For some time, the street in front of our church building has been under construction, but it has finally been completed. While stopping by there one recent evening to drop some papers off, I looked up the sidewalk, and standing tall on the corner was a new streetlamp. Not an average wood pole and light, but a decorative, vintage-looking lamp.
I strolled up the sidewalk to get a better look; with our church building illuminated behind it, I laughed quietly to myself.
Yes, I thought of Jesus’ statements that his followers are the “light of the world” who are to let their “light shine before others”. But there was something also that stirred my imagination.
One of the most popular series in modern Christian literature is C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s first and most famous novel tells the story of a young girl, Lucy, who playfully steps into a wardrobe and discovers within a strange and magical land. Her first few steps bring her to a London-style lamppost located amid a wintery forest. As she gazes in wonder at this sight, a woodland creature named Mr. Tumnus, a Faun with his own complicated story, happens upon her. It is at this lamppost their friendship begins, and ultimately incites an adventure leading to the salvation and liberation of Narnia. Later we learn the lamppost was planted there at Narnia’s beginning, grew from out of Narnia’s newness, and has since emitted an eternal flame to remind all of the Life and Song with which it was imbued.
While I may just be making something out of nothing, that’s what landmarks do. They serve as reminders that something happened here, and we can be better for it. The lamppost in the Narnia story can serve to kindle our church’s imagination for her purpose every time we see the newly installed lamppost on our street corner.
Like Narnia’s lamppost, the Church can mark the bridging of the world as it is, and the better world God is making through Christ. Like Narnia’s lamppost, the Church can also bear witness to the Life and Song as it was in the beginning, and as it will stir and ring out again. Just as with Lucy and Mr. Tumnus, the Church is where relationships can begin, and reconciliation is made possible. Finally, as seen at the novel’s end when Lucy again encounters the lamppost and returns to the wardrobe and to her world, the Church marks the end of old stories that are also the beginning of new chapters.
Beholding the lamppost then as if for the first time, Lucy declared “It will not go out of my mind that if we pass this post and lantern, either we shall find strange adventures or else some great changes of our fortunes.”
I hope those who encounter our church may also echo Lucy’s daring in their own thoughts. I hope that our church may be such a “light of the world” letting our “light shine before others” that those who enter our midst may experience in our community the deep magic of a world being made new.