Lighting a candle: embodying faith

Candles 1

One of the themes of the lovely service which Duncan led this morning, was about finding ways of ‘embodying’ our faith. I’ll post about Duncan’s sermon in the next few days – he spoke about Jesus’ assertion ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12), and about the context in which these words were spoken, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

And in the context of the Jewish Temple being illuminated with four great candelabra the during the Feast, and Jesus’ words about being the true Light which these flaming light-sources symbolised, Duncan invited us to come forward, light a candle, and leave it on a table at the front of the church.

It’s a way, he said, of ‘embodying’ our faith, giving it physical expression. We could light a candle in remembrance of someone, or as a prayer, its flame expressing our hearts’ longing: ‘Please light my path! Please guide me throughout 2019.’

Lots of people came forward eagerly, and lit a candle. Their enthusiasm highlighted how open we are to take some physical action which both expresses our faith, and strengthens it, and to draw courage as we do this as part of a community of believers.

Candles 2Here are some of the things which came to my mind as I watched the candle-lighting.

Each of the small candles were lit from one of the red Christmas candles at the corner of the table, and yet their flame was not diminished. It reminded me that the flame in our lives is kindled by the great flame of God’s Love, which is inexhaustible.

And then I thought about our efforts to be light-bearers, and how we sometimes see living for God as a gruelling list of to-dos, the doing of which often leaves us exhausted. But those flames in burning on the table top burned seemingly effortlessly. That’s what flames do – giving light is core to the identity of a flame. And it reminded me that being God’s lights in the world is a matter, not of striving, but of being, of being what we truly are. The more we become the people we have been made to be, the more God’s light will be seen in us.

And then I remembered that these flicking lights would soon burn out, and I remembered that the light of our lives will keep shining to the extent that we continue to be open to the inexhaustible presence of God’s Love within us.

And when the kids walked past on their way to Sunday club, the flames flickered in the current of disturbed air, each at the same time as the others, but each in its own way, even as we respond to the wind of God’s Spirit.

Candles unlitAnd finally, I looked at the side-table covered still with many T-lights, still waiting to be lit. And I wondered how many of us felt that our hearts were like those lifeless candles, feeling that the light had gone out, or perhaps that the light had never blazed forth. To each of us, Jesus says ‘I am the lamp-lighter.  And I do not light the lamp in your heart and then move on to the next lamppost, and the next, and the next…. For I am the light, and I leave myself with you, and it is me who glows within you. I am totally present with you, and yet I am not diminished.  And my presence within you does not diminish you, but rather enhances you as you journey towards becoming your true self.’

And the desire to welcome Jesus which grows in us is the first flickering of the Light in our hearts.


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