Light, perspective and understanding

The Moonraking Festival is going ahead in Slaithwaite; as a trail with pictures in people’s windows and St James’ Church is taking part too.

At the Vicarage, my wife and daughter have been cutting out bits of black paper, sticking it onto tracing paper, then adding bits of coloured paper over the top. If you were to look into our dining room, you’d see something very mundane: paper shreds on the floor, glue sticks, a mess all over the table. They really enjoy this artistic and creative work, and I’ve come to learn that artists seem to live in chaos and mess. Or at least they seem to live in chaos and mess, until that moment when out of the clippings, pens, crayons and glue sticks there emerges something new, something coherent that couldn’t be seen before. A new creation. Yet this is still only the beginning… a collage of colour that is slightly crumpled where the glue has crimped the paper but hold the picture against the glass and shine a light through it, and the whole thing suddenly springs into life. The mundanity is transfigured by the light.

While this is beautiful and we can look at it with admiration, there is a deeper level still. They have created a picture that tells a story: the story of the battle between good and evil as depicted in Revelation.

Moonraking Festival picture, a work in progress…

If you walk along the banks of the River Wear in Sunderland, there are black lines on the pavement. At first they look like a jumble and a mess, nothing more than abstract shapes. If you keep walking there comes a point where your perspective has changed, the black lines resolve into a shape and you can see the shadow of a crane. If you look up to see where the shadow has come from, you may realise that there are no cranes. Then perhaps you may come to realise the story the black lines tell, is the story of shipbuilding on the River Wear and come to understand that there is a deeper story of a community that has been changed.

There is a tiny campsite I like near Flamborough on the East Yorkshire coast. I like to sit in the mouth of my tent on a cool summer evening and watch the light from the lighthouse sweep across the sea, the ships and the rocks. Periodically it shines on me too, as I find myself the focus of the light reflected in the mirrors on top of the tower in the distance.

Flamborough Head

Has it happened to you that you are sat in church, when suddenly you find yourself bathed in colourful light? When the sun comes out from behind a cloud, and shines through your favourite stained glass window. Have you felt the warmth of the light and seen the window in a new way? The stained glass pictures have told the story of the Bible for generations, to those who couldn’t read the Bible for themselves.

Light through stained glass

Jesus takes his friends up the mountain and in truth there is a mundanity to the way it would have happened: sweat on the brow, a pause to catch breath, an ache in the leg muscles, taking a drink of water to refresh themselves. I wonder if Peter, James and John were looking forward to the view, or perhaps to some new teaching of Jesus. Mountains are places where people go to get new insights, new perspectives. Like Moses who got a new perspective on the right way to live with God. Or Jacob who got a new perspective on God’s provision. Or Noah who got a new perspective on creation. They may not have expected a new perspective on Jesus himself.

From where they were, God’s glory shines directly through Jesus and they see him transfigured. See him in a new light, as it were, the light of God’s glory. Did they understand? They saw Jesus in a new light, but as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. But we understand this because the light that shines in Jesus shines on them.

Like my experience camping on the coast. I know there is a lighthouse because the sea and coast is illuminated by the light, and eventually I myself become illuminated by the light. Perhaps others, from their perspective don’t see the lighthouse, but see me periodically glowing and reflecting the light, and they come to understand that there is a light.

Like the light that shines through the stained glass window on you, that illuminates the glass, that gives you a fresh insight: that same light makes you glow in the knowledge and love of God, perhaps when others see you, they know that there is a light.

How do our lives reflect the light of God in Christ Jesus?
Is it in the words we speak?
Is it in the actions we take?
Is it in the decisions we make?
Is it in our joy?
Is it in our tears?
Is it in our giving?
Is it in the sacrifices we have made?

The answer is, yes. It is. This is exactly how the light of God shines in our lives. Through our words, actions and decisions. The love of God shines in our joy and in our tears, in our giving and in our sacrifices.

Be reassured. There is not one thing that we do that fails to communicate the love of God. God merely asks you to be illuminated by his love. To know that God loves you and that you are made holy by God.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to try harder. But it is God’s light that illuminates our lives, not our own light. God’s light shines on us, and we no longer live in darkness. This light is the love of God in Christ Jesus and nothing will ever separate us from that.

Perhaps I should end there, however, I have two challenges for you today. An easy bit of homework and a more difficult one.

The easy homework is this: Be still and know that God is. Nothing more. Be still. Know that God is.

The harder homework is an optional extra. No one has to do it. Think about how you would describe Jesus to someone who had never met him. We have a page on our website for the descriptions you have written. No obligation, but if you’d like to add your own, please write to me with your description of Jesus. That’s it. That’s the hard homework if you want it.

So to finish, a prayer.
As our prayers rise before you, O God,
so may your mercy come down upon us
to cleanse our hearts
and set us free to sing your praise
now and for ever.