John 12:20-36

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

Reflection – Scott Ford

In words spoken and eventually recorded by people several hundred years before electricity, references to light and darkness are frequent in scripture. Light and darkness were universally and viscerally known by humans then in ways we city dwellers can barely fathom today. When I turn off my bedroom lights at night, I can easily walk across the room without running into furniture because my neighbors’ backyard is lit like a football stadium. And if my neighbors were not so evidently nyctophobic (that big, fancy word for afraid of the dark), I could probably still see enough given the numerous parking lots and street lights within a mile of my house. One phrase we hear today is “light pollution,” which happens when excessive and poor use of artificial light disrupts our sleep patterns and prevents us from seeing stars in the night sky on a clear night.

Days away from civilization in 2012 on the John Muir Trail in California, I backpacked to the side of a mountain and saw the sky like I have never seen it before nor since. The stars were truly too numerous to count. Shooting stars could be seen every minute or so. And there appeared what looked like a faint green, twisted ribbon flowing across the beautifully alive night sky. Apparently the ribbon’s name is Steve (seriously, google it), but I digress. My point is that we humans today don’t know much about darkness. We aren’t well versed in the cycles of the moon or the nighttime implications of varying weather systems, which converge or diverge to display some really, really dark nights and some not so dark nights. Think about it: if indigenous Inuit peoples (Eskimos) have 52 different names for ice, then those who live without or far away from electricity must have several more names or descriptors for the differing levels of night’s darkness. So it seems clear that our lightness and darkness IQ is much lower than people who lived before electricity. We know so little. But we can learn. 

Shall we be children of the light? Do we want to be children of the light? I sure hope so. And I believe that God’s light can actually be found anywhere, at any time, at high noon, and at 2:00 a.m. Whether we see it or not, the light of Christ is around us, within us, within the body of Christ, within our hearts and minds, in our serving hands. The love and the light of Christ are accessible to us all, wherever we may find ourselves, in the brightest of days and darkest of nights. We do not have to walk in darkness. Amen.

Bonus: consider reading or listening to “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” by Barbara Brown Taylor; the audiobook was free on my local library smartphone app.