A Lamp on a Stand
21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”
24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
As I was reading today’s Gospel, I noticed that the NIV online version you see above, had a different heading to my Bible (NRSV) Here we have the parable framed as a lamp on a stand, in my Bible headed ‘A lamp under a bushel basket.’ The headings prepare us for what we are about to hear or read, they help us to set our expectations. I wonder if having the same words framed differently would change our focus, or our expectations or indeed our interpretation? How can we also apply this thinking and possible attitude shifts in our lives?
Sometimes I really enjoy reading the parables, other times I find myself more confused than when I first started. Now if we can become confused on hearing these words, when we know the bigger story and have the benefit of years and years of reflections, sermons, and writings on them, just imagine how baffling some of these things must have been to those who heard Jesus speak the words for the first time.
When Jesus spoke these words, there was no electricity and the lamps would have been a clay jar, filled with oil with a wick in it to burn. When we turn on a light, or light a lamp, it shows us things that were already there, it lifts the darkness and reveals the truth.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul uses the metaphor of clay jars to describe Christians. Paul is talking about jars being vessels that can be filled. Clay jars would have been a common thing in households around that time, everyone would have been familiar with them. Clay jars would also have been very fragile, needing a lot of care to keep them in a useable condition, indeed if the jars became damaged or broken, they could be sharp and cause damage and harm. The jars would have also been created by hand, making each one slightly different to the last. With no mass production factories, each one would have been individual and unique. There are many scriptures that refer to God as the potter, and us as the work of his hands (Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:1-23, can you find any others?) Going back to Paul, he is talking about clay pots being filled with treasure, the treasure of the Gospel.
I read a story about a boy who went on holiday with his parents, as part of a tour they visited many great cathedrals. The boy stood in awe and wonder looking at the stained-glass windows. On his return his teacher asked what a saint is, the boy thought for a moment, then his mind went back to those vast stained-glass windows, he then replied, “A Saint is a person that the light shines through”.
There are many scriptures that refer to light, in Romans we are instructed to “put on the armour of light” and 2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “For it is the God who said; let light shine out of the darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus”.
Charles Spurgeon once said “The Bible is not the light of the world; it is the light of the church. But the world does not read the Bible, the world reads Christians!”
As Christians, we are filled with the light of Christ. When we read our Bibles, pray, spend time with each other and seek God’s presence, we are putting on that armour of light that Paul speaks about. We become those lamps, shining God’s light into this world. As we shine our lights for God’s glory others can meet Him through us. We become those windows, that God’s light shines through.
Light reveals things that were already there. Have you ever had a party or celebration in your home, then when all the guests have left shut the door on the mess and gone to bed? I know I have! Well sometimes as God’s light shines through us, it can bring on moments of clarity-seeing what was already there, but hidden or ignored, just like when you come down the stairs the morning after and see the mess left from the night before. As Christians we are not called to judge and point out the mess for others, but we are called to come alongside, support and love, God uses us to help clear up the mess, so that through us others will come to know Him. Just in the same way, our brothers and sisters in Christ help us to clear up our own mess and grow.
Like those clay pots, we are fragile, we need lots of care to keep us working our best. We do not want to become like the damaged pots, that are not fit for purpose and potentially causing more damage than good.
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”
We need to spend time with God, the one who created us, the potter who formed us from clay. I know that things are different right now, and we are having to find new ways to worship and learn together or to be united when apart, however God is always with us. Self-care, time, and space is important.
Today my challenge is for you to ask yourselves the following:
What condition is my lamp in?
Have I got enough oil in my lamp?
What one thing will I choose to do today, to love myself, so that I can love others?
We thank you that you formed us, just like individual and unique pots,
Help us to come to you Lord, for rest and to be refilled, so that we may put on that armour of light,
Let your light shine out from us brightly, so that through us, others may come to know you.
Fill us now with your Holy Spirit, so that every part of our lives will bring glory to you.
In Jesus Name we pray