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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Start:Stop - How the light gets in

Bible reading

“… it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4. 6 - 10)


‘Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack
In everything
That's how the light gets in,
That's how the light gets in’

I don’t know how the image of a crack letting in light came into the mind of Leonard Cohen, who wrote those lines I've just quoted, but they fit really well with our reading from Corinthians.

St Paul uses this image to assure us that we have the light of God in our lives, despite the fallibility and fraility of our lives. He pictures our lives as being like cracked clay jars. He is suggesting that there are fractures and flaws running through each of our lives but that these imperfections actually enable the light of Christ to be seen more clearly in our lives. If a clay jar were to contain a light but also be perfectly formed then the light inside would not be seen from the outside. The light of Christ would effectively be hidden. People would look at our perfect life and not Christ, because they would only see us.

Instead, Paul says, because we are not perfect and have difficulties and flaws, it is then clear that where we act or speak with love and compassion, this is because of Christ in us, rather than being something which innate to us or simply our decision alone. As Christ says, let your light so shine before others that they might see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5. 16).

These reflections may well have particular relevance in our workplaces, where it may well be difficult to consistently act perfectly as a Christian before of the pressures and issues found there. We may well be among the 53% of managers that Roffey Park identified as experiencing tensions between "the spiritual side of their values and their work". St Paul and Leonard Cohen both encourage us with the thought that perfection in us would actually prevent the light of God from being seen, while it is the lines of stress in our lives which enable that light to be clearly seen for what it is.


Lord Jesus, in your face we see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Your light in our lives is like a flame inside a cracked clay jar, with your light seen through the lines of stress and tension that characterise our lives. As flawed people in a fragile world, we recognise that there is a crack in everything. We recognise, too, that it is through the cracks in our existence that your light gets in and shines out. We share in the vulnerability and suffering that was your experience of death in order that your life is also seen as being our strength in weakness. May we not be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken or destroyed, but in the stresses and tensions of our lives know your power loving and sustaining us. May we no longer strive after perfect offerings and pray instead that every heart to love will come, but as a refugee. Lord, in your strength and vulnerability, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world and the light in our darkness. May your light be a flame to build warmth in our hearts towards family, neighbours and all those we meet. We place in your care all those we come to remember today. Give us, we pray, comfort in our anxiety and fear, courage and strength in our suffering, patience and compassion in our caring, consolation in our grieving. But above all, give us hope now and always. Lord, in your strength and vulnerability, hear our prayer.

Lord, may your light enlighten us in our decisions and be a fire to purify us from all pride and selfishness. Set our hearts on fire with love for you, so that we may love you with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and our neighbours as ourselves. So that by keeping your commandments we may glorify you, the giver of all good gifts. Lord, in your strength and vulnerability, hear our prayer.


Enlightenment in our decisions, purification from pride and selfishness, strength in weakness, God’s power loving and sustaining us. May those blessings of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen.


Leonard Cohen - Anthem.

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