[#pictureLent] Mar. 5: Illuminate

By Jeremy Smith
First UMC, Portland, OR

First, read 

Talking about justice is very important to me: Justice for the victims of violence, justice for the oppressed in a society, and indeed a just church for all to worship God freely. I often feel like I'm wielding a spotlight, shining a light into the unlit places, the secret sins, the shadows where injustice reigns. I wish for a stronger spotlight. If I only had a stronger spotlight - one that could carry the light deeper and deeper - I could illuminate so much more.

But a spotlight, while effective, keeps the bearer of that light in shadow. Maybe it points at good works or deeds or people, but it doesn't shine on the bearer of the light. People who see the light don't know how I - you - became the bearer of that light. Our stories of transformation into those seeking God's love in public are hidden, silent, disconnected from the One who lived and taught in stories and invested in people.

In Jesus' time, the light was a lantern, one that illuminated all around it in a circle. It was inefficient, yes, but you saw more of the one who carried the light. When you served others, when you sought justice, when you advocated in the shadows, your face was illuminated, your family of origin out in the open, your story laid bare in creases and scars, tears on your cheeks and eyes aflame by conviction.

The next time you start a conversation about injustice, turn the light back on your face. Is it hardened into rigid lines or is it open to invite others in? Even with the worst topics and the most awful of situations, a light that invites others into the struggle needs your story and your face shown. 

May the light shine before you as you bring a human touch to the most inhumane of situations, and do the work of seeking justice to which all are called. 

Prayer: Holy God, who was made known through the life of Jesus Christ, give us wisdom as we reflect Christ's love into the world. Help us to have our own fears, doubts, and very lives illuminated as well as we live authentically in the light of Christ. In your name we pray, Amen.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think on a topic you share on Facebook or bring up in conversation a lot. What caused you to get involved? How does it reflect your story?
  2. When was the last time you were "convinced" of something that you hadn't previously considered. What changed your mind?
  3. Jesus taught in parables and stories. What's a way you can put a social justice topic into a story or parable? How does it frame the situation differently?