This Little Light

Jesus said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lamp stand?” – Mark 4:21

I like the spiritual “This Little Light of Mine” as much as the next person, but lately I have been trying to sing it more thoughtfully, and with some humility.

Ever since a choir showed up, uninvited and unannounced, to a somber event. Ever since the choir’s members sang joyfully about letting their lights shine, even as a worried and brokenhearted father of four prepared to tell the press why he was taking sanctuary from federal immigration officials.

The performance implied that we—the privileged people with papers, the citizens providing sanctuary—were the shining ones. The song seemed to shout, “Hey, look at us and this awesome thing we’re doing!”

Yes, I understand that sometimes we sing to keep evil at bay. Other times we sing to keep from weeping. Still, it is worth remembering that the good works that flow from our love of God and neighbor are not about us. The light that shines is not ours.

So what is this little (or not so little) light we’re so proud to shine?

Fannie Lou Hamer and other civil rights leaders sang about the light of freedom. Others have named the light joy, peace, and hope. We might also be shining the Spirit that enlivens and empowers, or the very Christ himself, the light no lampshade or gloom can overcome.

And that is a light worth revealing.


Light of Love, may I never try to hide you under the bed. And may your light shine so brightly through me that I never mistake it for something that’s mine. Amen.

About the Author
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.