Monday, 6 February 2023

Shine as a light

Isaiah 58.1-9a Then will your light shine like the dawn

1 Corinthians 2.1-12 The only knowledge I claimed was of the crucified Christ

Matthew 5.13-20 Your light must shine in the sight of men




‘Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father’


Those words are spoken at the close of the liturgy of Holy Baptism.


The newly baptised person, the neophyte, is presented with a candle lit from the Paschal Candle of Easter.


It is a joyful moment.


The face of the neophyte is illuminated by the candle flame; their face alight with the light of Jesus Christ, risen and triumphant over the realms of darkness.


It signifies the true enlightenment that sharing in the resurrection life of Christ and becoming part of his Body, the Church, brings.


Sadly, the word ‘enlightenment’ is now more often associated with the philosophical move, begun in the eighteenth century, in which individual autonomy is thought to be the peak of human achievement.


That ‘Enlightenment’ was to be in contrast to the dark, old, oppressive ways of religion.


The other way the word ‘enlightenment’ is used is in a Buddhist sense of detachment from the world.


Both approaches could not be further from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Jesus says, ‘you are the light of the world’ (Matthew 5.X)


So the notion of Christian ‘enlightenment’ is about being not self-absorbed in your mind, but God absorbed in your heart; it is about entering into the realities of the world not fleeing from them: ‘shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father’.


But what does it mean to say ‘shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father’?


It’s a question a bit like ‘what does my life look like if I “go in peace to love and serve the Lord”’?


My face can shine with the love of God on Sunday morning; but what about Monday morning?


The prophet Isaiah in our first reading gave us some pointers.


He says that your light shall break forth like the dawn and God will say ‘Here I am’, when you actively loose the bonds of injustice, when you lift burdens from other people, when you bring the hungry to hospitality, when you clothe the naked.


In Christian terms those are the corporal ‘acts of mercy.’


That’s the Monday morning task, and through the week, serving Christ in that way.


That is shining as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father; that is your faith translating into action.


Try a ‘shine as a light in the world’ audit.


Start by asking yourself:


‘am I ever the source of an injustice in something I have done or said?’


Then challenge that injustice and amend your ways.


‘Do I create burdens for other people – my family, my friends, my colleagues – let alone relieve them of those burdens?’


Then actively seek to free people not burden them with your anxieties, hang ups or fragility.


‘Do I actively seek, in appropriate ways, to alleviate the suffering of the poor?’


If not, make a donation to a relief charity at home or abroad, donate to a foodbank, roll up your sleeves and engage with a charity supporting the lonely and vulnerable, consider buying a Big Issue.


In that way, when done consciously and actively, in the name of Christ, then you are fulfilling the commission of baptism – shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.


And there will be places, perhaps unknown to you even, where your light shines – don’t underestimate that!


Remember Jesus says in today’s gospel ‘You are the light of the world’ and elsewhere ‘I am the light of the world’.


It’s not either/or it’s both/and.


That is the root of true worship and discipleship, when our lives are such as Christ’s, then we are honouring the Father.


All worship is about offering ourselves with Christ in his sacrificial love to the Father.


The trouble is so often at a baptism as the service is over the candle is blown out, put in a nice presentation box and then...?


Well, I wonder what happens to that light?


Is this a metaphor for the way in which baptism has come to be treated?


The light is given and then blown out and put in a box.


That’s a parody of the enlightenment of Christ; almost worse than not receiving the light in the first place, when we receive the light and hide it away.


As the Lord says, the point of the light is for it to be placed on a lampstand not under the bushel basket or in the presentation box.


The light given to you in baptism is not just to make you feel warm, for you to tuck away inside yourself – that is utterly the cut-off self of the 18th century ‘Enlightenment’, that is so pervasive today. No. The light of baptism – Christ himself - is for you to shine out to give light to the world.


‘Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.’


When Christians turn the lights out they are failing in passing on the great and wonderful gift of faith in Jesus Christ.


Or do we not really believe it is such a gift?


Martyrs have died to give others this gift.


Christian Baptism is so much more than a nice ceremony, with nice photos and one heck of a party?


It is the moment of the kindling of the Christ-light; the bestowing of the power of Easter; the elimination of the darkness of sin by the illumination of salvation.


Rejoice in that light! Shine it out!


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