In the years before laptops, e-readers, and iDevices dominated my technological library, reading most often required possessing actual physical books. I would lie in bed at night snuggled deep in my blankets, with my lamp on, book in hand, consuming the paragraphs, pages, and principles being communicated through the written word. My wife and I are completely different when it comes to our lighting and lamp preferences. I would always point the lamp above my head so that the light might reflect off of the wall and illuminate the object of my concentration, whereas Jamie prefered the light to shine directly on whatever she was reading.
Recently we decided to rearrange our bedroom to accommodate the impending birth of our firstborn son. A result of this new arrangement is that my side of the bed is now right next to a window. A window covered by a curtain. A window covered by a curtain that doesn’t reflect light very well. I found this out firsthand tonight as I crawled into bed with an old book I’ve been revisiting. It was too hard to read in that light, and considering earlier in the night I had spent a significant amount of time in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, thoughts of light were fresh on my heart and mind.
And it hit me. Not for the first time. That a lot of what we’re missing in our “modern” worship gatherings is light. The Light. Capital L. The kind of Light that John writes so beautifully about in that first chapter. The same John which the authors of the other gospels label as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” The same John which wrote three incredible epistles. The same John God chose to author the Book of Revelations.
John, above every other human author of scripture is uniquely qualified to describe Christ as the Light. We know light as this miraculous wave of energy which radiates from a high energy source and reflects off of stuff, and is then interpreted by our eyes, and processed into what we see. John knew light as the Light. He knew him by name, Jesus, by the sound of his laugh, the heft of his handshake, and the depth of his incredible love for the wayward and marginalized. He witnessed his wisdom, marveled at his miracles, and basked in his presence. For us light is a description of electromagnetic energy whereby we see, but for John Light is a description of his friend, teacher, Savior, and God. We see via the reflection of light. John saw via the experience of Light.
I can’t help but feel like a lot of what is going on in many churches today, or at the very least, many of the ones I have attended, is way too similar to me trying to read by the poor reflection of my little lamp shining upon the curtain. We need more of the Light, and less of our feebly manufactured substitute. We need to be a people of the Light, living in Light, shining forth the incredible love and truth of Christ to the darkness around us.
The best and easiest way for us to become that kind of people and for our churches to change into launching points for light bearers instead of bomb shelters where we attempt to hide from darkness, is for us to experience the Light for ourselves. Not a manipulative, crocodile tear inducing, guilt driven experience that happens around the front of a sanctuary after someone gives a stirring (or not so stirring) oration; but a day-by-day exposure to the absolute truth, person, power, and love of Christ. Miracles can happen in a moment, but disciples take time. John knew the Light because the Light was the Word and the Word became Flesh. John loved and lived in the context of Christian community with Christ.
We need a return to Christ-centered discipleship that offers a context of authentic Christian community. We need to see the Light of God, experience the light of God, and be the Light of God for those around us; anything less is unacceptable.