Lit from within

Post date: Dec 14, 2013 4:54:01 PM

Over the years I've photographed quite a few sunsets. Somehow the picture never captured the reality. I've seen paintings that do a little better, but the vibrancy of the color in nature is nearly impossible to capture in a painting or print. Some of that is simply due to the size. Even the four-foot by six-foot Clyde Butcher prints displayed last year at the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul didn't fill your vision like the horizon-filling panorama of a Midwestern sunset. There's not much you can do about that.

When I got a good digital camera, however, I made a delightful discovery. Sunset photos look much better on a computer monitor than they do in a print. I suspect it's because, on a monitor, as in nature, the colors are lit and energized from within. In both cases we see light that is refracted rather than reflected. Add the capacity of a modern digital camera to stitch multiple exposures together into a single wide panorama and it has become worthwhile to photograph those sunsets.

The beauty of a devoted Christian is like the beauty of a sunset. It doesn't come from sunlight reflecting off the outside. It comes from the light of Christ being refracted as it passes from the Spirit within to the world beyond. I am repeatedly amazed when I see a photo of Mother Teresa or Desmond Tutu, neither of whom is particularly exceptional in appearance except for the compassion and joy which radiates from their faces. We have no photographs of Jesus, of course. Yet there was something about him that drew people to him in flocks. Fishermen readily dropped their nets and went off to follow him. I'm guessing that when they saw Jesus in person, the light of God radiated from his face.

You also have the light of Christ within you. When you were baptized the Holy Spirit came to rest on you, just as it rested on Jesus. You, therefore, contain the essential ingredient for becoming as beautiful as a sunrise. The key is to let your light shine. As the old song says, "Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine.” Put your light on a lamp stand for all the world to see.

The purpose of course is not that you be noticed and admired, but rather that the light of Christ show forth into the world. We are not the only refractors of the Holy Spirit. But we can be among them. Our calling is to become more and more like Christ, which we could describe as becoming ever more transparent to the light of Christ within.

As light comes back into the northern world with the lengthening days, I pray that you will be filled with the light of God's love. May you refract the light of Christ and create additional beauty as it passes from you out into the world.