Lectionary Text: Ephesians 5: 8-14
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the art of Claude Monet, the French Impressionist painter who is probably best known for his incredible landscapes and works of nature as well as for his paintings of those things that were a normal part of his own life. Probably the most fascinating part of Monet’s work are those paintings that he did as part of several series representing similar or even the same subjects—his own incredible gardens, poppy fields, a woman with a parasol, and those unusual haystacks.
The paintings in this series of haystacks were painted under different light conditions at different times of day. Monet would rise before dawn, paint the first canvas for half an hour, by which time the light had changed. Then he would switch to the second canvas, and so on. The next day and for days and months afterward, he would repeat the process. In each painting, the color of the haystack is different because the amount and quality of the light shining on the haystack is different. The subject is the same but the perspective from which it is viewed changes with the light.
Up until this time, color was thought to be an intrinsic property of an object, such as weight or density. In other words, oranges were orange and lemons were yellow, with no variation as to the lens through which they were viewed. But with Monet’s studies in light and how it affects our view of life, that all changed. As Monet once said, “the subject is of secondary importance to me; what I want to reproduce is that which is in between the subject and me.” (I guess you could say he was painting hay while the sun shines! (sorry, couldn’t resist!)) But, seriously, Monet wasn’t merely painting images of haystacks; he was painting images of light.
I don’t really think of this light of Christ as a bright, blinding spotlight. It’s really much more nuanced and subtle than that. Think illuminating, rather than blinding. And it doesn’t dispel the darkness but rather enlightens it. It casts a different light, a light that illuminates all. God, with infinite wisdom, gave us the power and the desire to see through the darkness and glimpse the light shining through, to see the Light that is Christ. It is a light that is always present regardless of our view, that exposes all that is visible and makes that on which it shines light itself.
There is a Maori proverb that says “turn your face to the [light] and the shadows will fall behind you.” They are not consumed; they are still there, light streaming into their midst. Shadows do not exist without light. Light is what makes them visible. We are like that. Exposed by the Light of Christ, we become visible; and by becoming visible, we become light, children of light, images of the Light that is Christ, the Light that is God. As I said before, what Monet painted was light. He captured the visibility of a blank canvas and created a set of masterpieces. Become visible; become light; become a blank canvas on which God can paint a masterpiece of light.
So, in this Lenten season, be visible, be light!
Grace and Peace,