“Turn on the Light” Monday Meditation. 05-25-20. Alan Neale. Trinity Church, Newport, RI
Mark 4:21 Jesus said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
I think, I hope, that I am not the only person who occasionally talks to the television offering corrections of grammar or expressing cries of wonder or horror at the news. A common shout of mine is when a movie character is moving into and around a scary house… they never turn on the lights despite my counsel! Oh well.
In today’s parable from Mark 4, Jesus is also expressing “shock and horror” at the possibility that a lamp would not be used for its proper purpose – “to give light to those entering the house” (Luke), “to give light to the residents of the house” (Matthew).
When interpreting a parable it is important to see what Jesus is teaching (not what we want to read) and to discover the main thrust of the parable (and to that every other thought must be subject).
So… Jesus is teaching that we use the gifts we have been given; we must not neglect nor abuse them. Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before all people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven”.
“Let is shine” – engage in action, resist self-degradation, surrender outcomes to the Lord!
Surely it is with humor that Jesus describes how this precious lamp may be abused… placed under a bushel, a container of dry goods roughly two gallons – surely not! Otherwise the bushel is damaged and not available for its purpose or its contents (dry goods) are spoiled.
Placed under the bed (a small bed or cot) – surely not! Otherwise the bed is damaged and would provide unwanted heating for its user.
Sometimes it takes a wry smile for us to allow ourselves to digest an unpalatable truth.
The apparently hard and harsh words of Jesus in verse 25 (“and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away”) are more descriptive than prescriptive. If a lamp is hidden, it will eventually be extinguished. If we are intent on being idle Christian disciples then our souls will shrivel and our hopes will shrink; and I believe this to be a statement about “this age” not “the age to come”.
We have already seen in Mark that Jesus uses parables because he looks for his audience not merely to hear but to pay attention, not merely to understand but to be transformed.
We are called to be carriers of light to enlighten as well as to illuminate.
Each of us carries a precious light that has been entrusted to us by our Creator God; we need not be intrusive and obnoxious in carrying that light but we need be intent and aware of opportunities to let that light shine. We do that as we pray for others (maybe sometimes even asking if they would like us to pray for them…), we do that as we write to others words of recognition and support, we do that as we call someone just to say they are in our thoughts, we do that as we serve others in the power of the Spirit and in honor of our Lord.
Now, during this vile and voracious pandemic, now “light carriers” are urgently need. As we see outbreaks of violence during cautious and gradual re-openings “light carriers” are needed.
In the final book of the Bible (Revelation) we read these words (22:5) “Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age…”
But until then… will someone please turn on the light!