Living as Children of Light in Unprecedented Times

Ephesians 5:8-14

In these last days it has occurred to me that you and I are living in unprecedented times. At least this is so in my memory in this part of the world. I know without a doubt that the sort of uncertainty, anxiety, and yes, fear that has been expressed in my community and which has, now and then, found harbor in my own heart is something with which others in other times and places are much more accustomed. And yet, here we are. And yes, it is to this moment that we are called to ‘live as children of light.’

And of course, I have seen plenty of examples of the opposite in these last days.

Now this is a small thing, I suppose, but I had heard, for instance, that toilet paper was running in short supply all over town. (It turns out this has also been true of any kind of cleaning product, laundry detergent, cleansing wipes, bottled water and on and on…) I happened to step into a local pharmacy a few days ago and I walked by the toilet paper aisle. I have plenty of toilet paper at home. And yet, it took an almost physical act of will for me not to grab a package or two for good measure. I did not. I left it there. And I made myself stand still in the truth that I am certainly as susceptible to this threatening darkness as anyone. For me that moment in the toilet paper aisle is as emblematic of the struggle of these days (so far) as anything else.

In addition to such darkness, though, I am grateful to be able to say that I have also witness to many among us seeking to live as ‘children of light.’

I saw it, for instance, in a group of folks who sat down and wrote out greeting cards to be delivered to members who find themselves particularly isolated in this time — especially those in care centers where now visitors are not allowed. And I am hearing it in the voices of those who are wondering how we can stay connected to other vulnerable people from whom we are physically cut off in these days.

And I saw ‘children of light’ at work in a Saturday morning gathering of local school personnel and community members who put their heads together to plan how best to make food accessible to the many children in our community who, with schools being closed for at least the next few weeks, would otherwise be hungry without these efforts. And oh, I I expect I will continue to see ‘children of light’ it at locations all over town in the next few weeks where our children will be fed, no questions asked.

And yes, I gratefully saw it when leaders of the place I am called to serve quickly set aside money to assist local food pantries do what they always do, but will need to do more of as those who are already food insecure become more so in the days and weeks to come. And yes, just a short time ago as they sat down to make plans to care for those who call First Lutheran Church home, to bring their best creativity to how we might continue to sustain one another with Good News when we cannot physically be together, and to pay attention to and begin to respond to the needs of the larger community and beyond.

(I will keep my eyes wide open in these next days and weeks for other such examples of those living as Children of Light. Won’t you join me in that? And won’t you consider sharing what you see and hear and experience in the comments below?)

In the grand scheme of things, these may be small things, yes, but isn’t it so that all these small things can add up to bring brilliant light to and for a world that is otherwise too often dark?

As is clear in my example of my struggle over toilet paper, I am convinced that we do not necessarily naturally ‘live as children of light.’ At least I know I don’t. Moment after moment, hour after hour I need to fight back the impulse towards the darkness of fear which leads to selfishness (and worse) which breaks down all that binds us to one another. It helps, though, if I simply look for and call out examples of those living as ‘children of light’ because then I can perhaps begin to see myself in them and even take the first steps to live as they do, too.

As cliche as it may sound, we do live in unprecedented times when much of what held true before does not seem quite as true today. And yes, in the place I live and serve we made the decision to set aside that which helps many of those who seek to live as ‘children of light’ do so in the company and with the support of others. For the time being, the people of First Lutheran Church in DeKalb will not be gathering for worship. (Indeed, for the first time in my ministry we are calling off the in-person gathering of God’s People for reasons other than a snow storm.) It surely was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make as a pastor. It runs against all that I hold dear. And yet, in this time it seems this may be one way we can help keep the most vulnerable among us safe. And this is also living as ‘children of light,’ is it not? So it is that we will simply have to find other ways to encourage and assist one another as we seek to be the people God calls us to be:

  • Living inĀ  light.
  • Bearing light.
  • Sharing light.

The letter to the Ephesians this week calls us to live as ‘children of light.’

  • What does that mean for us in these uncertain times?
  • Where have you lately seen ‘children of light’ doing what is ‘good and right and true?’
  • Could it be that it was precisely to this moment of darkness that you and I have been called to be and bear light?

Indeed, it occurs to me now that you and I are only at just the beginning of discovering what this will mean for us as we seek to follow the call of Jesus now. I am praying for you and for me and for all of us together as we seek to live into this so far ‘unprecedented time.’

As Children of Light.