The Coming of Light

Scripture Text: John 12: 44-46

44Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.

I think we often have this sense that the Light is the end-all.  After all, it’s the thing to which we’ve journeyed, the thing for which we’ve searched.  But have you ever looked at light?  (I know.  You’re really not supposed to do that.)  But while I was thinking about this post, I looked up at my kitchen light.  It’s one of those flood lights that you can turn and redirect.  I was in my living room and it didn’t have many lights on so, basically, I was in the darkness looking at a light.  And behind the light, surrounding the light, was a circular rainbow.  See, there’s always more in the Light. And it could only be seen in the dark.

This Scripture comes in the midst of the readings that we use for Holy Week.  Jesus is preparing for the cross.  But part of that preparation was pointing yet again toward God.  Jesus more than once confirmed that he was the “Light to the world” but he never let it stop there.  There is always more to the Light.  Jesus was always quick to remind his followers of that.  He espoused that they were not believing in him as a person, as a man who showed them the Light.  They were rather believing in God.  They were looking toward the Light that Jesus had been sent to show them.

OK, hang with me here…at the risk of going all 4th century on you, I’m going to go all 4th century on you!  In “The Life of Moses”, St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c. 395) contends that a person’s encounter with the mystery of God comes in three parts—light, cloud, and darkness.  (I know, that sort of sounds backwards.)  He sees the first stage in our quest to encounter God in light, such as Moses’ vision of God in the burning bush, illuminating the darkness of our sin and ignorance about who God really is.  The second stage is a journey into partial darkness where Moses encounters God as the cloud, an intermingling of darkness and light.  The final stage is entering where God really is (not a place, mind you, but a way of being).  And in that, we come to the realization that God IS Light, that God IS Mystery, that God is utterly incomprehensible.  In this place, Moses declared on Mt. Sinai that he had seen God or, in other words, had seen the eternal mystery that is God and had finally begun to understand his part of that Mystery.

The crux of this rather long-winded explanation is that the Light to which we journey is not the end; it is the beginning.  The Light is the beginning of our knowing not God in God’s fullness.  We are not meant to know that.  God IS mystery.  But the Light to which we journey is the beginning of us knowing not who God is but who we are meant to be as we encounter our Creator, our Sustainer, our Redeemer, the One in whom we believe. It’s also the beginning of us finally knowing that the darkness is also filled with Light.  As we come into the Light as it dawns on the world, we begin to see beyond—and it is glorious!

I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.

In every beginning, there is darkness.  The darkness of chaos seems eternal, Yet form emerges: light dawns, and life is born. (Sixth Service of The New Union Prayerbook) 

Grace and Peace,


An Active Imagination

“Peaceable Kingdom”, John August Swanson, 1994

Amos 9: 13-15

13The time is surely coming, says the Lord, when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps, and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. 14I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. 15I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land that I have given them, says the Lord your God.

So, out here in the wilderness, what are we supposed to do while we wait for things to get better?  I mean, faith is about waiting, yes.  But faith is also about doing. Faith is supposed to be active, right?  So what are we supposed to be DOING during this wilderness time?  And how can we find out more about when this will actually resolve?

We 21st century journeyers struggle with the unknown, with just leaving things to chance, with admitting that perhaps there are those aspects of our journey that are not for us to know now. That is what Advent does for us…it points us toward mystery. Some would equate that to nothingness or, perhaps, even to darkness–unknown, foreboding, maybe even a little dangerous. But God came and comes over and over again. I think that God’s coming does not, much to some of our chagrin, bring with it the surety that we might like. In fact, knowing everything that’s ahead, being so absolutely sure of how everything is going to turn out, is surely the death of our faith.  Because if you are so sure of everything, why would you need faith at all?  God doesn’t give us surety; God instead instills faith in us to lead us through the darkness.

It is our faith that opens the door to our imagination.  And it is our imagination that strengthens our faith.   God says…walk with me awhile my child and look…look far beyond where you can see…listen far beyond where you can hear…journey far beyond where you think you belong…and there, there I will be, and there will be the Creation that I have created for you. You can’t see it right now.  But you can imagine it. 

Imagination is not some remnant of our childhood that we were supposed to lose as we matured.  It is part of us and it matures with us.  A mature imagination has no limits to what it can envision; it has no boundaries to what it can do.  A mature imagination steps beyond reason and intellect, not leaving them behind, but sweeping them into a new image, a vision of a New Creation.  A mature imagination is fueled by faith.  Our imagination takes us to the place to which God leads us.  Our imagination gives us a glimpse of the mystery that God has promised, the promise of new life.

Advent is about imagining.  Think of those that came more than 2,000 years before us.  They were imagining what the coming of the Messiah would mean.  Now they more than likely got it wrong.  But that’s not the point.  They were imagining a new Creation, a new way of being.  They were imagining that their lives would be better, that peace and justice would rule, that hunger and poverty would be no more.  They were imagining that they would find there way home.  And their faith walked them in that direction.  So, in this Advent so many years later, just imagine…

Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions. (Albert Einstein)

Grace and Peace,