“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14, 16, NRSV

Last week, 50 people were killed and scores more injured in a white supremacist terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. Since then, countless people of different faiths and nationalities have condemned the attacks and expressed solidarity with the victims and the hurt Muslim communities in Christchurch. All over the world, people have gathered in response to the attacks.

There were candlelight vigils in many places. For me, people gathering in the darkness to let their light so shine convey a powerful message, the message that is at the heart of the Christian faith: Death and terror don’t have the last word. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There is hope – a living, defiant hope. The more people share it, the more powerful it becomes. A city on the hill cannot be hid…

There are many stories about the heroes and heroines of Christchurch, people shielding others, people trying to distract the shooter, first responders – people, who let their light so shine in the darkest hour. There are many people whose stories will and should be told. These are stories of faith, hope, and love, stories we so desperately need in our day and age.

But it seems that one woman has become the symbolic figure of the response to the Christchurch attacks: Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister. One news outlet described it this way: she has become the face of Christchurch.

Ardern has done what a leader should do: decry violence, stand – and cry – with the victims, and take decisive action: from convincing her parliament to pay for the victims’ funerals to tightening gun laws.

Mere thoughts and prayers are often not enough. We are to live our faith in word and deed, and deeds happen to speak more loudly of our faith then our words. As Jesus says, ‘Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your father in heaven.’ (Mt 5:16, NRSV)

We may not feel that we have the power Prime Minister Ardern has – the power to let our light so shine through compassionate and wise political actions. We may not feel like heroes and heroines. But we all are the light of the world. We all have the power of God’s love to some degree to act each and every day with kindness and, if necessary, holy anger. We all have the power to defiantly stand against the powers of darkness and death.

One candle in the darkness may not make a difference. But if we, who are called by Christ into community, let our lights so shine together, the darkness, with the help of God and by the guiding of the Holy Spirit, cannot overcome the stubborn spark of hope and life.

This is a the heart of the season of Lent – a season that ends in the resurrection on Easter morning.


Picture by Vincent Chan on unsplash.com