MATTHEW 5:15 – “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” When I was a kid and first heard the expression “do not put your light under a bushel” I naturally pictured a bushel basket, the kind apples often came in, and somebody putting it over an electric lamp, the kind you could find in any living room. I was old enough too know this was such a silly thing to do that I wondered why it needed to be pointed out at all, but was still too young to understand the point of the parable. But I did know it was directed at the person bearing the light. Then I got older and came to see that the man with the lamp is not the only person with a bushel basket. When the light is out where it can be seen and shining brightly, the rest of us are supposed to look at it, bask in it, even reflect it, and certainly not cover it with a bushel basket of our own. But we must often guard against doing just that. I myself have been guilty of this, for not long ago a friend and I were in Washington, DC looking for a "lamp" which in our case was the local C. S. Lewis Institute. He and I were planning to take the year long apologetic course they offered and hoped to see the place and talk to the Director. So we put in the address in our cell phones and followed the directions and before long we were parked right in front of the Institute. We were much too early to meet with the Director, but we were also a bit taken aback to find that the Institute we had come to see was just a rather ordinary house. Now there was nothing wrong with it as a house. In fact, it was a bit bigger than most of the surrounding houses. Nor had we been promised that the actual Institute would match our respective mental images of what the “C. S. Lewis Institute” should look like. Indeed, one of the reasons we went to see it in the first place was to find out what it looked like. And yet, we were disappointed. Worse than that, we wondered how seriously we should take the "C. S. Lewis Institute" if it operated out of a simple house? Would our visit be even remotely worth our time? As I said, we had arrived earlier than expected and so went to lunch before calling the Director and setting up a time to meet. We also considered, rather seriously, giving up on the idea of meeting him at all. Speaking for myself, I really couldn’t reconcile the house we’d seen with the impressive picture my mind had invented of the “Institute” I’d expected, which was a shiny and beautiful modern building of brick, with crisp, straight lines and lots of glass and metal, in all ways worthy of Clive Staples Lewis! Though with greatly reduced expectations, we still met with the Director. My friend called him and he was perfectly happy to see us on short notice, arranging his schedule so he could meet us at the house right after lunch. So with a bag full of baked goodies in hand as a thank you, we soon were climbing the stairs of the front porch, ringing the doorbell and waiting. Our minds had not previously conjured up what a Director was supposed to look like, so when a kind, older gentleman answered the door without delay and welcomed us inside we were able to form unbiased opinions. He was, of course, the Director, and we both liked him immediately! He was open, and gracious, and very easy to talk to. He answered our questions and told us other important things about the Institute we would not have thought to ask. The house itself was spacious. Once inside the first room, we saw, a long table with Christian books upon it and plenty of chairs around it. The next room, where we sat and talked to the Director, held comfy couches and overstuffed chairs and a large table, suitable for coffee and cookies and cakes, and after that perhaps a glass or two of wine. In short, the house was just the sort of place where Christians, serious about their faith, could enjoy fellowship and relish serious religious discussions deep into the night. My friend and I felt at home there, as if we were sharing a den with another old friend. As we drove away, both of us eager to take the apologetic's course next year, we discussed how foolish it had been to allow mere appearances to affect our initial appraisal of the Institute. The Director had lighted the Institute candle and put it where it could be seen. Yet we had hidden its cozy Christian glow under a metaphorical bushel basket of preconceived and utterly foundation-free ideas of what its building should look like from the outside.
Author: Jeffery D. Kooistra - In my dreams I live in a world of 2 a.m. train whistles wailing in the distance, and tractor-trailers ruling the roads, abandoned tree-houses deep in the woods, the scent of burning oak leaves in the air, and squeaky windmills beside weathered barns. I am the author of over 100 stories and nonfiction pieces dealing with science, science fiction, philosophy, religion, and current events. Until retiring from it recently I wrote Alternate View columns for Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. My background also includes teaching math and physics from middle school into college. I am also a member of SIGMA -- the Science Fiction Think Tank, an assortment of SF authors who do Pro Bono consulting work, usually for agencies of the government.