June 2016

"I am the li ght of the world"
[John 9.5]

In Jerusalem, near the shrine which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a wall, free-sta nding. One side of it is white, the other side black. It symbolizes the strongly dualistic teaching of the Qumran community which produced the Scrolls: the equal and opposite forces of good and evil, light and darkness in conflict.

Our Western world is flooded with light both night an d day. In the ancient world, as in many of the less privileged parts of the globe today, day and night were more sharply defined. (In recent years, I recal l taking a group of boys from a city youth club to a camp site in the countryside. We arrived after dark, and their first remark on getting out of the mini bus was "Where's the lights?")

The 18th century came to be known as "The Age of Enlightenment" as rational scientific thinkin g began to predominate in Europe. It would be more sensible to say that the age of enlightenment began when Jesus said "I am the light of the world." The New Testament, and especially the Gospel of John, is all to do with enlightenment. A new community emerged during the first century which was suddenly ena bled to see the world in a new light, illuminated by the person of Jesus the Christ of God. The world was not to be viewed simply as a battleground for the equal and opposite forces of good and evil.

In the beginning God had said "Let there be light" -- let there be enlightenment. A nd in the scheme of things, that creative Word became enfleshed in a Person, described in John's Gospel as a shining light which no darkness could quench (John 1.5).

We will recall that this Saying occurs in the context of a blind man receiving the gift of light. We need to receive t he spirit and life of the Saying in order that we may shine as lights in the world. Also, in contemplative intercession, we can enable others to overcome t he blindness of error, or falsehood, or the darkness of anxiety and despair, and to begin to see the truth about God's unlimited loving.

One of the most amazing Christians I ever met was blind. He lost his sight as a teenager, and he told me in all sincerity "When I lost my sight, t hen I began to see." So the light "shines on in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it." "The darkness and light to thee are both alike" (P salm 139.12).