[The poem] “Mythopoeia” was inspired by the 19 September 1931 conversation in which [J.R.R.] Tolkien and [Hugo] Dyson convinced [C.S.] Lewis that the Christian story is a myth that “really happened.”…This conversation changed the course of Lewis’s life. It also clarified and solidified Tolkien’s concept of sub-creation, his conviction that human creativity is a reflection of the Divine. This poem contains his most eloquent expression of this concept:
man, sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, Diana Pavlac Glyer, 2016
I think J.R R. Tolkien was on to something, and I’m not the first to think so. A very practical disciple named James, who wrote a letter a couple of thousand years before Tolkien, put it this way, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
A lot of translators qualify the word “lights,” rendering it “the heavenly lights.” But the Greek doesn’t hint at that meaning. It reads simply, “ho phos.” The lights. The Father of the lights.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told a crowd of people, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Light shines indiscriminately. A lamp doesn’t care who’s in the room; it just does its thing. Likewise, the sun and the moon and the stars shine on everyone, deserving or not. Indeed, later in that beautiful sermon, Jesus said, “…I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good….”
It’s tragic, really, that as a group, we Christians are better known for making rules than streaming light. Rules are about Religion, with a capital R. But light, well, light’s about love and grace and generosity. Light is good. “Shine a light on it,” we say, when we want to make sense of a thing. Light helps people see what they’re doing. People can work in the light. They can play in the light. Light wakes folks up.
About 40 years ago, Pastor Jack Hayford taught a series of messages called “Released Unto Resource Fullness.” I expect they are available in the digital library. In one of the messages, Pastor Hayford told the story of visiting a church that had a really good pianist. During the worship service, this pianist played a chord, a progression of notes, that Pastor Hayford had never heard before. He’s a musician himself, so he went to the pianist after the service and asked him to show him the chord. “Oh, no,” the brother said. “That’s mine.” Pastor Hayford said he thought the man was joking, but he was not.
The point of Pastor Hayford’s message was not the man’s stinginess, but that God, whose abundance is without measure, at least any human measure, has an endless supply of goodies to pass to us and through us. Our part is to be willing to give it away with generous hands, as Jesus did when he fed a crowd of hungry followers. As a young boy did, when he willingly gave to the Lord his lunch of a few fish and bits of bread. Thousands were sated, with leftovers. Lots and lots of leftovers. Plenty for everyone. Indeed, Jesus plainly said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” So there you have it. Abundance with a capital A.
Close-fistedness manifests in many ways, from the cook who won’t share her secret recipe to the drug company whose medicine is priced exorbitantly high because of greed. None of it is helpful, and none of it is godly. I pray we recognize we are all, at best, recipients of God’s goodness and light, and that we become better ministers of it to others. This I pray, beginning with myself.
After all, there is always more where that came from.