In Jesus’ day, he could already witness the devastation of the Jewish community. He foresees the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple—a physical destruction that reflects the spiritual demise of a faith community under the spell of Roman power and control. Called to be a light to the nations and the source from which God’s light is to bless the rest of the world, Israel has been reduced to a shadow of her former self. The beautiful Jerusalem Temple stood atop that city, offering a glimpse of heaven. God intended that holy city to be a light upon the hill, not a cesspool of corruption hidden under political cronyism and religious abuse. Jesus calls this precious community of faith to shine forth with God’s law of love, not dim its light through demands for strict observance of priestly codes. Jesus calls temple leaders and their flock to worship God in Spirit and in truth, to be a light to the nations once more—a shimmering glimmer of the presence of God in every human community.
Jesus continues to invite each and every one of us to shine the light of hope, to salt the world with the spice of life, and to proudly offer God’s love for all to experience. Jesus calls all of his followers to be the “light of the world,” to live in holy community as a “city on a hill,” and be the “salt of the earth.” Each and every one of us is called to shine the light of loving hospitality. Every kingdom’s castle is meant to be a beacon of hope for weary travelers and to stand as a symbol of strength to faithful peasants who work for the kingdom. The Statue of Liberty’s torch in New York Harbor, the White House’s glow in Washington D.C., the Taj Mahal’s long reflective pool—these symbols shine the light of hope, the same light that Jesus portrays within his stories and his deeds.
Like castles before and since, Beast’s castle (in Disney's fairy tale films Beauty & the Beast) was built to offer light and hope for the whole kingdom. As prince and ruler, Beast was to portray that same light of strength, hope and hospitality to his people. In our story, the castle has long since lost that shimmer, and Beast has clearly lost sight of his duty to be a source of steadfast strength for his household and kingdom. Animators and artists for both films capture this reality as they darken the castle, only to brighten it with shimmering beauty and dazzling sunlight after the spell is lifted.
But even in the dark, dreary castle, Belle refuses to allow the castle’s despair to extinguish her innate curiosity or to keep her from seeing beyond what her eyes alone can see. As Belle wanders the West Wing, she sees glimpses of the kingdom that once was. Had Beast invited her optimistic perspective and her imaginative dreaming into his life from the beginning, he would have discovered a faithful friend and a compassionate companion—one who could guide him on new paths and open his mind to new and creative possibilities. We, who follow an infinitely creative God, can offer these same imaginative possibilities and creative options to one another. We, too, are invited to be lights upon the hills of our communities—shimmering with possibilities and revealing God’s presence in our lives and in our world.