It’s Tuesday morning and I have just devoured, savored, relished my first home grown tomato of the season. Indulge me here, as there are some things in life that are too good to characterize, impossible to chronicle or delineate. One must accept that there are levels of delicious that are reached only by firsthand experience. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what happened to me this morning.
I toasted fresh sourdough bread then covered it with soft butter. Next, I sliced the red, perfectly shaped tomato in medium-thin slices, which I placed on the toast. Last came salt and freshly ground black pepper. For the few minutes that it took to devour it, all was right with the world. There was no deficit, no drought, no wildfire. Men did not study war and children did not misbehave. Why, Maxwell Smart didn’t even bark when someone rang the doorbell!
John and I must conclude this: while our three plants have produced only one red tomato thus far, and while that tomato has cost us about $27, it was worth it. All summer we will reminisce about that one – the first one – that perfect, picturesque tomato on toasted sourdough with melted butter, salt and pepper.
Okay, I feel better now. With that out of the way, below is some food for thought. Enjoy!
Over the years, pastors and evangelists have shared with congregations the ancient legend of the light of God shining in the hearts of man. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: Upon Jesus’ ascension, He was met by Gabriel at the gates of heaven and their proposed dialogue was something along these lines:
Gabriel: “Oh, Master, how wonderful, how glorious that You have returned. We do wonder, however, how many people down there know how much you love them and that You died for them?
Jesus: “Gabriel, just a little handful; eleven men in a company of a hundred and twenty in the city of Jerusalem.”
Gabriel: “Master, how will the rest of the world know that You died for them?”
Jesus: “I have asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell others about me. Those who are told will tell others, in turn. Eventually, my story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe and all of humankind will have heard of me.”
Gabriel: “Yes, but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What is your alternate plan?”
Jesus: “There is no alternate plan.”
It is obvious that this story is told to admonish believers to share their faith with boldness and frequency. It has probably galvanized young people to consider missionary service, or other lifetime commissions. The legend is obviously not true, but we are clear about it’s purpose: to remind us that we, you and I, are still the light of the world.
Early in the book of Matthew, Jesus has just been tempted by the devil for 40 days. He is hungry and tired, yet He holds fast, eventually driving Satan away. On the heels of this, He learns that His beloved John has been imprisoned. His reaction is quite human: He withdraws and convalesces, then He begins to preach, calling men to repentance.
Shortly afterwards, while walking beside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus sees Peter, Andrew, James and John. His overture to them was the same one that still resonates in the human heart: “Follow me.”
He begins to heal the sick until the crowds become overwhelming. Jesus finds a place on the mountainside to rest and calls his freshmen disciples to Him. After laying some ground rules about being blessed, He stares at the fishermen, tax collectors, laborers, workers, and states very bluntly, “You are the light of the world.” They must have been astonished! Surely science or reason was the light of the world; perhaps self-enlightenment or ingenuity could be labelled such, but could human beings really be the light of the world? Jesus further admonishes them to let their light shine before others, thereby glorifying their Father in heaven.
It is not coincidental that James described God as the “Father of Light,” or that God chose that medium to communicate with a dark world. In 1905 Einstein theorized that nothing in the cosmos travelled faster than light. He further postulated that the speed of light is independent of the motion of the light source. That makes me smile. God just needs for us to shine; He takes care of the rest.
John wrote that the entire world lies in darkness. Our cultural world is in darkness; our social world is in darkness. Our intellectual and political worlds, on the whole, exist in darkness. The light that shines in the darkness is generated by the people of God, those who know Him, those who have responded to Him.
In one of Paul’s prison epistles, he admonished the Philippians to live “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Phi. 2:15 NIV-UK). How much louder is Christ’s charge to those who await His return? Our assignment is to concentrate our strength and resources, our devotion and labor to do simply this: make the lamp burn, the light shine.