by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

April, 2008
One Sunday morning recently, one of our acolytes at church was experiencing “technical difficulties:” he couldn’t put out the candle lighter. The wick wouldn’t retract far enough. After several unsuccessful attempts, our frustrated acolyte finally simply blew out the wick. Later, he was able to fix the problem. But for a few moments he was stymied.

I’m writing this the week before Palm Sunday. Easter is less than two weeks away. Like the story of the acolyte, the story of Easter is the story of a light that couldn’t be put out, a flame that couldn’t be extinguished. John wrote that Jesus was “The true light, which enlightens everyone . . .” (John 1:9a NRSV). We have also been enlightened by the same holy light. Jesus himself told the people, “‘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 NRSV). He also said, “‘While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’” (John 12:36 ESV). If we believe in him, we will be children of light and be “the light of the world” ourselves.

In his defense against the false accusations that had been made against him, Paul told King Agrippa II, “‘that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 26:23 NRSV). Through his resurrection, Christ proclaimed the light of God once and for all, not only to the traditional people of God, the Jews, but to those of us who are Gentiles.

Paul told the Christians in Corinth, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6 NRSV). Christ has dispelled the darkness of our sin and revealed God to us. Paul reminded the Philippians, “you shine like stars in the world.” (Phil. 2:15b NRSV). God’s light within us allows us to shine. He told the Colossians that Christ “has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” (Col. 1:12b NRSV). We share the light of God with the saints who have gone before us.

Similarly, Peter told his readers that Christ had “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9b NRSV). Once we walked in darkness but Christ has brought us out of the darkness of sin into the perfect, inextinguishable light of God. And John told his readers very simply, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5b NRSV).

Through his resurrection, Christ promised to make us “‘. . . children of God, being children of the resurrection.’” (Luke 20:36b NRSV). He told Lazarus’ sister, Martha, “‘I am the resurrection and the life.’” (John 11:25a NRSV). He speaks those same words to us today; he is our resurrection, our life, and our hope. When he asked her, “‘Do you believe this?’” (11:26b NRSV) Martha replied, “‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’” (11:27b NRSV). I pray that my answer—and yours—will be the same as Martha’s.

Someone near you is confronting the question, “Do you believe this?” Their answer may well depend on you or me, and on our own answer. If others see that we believe, they may be tempted to believe too. Do you believe? Do I believe? Paul told the Ephesians to “Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (Eph. 5:8b-9). The same exhortation applies to us today. If we believe, we will live lives that are worthy of the Gospel, and others will see. John wrote, “Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling.” (1 John 2:10 NRSV). If we live in the light and allow the light to shine through us, through our words and actions, others will know the faith we profess is real.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. . . . The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:5, 9-13 NRSV.)

Copyright © 2008 by David Phelps