Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Children of the Light

"For you are children of the light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness." 1 Thess. 5:5

A Quakerly verse. I remember perhaps two years ago taking a walk on a June evening with my family. As we approached the house, we realized that our section of the neighborhood was in the middle of a power outage. By the time we got in the front door, night had arrived. Inside the house, it was dark in a way we are not used to experiencing. Not only were we without indoor light, there was no light from nearby houses. We sat around a taper that illuminated part of our coffee table. To walk anywhere in the house we had to carry this candle. Our house was a little scary, because if you moved unaided by the light, you could stumble over something, run into something, get hurt. To stay in the light, you had to stay close to the light.

As we sat in near darkness huddled around the candle, I thought (of course!) of Biblical metaphors of the light. People in earlier times must have had a more immediate understanding of the danger of straying away from sources of illumination. They must have realized too, that you couldn't stand in a dark corner of a room and say "I'm in the light." Have we, I wondered, lost the power --and the multilayeredness-- of that imagery in our artificially lit world?

In the above letter, written by Paul between the years 48 and 54, the light is Jesus. But why does he address his audience as children? Is it more than simply a rebirth image? What has been illuminated for them? Why would Quakers pick up on this verse?

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