Pastor John, of Prince of Life Lutheran Church in Oregon City, always uses stories in his sermons. The stories often help us to relate to the message of the sermon. Now I am not going to make you "listen" to the entire sermon here. But I was so impressed with the story he used today that I had to share it. And I have no doubt the message is so clear. Here it is:
A professor had just finished a 2-week session on Greek culture in an introductory class, and he asked the class, "Are there any questions?"
There was silence, and then a student raised his hand and said, "Yes, professor, what is the meaning of life?"
People started to laugh, and some started to get up to leave, but the professor could see that the student was serious, so he said, "I will answer your question."
He pulled from his billfold a very small mirror about the size of a quarter. "When I was a small child in Greece during the war, we lived in a remote village. One day I found a broken piece of mirror on the road. A German motorcycle had been wrecked there. I tried to find all the pieces and put them back together, but it was impossible, so I kept this piece, the largest piece. By scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to use it as a toy and became fascinated by the way I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine, into dark holes, crevices and closets. It became a game for me to be able to shine light into the most inaccessible places I could find. I kept the mirror, and as I grew up I would take it out occasionally to play this game. As I became a man, I realized this was not just a game, but a metaphor for what I could do with my life. I came to understand that I'm not the light or the source of the light, but light is there and it will only shine in many places if I reflect it. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I don't understand. But with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark corners of this world, into the hearts of people, and people are changed. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life."
Then the professor took the small mirror, caught the rays of the sunlight streaming through the window, and reflected them onto the student's face and onto his hands folded on his desk.
This is the answer that philosopher and politician Alexander Papaderos gave when Robert Fulghum asked him, “What is the meaning of life?” Robert included this story in his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. He also is now a Unitarian Universalist Minister.
This story touched me and made me do a lot of thinking. I first thought about how we each "shine our light" into the world. Do I aim that light into the darkness, to others who are in need? How many of us shine the light into our own lives, at ourselves, and do not share its brilliance? I hope you all understand my metaphor.
I wonder if others see my light? Does it light their lives? Do I make a difference?
Then I thought about lighthouses. They shine their light into the darkness, guide ships to safety. They save lives. Shining our light is rather like a lighthouse--guiding others to God, to hope, to companionship, to love. Our light shining for others might save a life, just as the lighthouses did.
Another thought entered my mind. Caves. When they are dark, they are rather frightening places to be in or to enter. But when a light shines, we see the amazing beauty hidden within. In the Oregon caves in S. Oregon I was always awed by their beauty and calm.
Being in that darkness can be so frightening, so stifling, so intimidating. Once I was hiking in a lava tube cave in Oregon and my flashlight quit working. I could see nothing and no one was there with me. My mind imagined horrible creatures sneaking up on me. I was frightened. I was paralyzed, afraid to move. I felt lost and lonely. I cried for help. It seemed like forever that I stood there in the impenetrable darkness. I wept and prayed. Then I saw a small light bobbing in the distance, slowly moving towards me. That light lifted my heart, chased away my fear and filled me with hope. When it was close enough, I called out and the people holding the light guided me out of the darkness to safety. In a way, when we shine our light, we can help guide others out of darkness. We can affect the lives of others, sometimes without even knowing it.
When I was seeking a church to join, I found it difficult. One day in my women writer's group I decided to ask Barbara F. if she attended a church. The reason I did so was because she always seemed to "shine," to have a peaceful glow about her, and always had a smile for others. "Yes, I do attend church. I go to Prince of Life Lutheran right here in Oregon City." So I came to see and have been coming ever since. Her light guided me to my church, to people who would touch my life, and to Pastor John, who always has a good story to tell and a smile for everyone. His light shines.
Matthew 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Isaiah 60:1 "Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you."
Psalm 18:28 "You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light."
Psalm 112:4 "Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man."
Isaiah 2:5 " let us walk in the light of the Lord."
Micah 7:8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world."
2 Corinthians 4:6 "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ"