Shine

Lorna Johnston /Monday, February 1, 2021

 

My husband is starstruck.

Away from city light pollution--anywhere truly dark--on clear (often cold!) nights he invariably can be found outside marvelling at the canopy of stars sparkling overhead. He stares at the heavens in wonder. A shooting star--or several--causes an exultant ‘Did you see that?’ to burst forth. If it is dark enough to see the Milky Way his joy is complete. He delights in what many of us seldom pause to notice.

The blacker the night, the brighter the stars, the greater his delight.

What is it about the night sky that is so fascinating to him? What impulse gets him out of a cozy, warm bed just to check if it has cleared up enough to see the stars? What urge causes him to look up with anticipation? I wonder if it isn’t the mystery of what lies beyond our understanding—the beautiful witness of a universe that is much larger than we can comprehend.

Light Breaking into Darkness

Scripture is full of illustrations of light as a metaphor of the Kingdom of God breaking into the darkness in this world.

In the Old Testament, the book of Daniel records it this way.

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:3

Jesus spoke of it in his Sermon on the Mount:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Peter, referring to the good news found in Jesus Christ, picks up on this metaphor in his second letter.

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19

And Paul writes of it on several occasions including his letter to the Philippians.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Phil. 2:14b-16a

The blacker the night, the brighter the stars shine.

A Moon Girl

While I also enjoy stargazing, I’m more of a moon girl.

On clear nights, my eyes are drawn to the reflected brightness--shocking sometimes--of that ever-changing orb. Ever since a trip to the southern hemisphere I see the ‘rabbit’ rather than the ‘man’ that seems to dwell there.

Full moon. New moon. Blue moon. Harvest moon. Waxing, waning, crescent, gibbous. The moon is ever-changing in the night sky.

The moon has become an interesting metaphor for me of what it means to ‘shine brightly’ as a witness for Jesus Christ to the world. Unlike the stars, which like our sun are gaseous balls of fire generating their light and heat internally, the moon is a lump of rock with no ability to generate any light at all. Rather, it is a reflector of the light produced by our sun. It sometimes is visible using its full capacity as a reflector; sometimes only a portion of its ability is utilised. But whatever light shines comes from another source.

Isn’t that an apt picture of us as Christ-followers? I have no ability to generate light into this world on my own. I am not the source of light, rather the Holy Spirit empowers me to be a reflector of the light that I have received from God. And just like the moon, sometimes I reflect the light fully, and at other times things obscure the light reflecting potential in me.

Luke records Jesus talking about this:

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.” Luke 11:34-36 

John records Jesus this way:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21

Paul puts it this way:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:8-13

The blacker the night, the brighter the moon can glow.

I live in the northern hemisphere, in Vancouver—known for its cloudy, gray skies. We’re into the darkest, cloudiest months of the year now. Night predominates. Clouds hang overhead. Light is dim. Even so, it is seldom truly dark. Even clouds struggle to shut out all the light. Stars still shine. The moon still glows…even if only dimly seen through the clouds.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be pinpricks of light into the dark, reflectors of Jesus who said,

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

No matter how dark or dreary or long the night may seem, we are called to shine. Some, like my husband, will lift their eyes and marvel…

Some Questions:

  1. Have you stepped from darkness into light? Jesus Christ invites you to follow him into the light. If you have not considered his invitation, I encourage you to begin. Start by reading his story as recorded in the Gospel accounts. You can begin here.
  2. If you are a follower of Jesus, ask him to show you where you are more comfortable with the darkness than with the brilliance of his light in your life. Spend some time waiting and listening for him to show you dark places you can't yet see. Give him permission to shine brightly into those places to transform them. Trust that the light will always push out darkness.
  3. Consider your positioning. If you are to be a reflector of light into your community, are you positioning yourself for maximum ‘shine’, or are you ducking behind cover? What are you hiding behind? What would make your light more visible to others? Will you reposition?

 


Lorna Johnston is the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams--Loving Muslims Together (LMT) and Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.



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