*Brian Wilcox. 'Celebrating the Light' no. 1. Flickr
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A bud is drawn by the light to open, and a flower opens to the light. All forms of life are celebrations of the Light. We are here not to survive, but enjoy and celebrate the Light, which is not separate from the precious, brief human existence we each have received as a gift.
I have shared before of the man who drove a big truck, and his route went on the highway in front of the little sanctuary where I was pastor during graduate studies at Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, GA. This was a small United Methodist sanctuary in Helena, GA, sitting on a road leading into Macon, the nearest city. We were a small community, with only one yellow light.
I never met the truck driver, he never attended worship with us, either. Yet, he sent money to us to cover the cost of keeping the light on the front porch of the sanctuary. Why?
He was driving that highway at night, as was his custom. He, for a first time, saw the light shining from the porch. Apparently, someone had forgotten to turn it off. He contacted the church by phone, informing of how seeing the light brought him comfort. So, he pledged to give enough money to keep it on nightly.
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I like to think of each of us as a little light. In the grand universe, among all seen and unseen, you, a little light, might seem insignificant. And who would have dreamed that little light shining on the sanctuary porch would have brought comfort to a trucker driving down Highway 121 at night? Do any of us know how many lives we have helped without our knowing it? Do any of us know how many we can yet bless in our short lives? How many persons from birth to this moment have blessed you in simple ways? How many of these persons are not aware of how much their shining touched your heart?
I recall one such moment in my life. I was driving into the neighborhood where I lived, when a pastor in South Florida. The church I served had been in conflict, and I was caught in the middle. Most persons honored me as pastor, others, a minority, but a vocal minority, acted like they wished to push me outside the town limits. I had become pastor after a devastating hurricane left the church with fewer persons and less money. Under my guidance the congregation began flourishing again. Yet, now it appeared to be falling apart again. I could find no means to stop it. I was in a marriage, and it, too, was falling apart. I, likewise, could not stop it. So, that day, distraught, feeling betrayed, and in deep pain, I met a little light. As I was driving into the neighborhood, a woman was driving out of it. I had never met her. She smiled and waved to me, and I did the same in return. Immediately, I felt comfort, I felt peace arise in the body. The little light of this dear one, whom I never met personally, was a gift, a grace. She will never know what a gift her kindness was, but I do, and I recall her with gratitude to this day, many years later.
Now, what if this woman had not been shining? What if her light was turned off, so to speak? What if she had simply chosen not to smile and wave to me, to greet me kindly, for she did not know me personally? I wonder what she would think, today, if I could meet her, and tell her how much her gesture of hospitality meant to me on that day, and how what she did reminds me to keep shining, as well. See, we as little lights can make a difference we will never know about in this life, our little light can make a big difference.
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How did that light bless that trucker driving down the highway in front of Helena United Methodist Church? Did it try hard to bless him? Did the light even intend to touch the life of that man? No. And we are like that. We can shine, and in shining the light itself will touch the lives of others. We simply get up daily and let the light shine. How? By living in love and joy and peace. This is not complicated, for this shining is our natural being. So, we do not have to work hard at this, for this is natural. We do not need to try to decide whom to bless or not. Like the light on the porch, like the Sun in the sky, we simply shine. Someone will see, and that someone will be blessed, not by us, but by the light. I cannot bless anyone. I can say "Yes" to the Light that can shine as light through me to grace others. And these others can be more than humans, it can include plants and animals and beings unseen by us. The Light is not selective.
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So, the sage Jesus is attributed with saying, in the Gospels, "Let your light so shine before others for them to see your good works and glorify the One in the heavens." Elsewhere, he says, "I am the Light of the world." He never, in the Gospels, says he is the only Light of the world. I would agree with those who see Jesus as speaking for the Christ, the Light. When he says, "I am...," that is not the person Jesus, but Jesus united with the Light, the Christ. So, I assume we can each say, "I am the Light of the World," when we understand that we speak as the Light. Yet, Brian, the personality, the person, is not a light, and is not the Light.
Hence, Brian the person can choose to allow the Light to shine through him, even as you can make the same choice. Still, how is this done?
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How? We must remain awake with life, knowing ourselves as part of life. I do not mean life as what many think. They think they have a life. One may even be asked, "How is life treating you?," meaning, "How is your life going?" Yet, we do not have a life, never did, never will. Yet, life is. Life was here before you were born, will be here long after your death. And I, like many, trust that life is much more than what we know as life on this Earth, this expression of life being only one of potentially many or infinite expressions of one life.
Therefore, the "How?" is we surrender to life. Anam Thubten, Tibetan Buddhist, writes, in The Magic of Awareness...
So devotion without an object means that there is nothing that you can worship, nothing that you can surrender to that is separate from life itself.
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So, in devotional spirituality, we may have something we worship. Some say they worship God. Some Buddhists worship Buddha or a Buddha. Hindus worship varied expressions of the Deity, including Shiva and Krishna. Some Christians worship Jesus. Muslims worship God as Allah, lit. the God. These persons objectify the unseen Universal. Yet, in higher spirituality the intent is for the object to melt in pure Love, in awareness of the great Unknown. This is why many Hindus remind us that the thousands of deities in Hinduism are faces of one Being, not separate deities.
In this melting of the object, this does not mean the object in our minds and pointed to by worship, is nonexistent. What this does mean is this one adored as separate from life is not and cannot be separate from life. Hence, devotion is not an escape from life, but a means to fall in love with life. Then, we find the life we surrender to is the eternal life, the life here and not confined within the sequence of time or in the boundaries of space. Wherever we go, there is just life, this life, always here. If I see someone over there, I see life. If I see something over there at another place, I see life, the same life. When we were born, and when we die, the same life.
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So, I recall when the object of worship melted for me. I would go into meditation and spontaneous prayer would keep arising, the simple words, "Thank You for Your love." This befuddled me, while it kept happening. I came to appreciate that the object of my adoration and prayers had melted as an object. I saw this as praying to no one there. I am not saying this means the Presence I had prayed to vanished, I am saying this one was united with life, had lost the objectivity as something separate from life, from me. That separateness was the illusion, yet that separateness, all a mental construct, was necessary for the melting to occur. Now, the object and non-object can arise, both as manifestations of the one Presence. Yet, again, we cannot find a seam in life where Presence begins and life begins, for there is no such place. Possibly, this is what Jesus meant, saying, "I am the way, the truth, the life." That is, it all belongs together, for there is no separation. When you realize the way, the way is you. When you realize the truth, there is no division between the truth and you. When you realize life, you know you are life, you know everyone is life. This is problematic for our mental bipolarity, for aeons of time have conditioned us to see fragmentation, not unity. And, then, we struggle to see that oneness is not sameness, that all is life does not mean a bland flatland, simply a nice way of saying that what you see is all there is to it. What I am saying is life is it, but life is more than what we usually mean by life. I am not speaking of pantheism. When I say life is all there is, I am saying, for example, the tree you see is life, but the tree is much more than what you see to be a tree.
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Consequently, we are life, which is the Light, and we can shine by simply being the light we are. We could drop all the ideas of being more holy, more spiritual, or more wise, and shine right now. Why? We are life, we are light. Our religious or spiritual pursuits can easily lead us from where life is, where we can shine and bless the world ~ here, now.
That not of-the-Light is not true to us, not of our primordial nature as emanations of the Light. And, possibly, the greatest challenge for us is simply to shine; that is, to trust the Light and ourselves as lights, and surrender, meaning relax into allowing ourselves to be the means of the Light, our source and inspiration, the power that creates us moment-by-moment.
This is not difficult. This is easy, this is simple. What feels as the hard work in this is our trying to shine, until we simply surrender and allow the shining to happen. The Light does not need our effortfulness. All spiritual practice is to humble us, to open us up, so we are no longer trying to be anything or anyone, not even the Light or a light. The Light shines through us, as our little light, best when we are no one and no thing, for that egoic sense of needing to be a someone or something is no longer veiling the Light. So, I hope you come to celebrate being a wonderful no one and beautiful no thing. Then, you will rejoice to be gifted to shine for others, and you will feel no need for others to think you are enlightened, or holy, or special in any way.
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So, in conclusion, we cannot hide behind a Buddha, a lama, a guru, a priest, a pastor, a Jesus, a religion, a spiritual path, or a God. When we hear, for example, "I am the Light of the world...," we are having a mirror held up for us to see what we are and can become. This sounds odd, likely, to you, but it is true, we are a light and can become that light. We are essentially shining wherever we go, to bless others with light, yet, practically, the path is to grow into actually this happening through our surrender to the Light, so to life. Then, we can aspire to be becoming, in our different ways and different paths, like that imaged to the early Christian community in Philippi, Greece...
... so that you may be blameless and pure, without blemish as offspring of One, living amidst a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine in the world like stars in the sky.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Blessings on the Way'. Flickr
We do well to notice and appreciate how we are blessed by nature, beautifying our journeying daily and throughout life. What if beauty did not surround us? What of persons in the world cut off from this beauty? Driving toward home, I am blessed with the joy of seeing the blessings of loveliness along the way. I remain grateful, and pray to remain so. I do not want to miss the gift.
(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2019