Friday, February 07 2020
“Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus”
Since the year is 2020, one of the things that I’d like to do is explore briefly the theme of sight, of clarity of vision, of beholding with so much more than merely our physical eyes. The key to all this seeing is to behold the one who is the “light of the world” and then respond to his summons to us to follow him and fulfill our vocations and become light-bearers to the world.
In one sense, Jesus’ declaration that he is “the light of the world” can function as a song that signals an entrance into the acts and events of individual lives and out the other side, a journey that commences in response and concludes in glory. This is music that sings of a pilgrimage; it is a tune that is played with many variations throughout the world, but the theme is always the same: that Jesus died for our sins and that God raised him from the dead; it is a hymn whose music rises and falls until it finally erupts in action while there is still time; it is a composition that announces some of the great themes of our redemption. For us to fulfill our vocation, to be a light in the dark culture of the world, will be to “know the joy of Jesus.”
Perhaps an analogy will help. Do you remember the Robin Williams movie Dead Poets’ Society? At the beginning of that movie, the new and charismatic English teacher, Mr. Keating, takes his class from the security of their J. R. Pritchard text book with its suffocating definition of poetry and the sanctity of the classroom into the hall and invites them into a relationship with the “living presence of the past” and engage themselves with all those dead who are pictured on a corridor wall or memorialized in a trophy case. Then he asks his students to hear the voices of the dead calling to them “Carpe diem! Carpe diem! Seize the day.” Well, the music of the Sermon on the Mount functions in a similar way; it whispers to us to go beyond the hillside setting and some magnetic and mesmerizing words spoken by Jesus, beyond the narrow confines of a Sunday morning service snuggled in comfortable pews, and engage ourselves with a Lord and Savior who is eternally present, to see ourselves embracing intimately all that he has done for us as living Lord, and to fulfill our vocations to be “the light of the world.”
We sing that we want “to see the brightness of God, to look at Jesus,” and we ask the “Clear sun of righteousness” to “shine on [our] path and show [us] the way to the Father,” which means that we desire to be enabled to fulfill our vocations to be the light of the world. We look up and see, but sometimes we are mesmerized, sometimes we don’t stop to drink in or behold so in a hurry are we to get somewhere else and thus we lose all that the moment has to offer. Perhaps we’re just in a hurry to move on to the next part of the service. But such haste is a mistake because the landscape on the mount and the call to be the light of the world offers a pageant that takes time to unfold. This song opens up for us the entire drama of salvation through the acts of Jesus and our responses to those acts.
So, what are we to do? Well, again, we are to look up and see, but what are we to see? Let me suggest that what we behold is a glimpse of glory, a glimpse that teases and tantalizes because the complete composition is not yet fully unveiled. We sing; may we behold as well “the light that shines in our hearts through Jesus our Lord” so that we may be “a light to light all nations.” Can you and I apprehend for just a moment that such seeing is what we are made for, that such seeing is a gift, a vision that has the power to alter what one is on the inside as with cleansed sight one beholds the Lord who is the light of the world and obeys his summons. As Bishop Tom Wright points out so poetically and perceptively in Christians at the Cross, a marvelous collection of Holy Week meditations, “If you want to know what Christ’s death and resurrection mean, you have to hear the music, to listen not just to the tune which says he died and rose, but to the harmony which says ‘and this is what it means.’”
To look and behold Jesus coming as the light of the world and to fulfill our vocation to be the light of the world—well—it is to begin to see that it is he and he alone, this beaten, battered, broken, and shattered man—who holds the key to salvation and who is the sole response to the dominion of sin in our world.
To look and behold Jesus coming as the light of the world and to fulfill our vocation to be the light of the world—well—it is to begin to see that it is he and he alone, this beaten, battered, broken, and shattered man—who holds the key to salvation and who is the sole response to the dominion of sin in our world. Ecce—behold—look and see the Lamb of God “who takes away the sins of the world.” If you and I want to walk as children of the light, if we want to “see the brightness of God,” if we truly want to be the light of the world and “look for the coming of Christ,” then we must act and bring others to the Lord of all. As Bishop Wright argues, we must “Learn to see the glory in the cross; learn to see the cross in the glory.” If this is a lesson that we can manage, then the response to our Lord’s call is under way. That unmistakable voice will be a clear tocsin sounded with power and beauty and love.
“This is what I’ve longed for,” sings Emile De Becque in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Well, when we become the light of the world, we get the awesome sense that this is what we’ve longed for, that this is what we were created for. Fools will attempt to give us a reason for this; the wise dare not even make the attempt. When everything is placed in its proper perspective, we are left with a clear vision, an awareness that to be called to be the light of the world is to be given a loving invitation to a new way of life. The eternal joy of Jesus becomes a living reality as he shines in our hearts.
“Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus.”