‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar,[h] but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.’
There are in South Wales disused coal mines that have become museums. Visitors are kitted out with overalls and hard hats fitted with a light. In one such mine visitors are taken in ‘the cage’ below ground and after walking along the tramways away from the shaft they have just descended they are asked to turn their lamps off. The experience of that total darkness has been described as velvet black. Most visitors are relieved when they are told to turn their lights back on, even though the darkness was only for less than a minute.
Luke uses the domestic scene of lighting the home of his day. The oil lamps used at that time were not known for the brilliance of the light they provided. In this respect, Luke’s recording of Jesus’ teaching would probably be dismissed as common sense. Yet the message is still relevant today despite the wonders of modern technology. For the believer needs to ask him/herself what is it that darkens their heart, what extinguishes the light of Jesus, the Light of the World? There are some elements of our lives that we know are wrong, yet we continue to be attracted to them. This hardening of our hearts and minds is similar to turning the light off. In that condition the distraction from the light, if it becomes frequent, normalises the situation. The conscience takes a back seat or is even confined to the refuse bin. We know that our nature is to be rebellious, and that is at the heart of the problem. We may know the right way to live but still choose the exact opposite. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, ‘Why?’ Many years ago the Children’s Special Service Mission published a hymnal called “Golden Bells”. In it Susan Warner wrote a hymn for younger children the first verse of which is our prayer.
Jesus bids us shine With a pure clear light; Like a little candle burning in the night, In this world of darkness, So we must shine – You in your small corner, And I in mine.
The Rev’d Colin Hunt, worshiping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church. Essex.