Today I want to begin by discussing an historic topic – light bulbs. Many credit Thomas Edison with the invention, but in fact beginning versions were presented by Humphry Davy in 1802. By 1840 a British scientist Warren de la Rue created a version that required the use of platinum. Because of the high cost of this element, his version never experienced commercial use. Joseph Wilson Swan perfected his version by 1860, but struggled with an adequate vacuum tube resulting in the life span of the bulb to be much too short to be practical. In 1874, a Canadian patent was filed by Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans who built various lamps with different sized bulbs, but commercializing this version proved fruitless at which point they sold their patent to Edison on 1879.
One year prior in 1878, Edison had already begun serious research into developing a practical incandescent lamp, filing his first patent on October 14, 1878. His second patent filed in 1879 led to the creation of the Edison Electric Light Company in 1880. Now I’m thinking by now you are asking the first question of any sermon, “What’s the point?” By the time electricity and lighting entered every home in the US, society experienced a great change. “On a social level, people no longer had to follow a set rhythm of life, because people didn’t have to stop working or socializing because of a lack of light. Instead, around-the-clock work began, as factories brought workers in for different shifts, and cities were able to stay open all night” (Source: http://www.bulbs.com/learning/history.aspx.)
Now you’re asking that second question – “So what?” Something we take for granted was a huge shift for folks in the early stages of WWII. Instead of having to rely on natural light, humankind had full control over what was previously considered something only God could provide. Activities were no longer dependent on the rising and setting of the sun.
It seems odd that today in general people spend more time indoors than outside, especially during the winter months. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common, because we have hidden ourselves from the source of natural light in favor of the man-made source of artificial light.
We speak of spiritual light as well. We refer to Jesus as the light of the world. This becomes blatantly evident with the scripture reading from Matthew. Today is Transfiguration Sunday where we do what we can to display light, through the paraments, my stole, and additional candles. Several of the gospels speak of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. We recognize the event where the representatives of the law of God through Moses, and the prophets who foretold of the Messiah through Elijah, come face to face with the Son of God, the promised one. Just when it seemed there couldn’t be anything more amazing, the voice of God is heard from a bright cloud saying, “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Everything about this encounter points to our light – the source of our strength.
So I have to wonder why we spend so much time and effort chasing the dark? Why do we have this natural tendency to turn away from Jesus as our source of light toward the comfort of our own dark world? Perhaps it is fear. Perhaps it is the appeal of our sin that keeps us from living as Jesus would have us live. We equate happiness with indulgence and extravagance. Yet it seems noted time and again that true happiness can only come from a life of loving God and loving others. I spent this past week in Memphis Tennessee getting completely basked in Elvis-land! When we toured the Graceland Mansion, you could see the extravagance displayed throughout. At one point Elvis had purchased two airplanes with a staff of 4 pilots always on ‘Ready’ status to take the King wherever he may want to go at a moments notice. Yet there is a sad ending to this man’s story as he took his own life at the age of 42. It seems he could not find happiness with his indulgences, and neither can we. Without the light of Christ in our lives, real peace, real love, real joy will continue to elude us.
The season of Lent is fast approaching. Tuesday we are hosting our Pancake Supper and Jazz Fest from 5-7:30. Wednesday we are invited to gather at Davidsonville UMC for their Ash Wednesday Service at 7:30. The six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, the season of Lent, is often the time when folks choose to give up something to remind them of the need to humble ourselves before God. I would like to challenge us to be creative in what we give up for Lent. Let’s choose to give up hatred. Let’s choose to give up self-centeredness. Let’s choose to give up negativity through gossip, criticism, self-loathing, road rage – you name it. In other words, let us choose to walk in the light of Jesus Christ.
I started a lot of seeds for the Community Garden project. Just before we left I watered them all really well, and I instructed my son to leave the light on that was shining directly above them. I also left the curtains open at the end of the table to get these seeds as much light as possible. I find it interesting that when I returned Thursday and checked the seedlings, the ones that had sprouted were all stretching toward to source of natural light. In spite of the artificial light directly above them, they were stretching toward the window and the influx of natural light.
Now the scientists here will be quick to note the difference between natural light and artificial light and that plants prefer the spectrum of natural light. How about us? When it comes to the source of our spiritual guidance, do we prefer the natural source of spiritual light through Jesus Christ or do we look and settle for an artificial substitute? I received a phone message from our local chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse as a thank you for our support. Interestingly enough, they had never considered churches as a potential sponsor to support the vital work they do to protect children from abuse. My response that comes immediately is that as followers of Jesus Christ, we should be at the top of the list of supporters to help the most vulnerable members of our community realize their full potential as children of God.
Many things in nature are drawn to the light. As followers of Jesus Christ, are we shining his light in us so brightly that folks are drawn to it as, to coin a phrase, a moth to a flame? The love of Jesus Christ has no exceptions. The love of Jesus Christ has no exclusions. The love of Jesus Christ has no conditions, applications, checkpoints – as Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Corinth, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I wanted to share this video with you from a group called Addison Road. They took an old favorite song, “This Little Light of Mine” and created a new version of the song. While this video plays, I would like us to consider ways in which we can embrace the season of Lent by sharing a message of hope. There are index cards at the end of each pew so you can jot down some ideas. Use those church pens and feel free to pass those out throughout the week. What can we do that will share the light of Jesus with others this week? Perhaps it is as simple as giving thanks each day for our blessings. Perhaps it is a matter of letting others in front of you as you are driving. Perhaps it is whispering prayers for anyone you encounter in your daily routines.
I encourage each of us to be the brightness for someone else’s bad day. When we bask in the assurance that we are loved by the light of the world, Jesus Christ, nothing of this world can douse that light unless we choose to turn away from it. It is our choice. Do we choose light and life, or do we choose darkness and death? “This little light of mine, I’m going to let is shine.” Amen.