Monday, March 18, 2013

All Lit Up

I recently flew from Los Angeles to Spokane to visit family.  As I flew up the coast in the window seat passing over Oregon and then Washington, I looked down at the frozen lakes and snow capped mountains below. The puddle-jumper plane that took me from Seattle to Spokane flew relatively low so I had what felt like a close-up view of the rugged winter wonderland.  For the most part, it was barren. Occasionally, I could see a small house or structure on a mountaintop.  I couldn't tell exactly what it was - a house - a cell tower - a barn - I could just see that there was something there that wasn't snow and wasn't a tree and since it was early morning, sometimes a flicker of light would emanate from the structure to confirm life.  It reminded me of the verse in the gospel of Matthew where Jesus says to his disciples they are "The light of the world--like a city on a mountain - glowing in the night for all to see." (5:14 NLT)  Instead, I thought to myself as the plane buzzed along, we Christians tend to be other kinds of lights, don't we? A few came to mind...

Well, well, well - will you look at that guy?  Quick, honey! Shine a light on that sinner so he knows he is wrong and will see the light and turn from his ways!  Point it right there on that dark spot! Whoa! Careful darlin'!  Don't let it shine on us for goodness sake!  Keep it pointed on him. Ah, yeah. Will you look at that  _______(Fill in the blank with your choice:  cheater, homo, tree-hugger, druggie, sinner, fool, drinker, liberal...) Maybe now he will see the light and turn from his evil ways?

(You know the yellow light that we can see, but bugs can't?)

It's 9 p.m. and Craig and Cathy Christian are sitting on their back porch sipping tea.  The crickets have begun to chirp as the sun creeps behind the mountains.
This is nice, isn't it?
All this light without all the "bugs."
Yes, it ia nice to be able to see the porch clearly and even out on to the lawn, but not have the hassle of all those "bugs" coming around.
It's amazing they are not drawn to this light.
It is, isn't it?  How is it they are unable to see the light like we can?
You mean the yellow light of truth as we see it?
Hmmm. Don't know. 
Do you think we should change the bulb so they can see it? You know, put it one of those bulbs that attracts them to our porch?
You mean one of those ECU-bulbs?
Don't you mean ECO-bulbs?
No ECU-bulb.  The ECU-menical bulb.
Oh, that one. No, I don't think so.  It's really bright, honey. Makes my eyes uncomfortable. And plus, isn't that bulb only for the Universalists? The Evangelical Lutherans? The United Church of Christ folks? And some of those pew-hopping Charismatics?  You know, the liberals.  Not to mention all the regular folk.  The ones who don't even bother to darken a church door.
Yeah, I think you're right. I'd have to look at the package the bulb comes in. Hold on, I'll go get it.
Don't bother.  Let's just enjoy our light.  Maybe tomorrow night we'll have the neighbors over for tea.
Which neighbors?
The Johnsons.
Oh, thank God.  I thought you meant the Levines.
Oh, heavens no.  They definitely can't see the light.  They don't even believe light bulbs exist! I mean the Johnsons, honey, the Johnsons!  They complemented our bulb the other day.
Really? Sounds good then. We'll invite them. Want some more tea?
Sip. Slurp. Sigh.
Do you think the homeless can see this bulb?

Two huge beams of light shine up into the night sky like giant flashlights, crossing each other at a various intervals, big round circles bouncing off the dark, low hanging clouds.  They attract all kinds of attention.  The lights do their job. They shout: Come here!  Check this out! Look at what we got!  Something is happening here!  Something BIG is for sale! You gotta see this!
So people come.  They can't resist.  They're curious.
The big circus lights draw them like zombie shoppers to our Easter and Christmas revelries, our 10-course potlucks, our picnics and pageants, our craft shows, merry musicals, coordinated VBS camps, and Awana Olympics.  We stack park and take tickets. They comment on how wonderful the casserole is, how much they love the singer with the Whitney Houston voice, how the handmade creche would look absolutely wonderful on their mantle as we pack it in tissue paper for safe carrying.  Our Sunday morning band includes Fender electric guitars, Remo drum sets and a bass player who's as nimble as Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.They plop down in our pews for a few moments, and if we're lucky, their plop down their money.  Then they hurry back to their cars and head home with a full stomach and a creased glossy program.  We clean up, de-brief and plan for next year.
Hey, Mary did you catch the name of that nice fella in the blue shirt who sat in the third row with his wife and kids? And what about the lady with the messy hair?  You know, the one who came to the craft show and asked if we had a pantry?  What's her name?  Anyway, how many we get this time at SpiritFest? Maybe we should do a raffle next time?
They're gone now, but they'll keep an eye out for the lights. They wouldn't want to miss our NEXT BIG THING.  We'll be sure to use the lights to let them know when we are at it again - to let them know our smiles and signs and volunteers are all ready.

Instead of a spotlight, bug light or a search light, I want to be a night light.  A city on a hill.
Because if I hear one more person say that they would be a Christian if it weren't for all the Christians, I'm going to scream.
Or cry.
The problem is, we are not very good at confessing.  We are better at professing.  We like to be right more than righteous. We'd rather preach, than listen. We prefer to shine our own glaring light of preference and opinion at the expense of the souls around us.  We're comfortable in our own light.  We'd rather perform than serve, talk than listen. We forget we are being watched.  Constantly.  We are that city on the hill, whether we want to be or not.  You can't miss us up there on the mountain-top, all lit up in the darkness, shining like a beacon.  My hope is to send less folks screaming back down the mountain or walking away wondering why they even bothered to come all this way.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter @HopeNote

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