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Jesus O’Lantern

October 22, 2018

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15: 12)

In a few days witches, demons, ghosts, goblins and all manner of evil spirits will fill the land on All Hallows Eve.   A day later, we will recognize those who have gone before us on Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.  The Scripture verses this week describe forces of evil leading to murderous plots, but also remind us that Jesus is the light of the world who redeemed us from death.[1]  On Halloween we put candles in carved pumpkins–Jack O’Lanterns—and place them in dark places.  The Jack O’Lanterns illumine the paths of the likes of princesses, super heroes, Harry Potters, brides, pirates, ghosts, and goblins.  Christians are like Jack O’Lanterns: their faces glow with an inner light that illuminates dark places.  We receive our light from Jesus.  He is the lantern who lights our path every day of our lives.

In the 26th chapter of Jeremiah, we find that the prophet is the target of another assassination plot.  A few weeks ago, we recounted the plot of his hometown neighbors to kill him.  This time the plot was hatched after he told the people that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed: “This is what the Lord says: ‘If you do not listen to me and follow my law . . . and if you do not listen to the words of servants, the prophets . . . I will make this house like Shiloh” (Jeremiah 26: 4-6).  The tabernacle, previously located in Shiloh, was destroyed by the Philistines in 1050 B. C.  “I will make this house like Shiloh,” means that the temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed. The priests and the people called for his death, and brought their request to the city officials.  After listening to Jeremiah, whose words echoed the prophet Micah, the officials decided to spare his life.  Jeremiah was speaking truth to the people to lead them out of darkness into the light, but they did not receive it well.  Yet Jeremiah continued to carry God’s torch.

Hundreds of years later, Paul picked up Jeremiah’s torch in warning us “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them”(Ephesians 5:11).  Paul admonishes us to walk away from the dark deeds and people of the world and toward redemption and holiness.  If you walk toward the cross, Jesus O’Lantern will illumine your path.

When Jesus walked the earth, he called himself the light of the world: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).  Jesus lit the way for us.  He showed us the path to the light.  His Word is a lantern that lights the path for us: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).  Jesus uses us to reflect the resplendent brilliance revealed in his Word to those around us.  Go light your world.

At this time of year we also remember the great reformer, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk at the University of Wittenberg, who posted his Ninety-Five Theses in Latin on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517.  The church door was akin to a university bulletin board or blog—a place where people posted ideas to stimulate debate by scholars and theologians.  They were written in Latin–the language of scholars and theologians of the day.  Martin Luther called us to be “little Christs” in the world.  In The Freedom of a Christian(1520) he wrote, “[A]s our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christs to one another and Christ may be the same in all, that is, that we may be truly Christians . . . “  Luther encouraged us to be little “Jesus O’Lanterns” to our neighbors in the world—to bring the Christ light to a dark world.  He encouraged us to light up our neighborhoods.

How did Jesus shine his light in dark places?  He ministered to the least of those in his society.  He dined with the scorned and disenfranchised.  He sat with the sick and the dying. He used his talents and powers for good.  He brought his disciples through frightening and dark times.  He reassured them in the midst of a dark, frightening storm. His death on the cross resulted in the redemption of a world mired in darkness.  He appeared to a frightened group of his followers, hiding behind locked doors on the Sunday after his death, and within a few weeks transformed them into bold preachers of the Word who carried the gospel to faraway lands.  His light shone through them to others. They lit up their world and they continue to light up our world through their contributions to sacred Scripture.

Martin Luther’s encouragement to be little Christs in the world comes directly from Scripture. The primary way that we shine our lights into the dark corners of our world is by loving others as Christ loves us: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15: 12).  When we love those around us as Christ loved us and as we love ourselves, our candles will not burn out or be extinguished by gusts of circumstantial winds.

The light that shines from Christ through us to others was given to us by the grace of God: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade”(1 Peter 1: 3-4).  May your face glow with an inner light that illuminates dark places.  May your face reflect the joy within you, filling the dark corners of your life.  May you be a beacon to others in a poorly lit world.

Go light your world.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Jeremiah 26:1-16; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; John 15: 12-21.

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