The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
February 27, 2022
The brightest star found so far in the universe is one named R136a. Its mass is 265 times that of our sun, and it shines with a light ten million times brighter than the sun’s. If we were as close to R136a as we are to the sun, it would blind and incinerate us in a flash.
The Bible compares the glory of God to our sun; it also declares that God “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see”.
So, as awesome as His self-revelation was at the Transfiguration, Jesus was still holding back from a full display of His magnificence. He had to, lest the three disciples with Him there burst into flames from all that holiness.
Until we become all God has destined us to become, we can take in but some of the splendor of His Son. Yet, for our own sake, and for the sake of a world beset by darkness, we must take in all of the light of Jesus’ life and love we can, and do so whenever it blazes forth.
For, as disciples of Jesus, our purpose in life is to be a radiance of His in the world’s darkness that shows people how to make their way to Him. We do not have it within us to produce such light; but, like mirrors made of human flesh, we can reflect it, by facing Jesus and refracting some of His light on to others. We become His light by basking in it, letting it irradiate our very being and turning to others to bounce its rays off us to them.
I have used this astronomy metaphor before, but it’s worth repeating once more. Astronomers refer to the albedos of heavenly bodies. An albedo indicates the degree to which a heavenly body reflects the sun’s light. For example, in our solar system the planet Venus has the highest albedo: .65. That means it reflects about two thirds of the sunlight that hits it. By contrast, the moon has an albedo score of only .07. It only brightens earth more because it’s closer to earth.
Every disciple of Jesus has a spiritual albedo indicating how much they reflect Christ’s light. If we love Him and people, we pursue 100% reflectivity.
How do we increase our reflectivity? First, we linger in Christ’s light as long as we can, with open and receptive hearts, whenever it flashes forth with special force as it did at the Transfiguration. If we value being lit up and fired up by the bright luminosity of Jesus, we make the most of its strongest flare-ups by dropping everything else we can to be fully present to each moment of exceptional grace, to bathe in its glory and to prepare ourselves to reflect its radiant glow on to others.
Second, we keep showing up, again with open and receptive hearts, in places and at times we know Christ’s light regularly shines forth, regardless of whether we can see or see it each time: for example, at church, in our private devotions or in our acts of service.
As we follow Jesus more and more – honoring God, treating others with kindness and respect, dealing with all fairly and graciously, praying for them, etc. – we become more and more what Jesus wants us to be: the light of the world. And to the extent we become His radiance in the darkness, we more and more illumine the way to salvation in Him who is the ultimate Light of the World.
In February 1954, Jim Lovell, then just a Navy pilot but later an Apollo 13 astronaut, set out on a night mission from an aircraft carrier off the coast of Japan. While taking off in stormy weather, his direction finder malfunctioned, and he mistakenly headed the wrong way. Shortly thereafter, his instrument panel short-circuited and all the lights in the cockpit burned out.
From the plane over the Pacific Ocean, there was nothing to see but utter darkness. As Lovell looked this way and that for some guidance, he noticed below a long thin line of blue-green faintly gleaming from the sea. He remembered his training, and identified it as a cloud of phosphorescent algae glowing in water stirred up by a ship’s propellers. On the chance the ship was his aircraft carrier, he followed that trail of algae until he saw he’d guessed rightly. He landed safely and was saved.
That glowing trail was created by tiny creatures called “bioluminescent dinoflagellates”, creatures that we might dismiss as little nothings, but that are creatures which emit light and so save lives.
To look at us, we might appear to be little nothings ourselves; but if we emit the light we have from Christ, we can be a radiance in the darkness of this world and create a trail that leads others to salvation in the Light of the World.