Last week I spoke about the Jesus Prayer.
The Jesus Prayer is a very simple prayer.
It is a prayer that Christians have prayed over and over through the years.
It is the prayer of one who is humble and poor in spirit.
The prayer is simply:
“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.”
I also spoke about how in life when we are in the dark that the light of Christ remains upon us still.
Not only that but that we are called by Jesus to be light in a world that is sometimes a little dark.
Jesus told the people,
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
One of my favorite parts of the baptism service is when I make that announcement upon the newly baptized person.
“Let your light shine before others!”
Light is an extremely important metaphor in the Scriptures.
When you read the Bible pay attention to the use of light in the Bible.
Again and again you will find that image of light.
As Jesus walks with us in seasons and times of darkness in our lives we are called by him to be light for others who are in the dark.
As I was reflecting upon this verse of Scripture this past week a story came to my attention from one of my favorite preachers, Tony Campolo.
Tony tells this beautiful story of an encounter that he had with another person who needed some light.
Here is the story in his words:
“One afternoon, as I sat in my office, the telephone rang.
It was my mother.
She told me that Mrs. Patrick had died and that it would be good for me to attend the funeral.
Mrs. Patrick was a lovely person, and as I was growing up she did many wonderful things for others.
Mrs. Patrick had added much to my life, and my mother was right it would be good to attend her funeral.
I arrived at the funeral home at two o’clock, just as the funeral was scheduled to begin.
I rushed up the steps and hurried by the somber man at the door.
There were several funerals in progress at the time.
I walked into what I thought was the room for Mrs. Patrick’s funeral.
I took a seat, looked around the room, and was surprised to see that, other than an elderly woman sitting just two seats from me, there was no one else in the entire room.
Suddenly, I began to panic.
I had the wrong funeral.
I was about to leave when the woman reached over and grabbed me by the arm, and with desperation in her voice said,
“You were his friend weren’t you?”
The woman was reaching out for assurance that somebody had some connection with her husband and some concern for her.
What was I to say?
I’m sorry, I’m at the wrong funeral.
Your husband didn’t have any friends.
She needed to know that there was somebody to whom her husband meant something.
And so I lied and said I knew him and that he was always kind to me.
I went through whole funeral sitting at her side.
Afterward, the two of us went out to the cemetery.
I figured that since I had gone that far, I might as well go all the way.
I wasn’t about to leave this poor lady alone in her hour of deep sadness.
We stood at the edge of the grave and said some prayers.
As the casket was lowered into the grave, we each threw a flower onto it.
We then got back into the car and returned to the funeral home.
As we arrive there, I took her hand and said to her.
I have something to tell you.
I really did not know your husband.
I want to be your friend and I can’t be your friend after today unless I tell you the truth.
I did not know your husband.
I came to the funeral by mistake.
I paused and waited for her response.
I wondered how she would interpret what I said to her.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes,
“You will never ever, ever know how much your being with me and listening to me meant to me today. Thank you so much.”
By listening and paying attention to this woman who was grieving Tony brought light to this woman in her dark hour of need.
When I was in seminary my professors spoke a lot about the ministry of presence and the ministry of listening to others.
It is a way that we bring Christ’s light to others.
It is a way that we show the love of Christ to others.
Actually, I think in our world today to give the gift of deep listening is one of the greatest ways we can shine the light of Christ in this world.
Concern and care for other people is an instinctive expression of the best part of who we are.
Listening well to others allows us the opportunity to be open, generous, and connected to others while at the same time connecting with that light of Christ that is within us.
Yes, listening can sometimes be experienced as a burden and we all feel that way from time to time.
But Christ is with us shining ever so brightly his light upon us so that we might let our light shine upon others.
This coming week be mindful and alert to situations in which you find someone who needs to be listened to and who needs to receive a little kindness and light in their lives.
You may be surprised how the Holy Spirit will work in your life this coming week when you are open to it.
Tony Campolo, in his true story that I shared, did not intend to listen to and care for the lady at the funeral but he did and he shined a little light upon a person in great need.
Go and do likewise.
“Let your light shine before others.” Amen.