Not lightyears away but light today

audio of ‘Not lightyears away but light today’ by Martin Malina
Brilliant light, photo by Martin Malina 2019

There are several images of Jesus we find in the Gospel of John. These are metaphors, or mental images, we have to describe Jesus. Examples are: the good shepherd, the gate or door, the vine, the way, truth and the life. Jesus is all of these, and more.

The purpose of all these images we find is to invite us to encounter Jesus in a new light. These metaphors are not just given to us to satisfy our intellectual curiosity about God, to consider in some detached, theoretical manner. But to invite us into a new way of experiencing Jesus, to live in Christ.

Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus. Easter is about life. In the Gospel text today, Jesus tells those who scrutinize him, that he has come to give people eternal life.[1] Earlier in this same chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus says he has come to give us life “abundantly”.[2]

Having life in Christ is not just about “heaven lightyears away”[3]. More to the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection on earth, being alive in Christ springs from our life here and now. It springs from “making something of what we experience and receiving what experience makes of us.”[4]

It’s an onging, divine, conversation. It’s full engagement with, not denial of, what is alive in us and the world around us. In such a space we take what is given us in each moment and respond to it, in love. And in our response, we allow ourselves to depend on something greater than ourselves.

Where does the light shine, today? Where the shadows lengthen under the ongoing war in Ukraine, where our health falters and our losses mount, where we find our vision clouded in the ambiguous, post-pandemic reset, when we can’t see very well, literally and figuratively ….

Where does the light shine? When we don’t know the way, when the lights go out and our lives feel like we are groping around on the floor to get our bearings, does the light shine somewhere at all? Will it ever again?

Jesus goes to the temple during the Festival of Dedication.[5] The Gospel writer John mentions this detail not without intention, I believe. 

The Festival of Dedication refers to the Festival of Hannukah. It is the festival of lights. It is an annual Jewish rededication of the temple in memory of the miracle of lights. The miracle happened when the eternal flame in the temple burned for eight days on one day’s amount of oil. This miracle occurred in the 2nd century B.C.E. during the Maccabbean revolt against the Greek desecration of the temple. The Festival of lights.

Christians believe Jesus is the light of the world.[6] In this Easter season, the gift of greater light, longer in the day, is making a positive impact on my mind and my mood. 

The man who invented the light bulb, Thomas Edison, comes to mind. And when you think about what his invention gave to us, it is astounding. His gift of light means that when in places where the natural light from the sun cannot illuminate, we can still shine a light. 

When Thomas Edison was a boy, one day he came home from school and gave his mom a letter.

Quietly he said to his mother: “My teacher gave me this letter to give only to you, and for your eyes only.”

She scanned down the letter and her eyes filled with tears. Then she began from the beginning, reading the words, boldly, outloud: “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him. Please teach him yourself.”

Many years later, after the death of his mother, Edison was sorting some family documents and came across a folded piece of paper. It was the letter from his old teacher that his Mom had kept. But when Edison read it, he was shocked. It had actually read:

“Your son is mentally challenged. We cannot accommodate him anymore in our school.” Edison wept, and then wrote in his journal: “Thomas A. Edison was a mentally disabled child. But through one, courageous, heroic mother he became the greatest genius of the century.”[7]

This story is about a mother’s faith in her child. When someone has faith in us, look what’s possible. We are all children of the same God. And Christ, in his love for us, is faithful no matter what.

When the shadows lengthen it’s hard to believe in anything let alone Jesus. The good news despite it all is that Jesus believes in us. And will remain faithful to us in love, forever. Let Jesus be our guide, over these coming days, and beyond. Let Jesus be our guide, so we can rise again, and again, in the new light of Christ. Amen.


[1] John 10:28

[2] John 10:10

[3] “Gather Us In”, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006) Hymn #532, verse 4

[4] Brian McLaren, “Seeking Aliveness”, in Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations (www.cac.org, 25 November 2021).

[5] John 10:22

[6] John 1:3-5,9

[7] Adapted and translated from Jürgen Werth, Neukirchener Kalendar, April 15, 2022.

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