Monday, October 10, 2016

Shining Light

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

The Lord is righteous. He loves righteousness. - Psalm 11:7 (NASB)

Live as children of light - for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. - Ephesians 5:8-9

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 118:10-14; 2 Samuel 1; John 6:43-51

I've always been fascinated by the physics of light. There are lots of aspects to it that intrigue me. But maybe the simplest is that light just shines. Our human eyes and minds are used to dividing things up into dark and light, day and night. There's a common theme throughout the Bible that also connects this contrast to the difference between good and evil. The categories are so familiar to us that we easily fall into "Star Wars" thinking: that there is a duality of a "light side" and a "dark side" which oppose each other more or less equally.

But in terms of physics, light and darkness are not the same at all. Light just shines. Whether we argue that it comes like a wave or like a particle, light is unquestionably a form of radiation that travels from one place to another. Light brings energy that can be used in lots of different ways. It reveals (or creates?) color. It gives life through photosynthesis. It provides warmth. Creatures can detect it and use it to navigate and survive in the world.

In contrast, darkness doesn't shine. Darkness is just the absence or absorption of light. Darkness has no active presence or being in itself. Darkness is what we notice when light isn't shining.

So rather than simply say that light is good and darkness is evil, it's interesting to me to think about what it means, from the point of view of physics, to think of Jesus as "the Light of the World" and to think of his followers as "children of light." It means shining. It means a source of power that can keep generating light without end. It means activity, and energy radiating outward. It means life and warmth and possibility.

This line of thinking helps explain Paul's phrase "the fruit of the light." When light shines, things happen. Every piece of real fruit in the world exists, in part, because light brought energy to the plant that grew it. That energy gets packaged in a different form that can also go out into the world, and help create yet new forms of life. There is a chain reaction of creation and growth and transformation.

I see a link with today's John 6 section also. It's not so hard to see now how light can become food. "The Light of the World" and "the Bread of Life" are different ways of describing the same reality in Jesus.And when he says, "No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day," it makes sense that our whole lives of faith, from birth to death, from baptism to funeral, can be part of the same flow of creative life and energy.

Today I'm thinking that being a "child of light" is not about toeing the line, following rules, choosing to do good things instead of evil things. Although the whole chapter of Ephesians 5 can be read that way, it could also be read as actively shining instead of dissipation and nothingness. Light from God can excite and energize us, so that our lives are aligned with creativity and life and possibility. Dullness, distraction, apathy, and emptiness are overcome. Our lives shine, pointing other people to the God who is the source of all light and goodness and righteousness and truth.

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