New Light–New Vision

One Sunday, when I was a parish rector, I was looking in to see what the children were doing in Sunday school. Mostly, of course, they were coloring in pictures from a series of simple pictures about a Bible story. However, one little girl, about three years old, had drawn her own picture. Because the picture portrayed an insight I do not believe was a part of the Bible stories read to them that Sunday, t was startling to me. The three-year-old had drawn a picture of Jesus, a very good picture by the way (not a stick figure), with a black background and a sunlit foreground. It clearly depicted Jesus defeating darkness and from him light illuminated everything. I took the picture, with the child’s permission, made a caption for it and pImageosted the color drawing on a bulletin board. The parents of the child later had the picture framed and no doubt hangs prominently in their home today, some fifteen years later.

In the Gospel according to John, Jesus describes himself as the light of the world.[1] Much of the Gospel according to John reports that Jesus is light. For example, in the beginning verses of the Gospel, Jesus is referred to life and light and it is reported that the darkness did not overcome him—as the little girl’s drawing clearly proclaimed.

Naturally, along with light comes vision. If our eyes are clouded in darkness, as when we are in a dense fog, we can see only the fog. Or, when we turn on the lights or build a fire at night, we can see clearly what is around us. Several years ago I had cataracts taken out of my eyes. I was stunned by the fact that I had not seen colors clearly for years. With new and clear lenses the whole world changed for me. Not only were colors more brilliant but everything seemed clearer—I had a new vision of the world.

Image

Christ healing the blind, by Nicolas Colombel, 1682

When Jesus gives sight to a young man blind from birth,[2] the young man is overwhelmed by joy. Of course, as it often does in our times, the institutional religion of the day attempts to sour the joy by technicalities. Nonetheless, the young man remains joyful in his new condition. Wouldn’t anyone in similar circumstances? A recent television news broadcast reported the reactions of a young woman in Britain whose hearing was restored—she had been deaf from birth. Her reaction was ecstatic. She wanted to hear all at once the music she had not been able to hear in her life. This was a miracle of technology. Nevertheless, it is the same blessing as the young man of biblical story.

Vision and light are major themes of the Scriptures. God brings light to the universe and declares it good. Now God can see creation in a new way. Before light there was only darkness. God wished to see a created order of the galaxies and the ever-expanding universe—light, therefore, was essential. God’s vision became expansive and incisive.

Because we are not and cannot be God, our vision is limited by the narrowness of our own experiences—the Lord does not see as mortals do.[3] But, we too want to expand our view of life and reach out to the stars and galaxies. We want the same light and the same vision. The quest for the stars is a God-given mission that rests in the human soul.

John the Evangelist writes the story of Jesus to make it clear that Jesus is that light and has that vision; that its, Jesus is the creative light and vision of the universe.

The Apostle Paul knows that the light and vision of God is innate to us. The required essential is faith that God has acted in and intervened in human history through Jesus Christ.

Expressing Jesus’ words. as found in the Gospel according to John,[4] Paul claims that those who have come out of darkness are now the new light. More, he claims that those who have chosen to follow Jesus and give their lives to him were the darkness but now in their new confession of faith they are themselves the same light.

Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus that “Once you were darkness.”[5] By that he meant that living in the sin of idolatry, self-indulgence, and destructive behavior was the darkness of their lives. They did more than live in darkness they were the darkness itself. Giving one’s self to Christ Jesus was their way to enlighten their lives, to become beacons of hope in a dark world, and, as Christ has, their means of defeating darkness.

Further, it is this light they now emit that the fruits of the Holy Spirit thrive. It is a clear reference to the fact that the fruits of earth thrive best in sunlight. For example, I lived in Alaska for three years. It was a wonderful experience, except for the days of mid-winter. When summer came and sun did not go deep beyond the horizon everything flourished—plants, animals, and people. We had a flower garden on the south side of our home and the flowers grew to a giant size. Up the road from where we lived was the farming community of Palmer where vegetables grew to profoundly enormous size. We enjoyed lusciously large strawberries and other fruits all summer long. The sunlight felt exquisitely warm on our faces, and the bondage of dark winter fell off us like melting snow. The fruits of the earth as the fruits of the Spirit flourished in the light, so did we.

Nevertheless, the fruits of the earth the Alaskan sunlight did not emanate from me or anyone else. The fruits of the Spirit, however, can be seen and grow in and because of individual commitment to the ministry of Jesus. To understand this better let us recall the what the fruits of the Spirit are:[6]

• joy

• Peace

• Patience

• Kindness

• Generosity

•  Faithfulness

• Gentleness

• Self-control

None of these things flourish in the dark soul of the night or in the darkness of evil that is not expunged by the light of Christ. Instead, evil flourishes in the form of greed, thoughtless behavior towards others, and exploitation of people and the earth’s riches. In the darkness of evil war prevails, slavery continues, and pollution of both spirit and the globe on which we live continues.

A Christian is transparent as well as translucent. Not only does the light of Christ shine in a Christian, but also Christ is seen through a Christian. That transparency is the fruits of the Holy Spirit. By the behavior of a Christian the world has a vision of Christ and what living as a disciple of Jesus is and what it means.

ImageAll humanity has a choice to make. We can live in darkness where the fruit of darkness is sin—that is, living out of the presence of God—or, we can live the light of God, Jesus Christ. Paul encourages the followers of Christ Jesus to sing the hymn of light as an invitation to the world:

“Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”[7]

Living in the Light and having a new vision is a choice. No one demands it, or can demand it.

———

[1] John 8:12.

[2] John 9:1-41.

[3] 1 Samuel 16:7.

[4] John 3:19-21. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

[5] Ephesians 5:8.

[6] Galatians 5:22-23.

[7] Ephesians 5:14

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