Gospel Text: John 1: 1 – 14 / Title: Christ, the Kaleidoscope of Light
Seldom do I preach a text in which the title was already decided for me. No, not by Pastor Jim…although I am sure he would like to do so on occasion. But by the folks who are busy putting together the upcoming conference called Power in the Spirit. When I first agreed to preach at the opening worship of the conference on July 7, it never occurred to me that the primary visual that I was to draw from was one that I knew very little about. The theme for the entire conference as it was given to me is: ‘Christ, the Kaleidoscope of Light around the World.’
Needless to say, my first inclination was to get my hands on a kaleidoscope. How it worked…I really did not have a clue. But what was more pressing on my mind was the underlying presumption that Christ and Kaleidoscopes were somehow connected. Well, the good news is that after much searching…I did find a kaleidoscope and it was then that I began to discover a number of what I now call ‘kaleidoscope truths’. I think you will agree they are ‘life truths’ as well.
To look into a kaleidoscope is to peer into a world of inevitable change. Change brought about by the turning of the scope on one end and the altering of the light source at the other. The number of mirrors that are used to reflect the light as it moves from one end of the cylinder to the other is important. Even the objects held in suspension at the end of the scope have no preconceived form or pattern to follow. Like much of our world, their pattern is random and chaotic…having no sense of direction or power to order them.
And yet, when looking through the eyepiece of the kaleidoscope, one sees only order and colorful patterns of symmetry that absolutely boggle the imagination. Images so breathtaking that for the viewer, the hardest part is to let the image go.
Kaleidoscope truth # 1: Sometimes, one picture must be turned loose so another one can appear, and often the second one is more beautiful than the first.
Retired sixth grade teacher, Elizabeth Smythe, reminded me that when some of her former students made their own kaleidoscopes out of toilet paper tubes and shiny tape, they discovered some rather startling truths about themselves. Some of the kids wanted their designs to remain frozen in time. They couldn’t conceive of the possibility that one even more exciting, even more dramatic was just a turn of the hand away. But in order to experience the new, they had to let go of the image already in place. What a wonderful lesson in letting go of the present in order to experience the future.
Another lesson learned from the kids came at the time of selecting the objects (beads) to be housed in the viewing box at the end of the scope, Some of the kids wanted all of their beads to be exactly alike. All the same color…all the same size…with no variation of any kind. What they discovered were images with different patterns and yet colorwise, they looked the same. In the end, said Ms. Smythe, nearly every student regretted not having chosen more colors.
Kaleidoscope Truth #2: The greater the diversity, the richer the palatte, the better the design.
And isn’t that exactly what we love about creation? For me, the real excitement begins whenever I am surprised by something new. Something I’ve never seen before…or heard before…or experienced before. The kaleidoscope reminds us what it is like to experience life, like a newborn, for the very first time.
I remember the first time I ever saw a firefly (or lightning bug, as we used to call them). As a child I was utterly fascinated by the slow moving creatures who appeared like magic beginning in late June and disappearing by the end of July . I could only imagine how God had somehow equipped each one with a tiny little flashlight that they could turn on and off at will. With great delight we would all charge out of the house every evening with an empty jar in one hand and a lid with numerous air holes punched in the other…because the good Lord knows, we wouldn’t want the dear bugs to stop breathing once in the jar. But it was at night, when everyone was a sleep, as I turned and watched my newest neon-glowing nightlight, that I realized the true gift of what I was seeing. The only reason we could even capture the mysterious little fireflys...was because of their ability to shine in the darkness. Without their ability to light up…they would have simply blended in with the rest of the world.
Can’t the same thing be said of us? Jesus came into this world professing to be the true light which enlightens everyone. But how does that happen? If we look to the kaleidoscope as a metaphor, we quickly discover that it is only by the light that this vessel is brought to life. Light enters the scope from one end and reflecting off of the mirrors inside illuminates the objects suspended at the other. And in the process, by virtue of the light…creation continues right before our very eyes. Imagine then, what it would be like if by the power of the Holy Spirit, the light of Christ dared to shine through these vessels of clay and reflect the Word of God in a thousand different ways. And imagine how, seeing such a vision, the world would begin to see the body of Christ the way God meant for it to be seen. Multicultural. Multilingual. Interconnected in a myriad of new and surprising ways. All because…and this brings us to Kaleidoscope Truth #3:
‘God is still in the business of creating life.
And the Good News is, God wants to use us as his vessels of light in order that the world may see and believe. This…is the Word of God incarnate: Christ, the Kaleidoscope of Light…to be seen…around the world. Amen