You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light so shine before people, that they may see the good things you do and praise you Father in who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16
Today I have been wondering about our metaphors of the church, and how they affect our thinking about our local congregations. Why is it, exactly, that we come together? What do we expect from our gatherings? How do we expect our time together to affect our time when we are not together?
Where we start our thinking makes a big difference. If we think about our gatherings as the physical gathering in of the body of Christ, we will think about seeing the very different gifts in our fellow members, being nourished at God’s table. If we think about church as an ekklesia, those who are called out, we think about learning how to live as those whom God has called out of normal society to nurture an alternative society. We might focus on learning and planning. If we think of church as a gathering of the children of God, we might primarily help each other, do chores to keep up our house, and tell stories about how we became who we are.
There is a long list of ways we could think about being church, each with a depth of significance which could fill an entire blog series. As I was reading scripture today, I thought about an image which hadn’t crossed my mind before. The church as a brightness accumulated to single spot in the world. In Matthew, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” When we use this image and think about the church, we have a picture of a whole bunch of lights coming together in one spot – brightness accumulating. This is a different image than the one we see in John, where Christ is the light of the world.
If we think about what it means to be the light of the world, we have a very different expectation of what it means to come together. It means the church becomes a beacon, a place where people’s lights can be re-lit, healing is found, the darkness is dispelled, and a way is shown. Perhaps there are other implications. Those are just the ones I thought of today.
This image caught my imagination today: not just one lamp on a lamp-stand, but hundreds of lamps on a lamp-stand, to give light to the whole house (world). Which image of being the church catches your imagination? Is it one I have listed or another? What are implications for how you bring yourself to be church?
May you see your light today, and may it be a spark for others. Amen!