that Christ, the Light of the World, overcame death in order that we might also have life.
Wednesday’s events in London have been a horrible reminder of the darkness that is very much still a part of our world and of human nature. But we have also seen acts of light in the people who bravely turned towards the danger in order to assist the victims of the attack. Or those schoolchildren who sang to lighten the mood of those locked down in Parliament.
This week we have also remembered the life of Martin McGuinness. He was a man who turned away from the darkness of hatred and violence in Northern Ireland, to the light of reconciliation and peaceful politics. He even surprised many people by becoming good friends with some of those on the opposite side of the conflict. His funeral was attended by people from both sides of the divide. Examples in today’s world of fruit of the light.
We are Children of the light. Let us then ask ourselves, do we look like a child of the light? What beautiful things might we expose? How might we give strength to those who need it? How might we enable creation and other people to grow? And how might we expose what is not good, so that like the Ephesians and us, we can move from being darkness to light?
So let us, in the words we say at the end of a baptism service:
Shine as a light in the world, to the glory of the Father!1
Reader Catherine Burchell
Readings for sermon and links:
1From Common Worship Baptism Service © Archbishops Council 2000