Focus 1 (of 4)-...and there was light.

Focus 1 (of 4) | ...and there was light.

There is real darkness all around, but there is also light—and that light is good, helpful, and powerful. Even though the light and the dark are usually talked about as opposing forces locked in a battle (think Star Wars or Shakespeare or the sacred books of most religions), the Bible actually has a somewhat different narrative about what the light is, means, and does.
Consider this ice breaker as you gather for the Spotlight.
If you could try any food, what would it be?
See what this Spotlight—and series—is focused on.
Tap on the words "Focus 1" in the image below to read this Spotlight's summary.
Let's talk about this series.
Watch this short intro video when you’re ready to begin today's Spotlight.
(And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)
There is darkness. We see the evidence of it all around us all the time. To be honest, what’s next isn’t going to be fun to read through. It’s going to be really sad. As you scan the following statistics and darknesses in our world, two requests:

  1. Be willing to admit that these are all true in your world. You’re part of this.
  2. Know that this world, dark as it is, is so very loved by God that the pain it feels breaks his heart, and he gave his life so that this darkness wouldn’t win.

405,000 Worldwide/
275 in Washington
 - No. of Global/Local Murders

690 million Worldwide/
760,000 in Washington
 - No. of Global/Local Those in Hunger

153 Million Worldwide/
424,000 in Washington
 - No. of Global/Local Orphaned Children

800,000 Worldwide/
1340 in Washington
 - No. of Global/Local Suicides

736 Million Worldwide/
784,000 in Washington
 - No. of Global/Local Those in Poverty

While all of these are very real and actually happening to people, they are not—in and of themselves—the darkness.
Welcome Perspective
The darkness is real; we see evidence of it everywhere we look.
Listen to this audio clip to start defining darkness.
Decide how you want Lord Byron to describe darkness' danger.

Famed poet, Lord Byron, gives a telling and apt description of the true danger of darkness in the poem, “Darkness,” in which he describes the world’s descent into turmoil after the sun and stars are extinguished.

Lord Byron, aka George Gordon Byron, aka Noel Byron, aka N.B. (which was his homage to his hero, Napoleon Bonaparte)

For this next part, you get to choose your own adventure:

  1. Read through “Darkness” by Lord Byron for yourself.
  2. Or listen to it being read with some interesting moon video.
  3. Or watch this kind of cheesy dramatization of the first portion and read the rest. 
  4. Or watch a student in quarantine do a pretty good dramatic reading.
  5. Or watch a guy named Zither P. Oxblood recite it from memory whilst sitting in a cemetery.
Answer/discuss all these questions with your group (if you're in a group):

  1. What are the bad things that happen because of the darkness in the poem? 
  2. Recount the story of the dog. (Possibly the most poignant part of the poem.) 
  3. Agree/Disagree: This bad thing (the dog story), in particular, shows that Byron wants to highlight not simply the difficulties that individuals faced in the lightless world, but more-so the affect that the darkness had on relationships.

Explore the opposite of darkness.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:1–4

 So God spoke light into being, saying: “Let there be light.”

Before we talk about the light that God spoke into being, permit an aside about “let there be,” and the powerful concept called the jussive.
Watch this video and let…
Pray, on your own, this prayer:

Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of your brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of your wisdom.
All our desire is known to you,
therefore perfect what you have begun,
and what your Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek your face,
turn your face toward us and show us your glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.

(Written by the ancient church father, Augustine, c. 354–430)
Worship Perspective
God’s good gift of light stands in contrast to darkness and brings what we need.
Read the following section with your group.
(If you’re in a group setting, rotate readers, letting everyone who feels like reading have a chance to do so.)

What did God let there be? Light.

What is light? That’s actually kind of a hard question to answer.

We can identify sources of light pretty easily, but “light” is not the same as the “source of light.” Whether we’re talking about actual light that enters your eyes so you can see or we’re talking about metaphorical light, in the same way that we might see the light come through many different sources (like the sun or a lightbulb or phosphorescent glow), the metaphorical light has different sources, too—things like love, truth, hope, or wisdom.
(It’s worth noting that in the same way that we might look at a lamp and call it a “light,” the sources of metaphorical light also get referred to as lights. Don’t be misled, though! They are not the light—not exactly. They’re just sources of light.)

We might find it easier to identify what light is by asking the question “What is it for?”

Light facilitates connections. All light is always about connecting one thing to another.

So, when God began creating the universe, he created the light first (or “let it be” first)—before he created the sources for the light.

(God has actually been very consistent about this throughout history as he has spoken in his Word.)
Take a look at these examples, and for each one: point out how the light serves to facilitate relationship—or how darkness serves to block relationship.

Circa 1300 BC by a man named Job | “Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me. If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave! Are not my few days almost over? Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy before I go to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and utter darkness, to the land of deepest night, of utter darkness and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.” (Job 10:18–22)

Circa 600 BC by the prophet Jeremiah | I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. (Lamentations 3:1-3)

Circa 90 AD by Jesus | When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Circa 100 AD by the apostle John
| But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Light is the connector—between us and God and us and each other. (Light is not a truth or a philosophy or a force. Those only matter insofar as they empower the connection.)
We can redefine our day to day “wins” based on this—it’s not about being right, it’s not about figuring out the best recipe. It’s about getting closer to people, and everything else will either serve to empower that or to detract from that.

This is also a good way to examine something’s usefulness. If you’re looking at something and deciding whether or not it is worth your time, you can ask questions like, “Will this help me connect better, or won’t it?” or “Am I using the properly (to help myself be better at connecting) or not?”
Click through this gallery and use these two questions to talk about the things pictured:

  1. Will this help me connect better, or won’t it?
  2. Am I using this properly (to help myself be better at connecting) or not?
Learn Perspective
By the light, we see. In seeing we can connect, as we use the light.
Watch this video about serving/order.
Let’s do another version of the gallery activity—like the one we went through earlier.

Below are several causes. Explain how they can be truly successful—not just in making something “right” happen, but in helping yourself connect with people, or helping other people connect with people (or with God). Another way to think of this: How could activism in each cause listed here lead you to deeply connect with other people?

Use the two questions from before…

  • Will this help me connect better, or won’t it?
  • Am I using this properly (to help myself be better at connecting) or not?

…to talk about the things below.

  • Preserving the Environment
  • Defending the Unborn
  • Rehabilitating Homeless Veterans
  • Raising Awareness of Sex Trafficking

Now, having talked through those six examples, can you see how the priority of “connecting” might help you choose between two nonprofits that both work to preserve the environment? 
Feel free to submit a prayer request by filling out the below form.
(If you choose to make your request public, you'll see it display in the Current at the end of the Spotlight along with anyone else who did the same.)

Prayer Requests

Pray through your requests—together—as a group.
After submitting your requests in the above form, take some time to share with your group whatever requests the group might have for this week.
Serve Perspective
Living in the light, our purpose in serving becomes forging connection. 
Pray this prayer.
(If you’re with a group, take turns reading from sentence to sentence.)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Amen.

(Psalm 39:1–12)
Sing along with (or listen to) this song to close out this Spotlight.
Feel free to sing along or simply listen. Do what makes you comfortable—but do whatever helps you focus on the song's meaning best.
Farewell Perspective
God uses the light; in it he sees you and invites you to see him.
Let's wrap things up by taking a look at what's Current at Illume.

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