The Quaker mystic, Douglas Steere, wrote once of attending a dinner party where the guests played a parlor game (I apologize for not recalling the exact reference). He related that everyone was given one minute to study the room in which they were gathered. They were then to turn their backs to the room and make a list of every item they could recall in the room. Anything in the room at all that they noticed should be written down. The “winner” was the person who recalled the most items and, in particular, noticed the one item that the hostess had “hidden” for the purposes of the game.
Steere recalled that the guests present were all amazed at how little or how much they noticed in a minute when they focused their concentration. What he noted was that no one, no one at all, made mention of the most important feature of the room – the light by which they were able to see all other things.
We take light for granted. We think nothing of walking into a darkened room and flipping a switch that immediately illumines everything around us. We assume that light will be available to us in ways our ancestors did not, indeed could not. I found it striking and significant that at the turn of the millennium Time magazine named Thomas Edison the most significant person of the millennium. One of the most prolific innovators and inventors in history, Edison changed the course of life with the incandescent light. The night became as day. Most everything else that we take for granted electronically followed from this one innovation in human life. And now we take it for granted.
Light guides us, grants us vision. It also illumines and shows the dusty corners and hidden objects that we would rather not have shown. Truth is that we sometimes prefer the dark. At the very least, we would prefer to direct what the light shines on.
So, it may be good news or it may not be to hear Jesus say, “I am the light of the world.” His is a light that guides us, directs us, leads us home. It is also a light that reveals the secrets of our hearts and the things we would rather keep hidden. In other words, a light we may wish to switch off (which was, by the way, the preferred option of the Sanhedrin as they ‘plotted his death.’).
This Sunday, we will continue our “Getting to Know You” sermon series by sitting around John 8:12-20, by hearing Jesus remind us that he is the light of the world, and by thinking together about what that means for us as his disciples and for the world that he came to save.
In other words, I hope you’ll choose not to sit in the dark but join us Sunday as we try to “shed some light on the matter.”
Grace and peace.