I remember as a child attending a lot of "Vacation Bible Schools" during the summer in my area of rural Michigan. "This little light of mine..." I remember singing. I think the Gospel of Thomas, other Gnostic works, and Quakerism (which I must admit I know much less about) have all caused me to think about this simple little song in new ways.
I think at the time I thought, in my child's mind, of the "light" in the song as God's light, or Jesus' light. However, the lyrics say the light is "mine." Sometimes we "seekers" spend an awful lot of time looking for God, Heaven, the Spirit, whatever, in many places, overlooking the obvious. God, or a "divine spark" of God lies within us. Our challenge, and it is a great one, is to let go of the arrogance or insecurities, the clinging to things worldly, and, sometimes, the thinking and intellectualizing, that keep us from that spark. We build up barriers which prevent us from seeing the kingdom of God that is within us.
Perhaps we don't even have to look to the ancient writings outside the Bible to find this idea. Examine Luke 17: 20-21. This passage has a statement from Jesus that is very much like that found in the Gospel of Thomas 113. Jesus instructs his followers not to look here and there for the Kingdom. "... the kingdom of God," He says, "is among you." But, next to the word "among" is a footnote in most English language Bibles, and that note indicates that the word "among" in Greek could be translated as "within." That is exactly how the verse is translated in the Bible used in the Eastern church. "The kingdom of God is within you."
To me, that is a powerful, very powerful, verse. Think of the hope that verse provides. We have to look no further than the nearest mirror to find God and God's Kingdom. No doubt, it is challenging to see that as we get caught up in the superficial and temporary, forgetting the substantive and lasting. But there is still great hope if we take up that challenge.
Another challenge, and perhaps a much greater one comes in learning to recognize, and learning to live based on that recognition, that the kingdom of God is "within" others as well. How much different I would treat my colleagues at work, my acquaintances in life, indeed the next person I meet on the street if I look at them and see God in their eyes. This, I believe is one of God's great calls to us, and I will be looking into the meaning of this in future posts.
Want to read the Gospel of Thomas for yourself? Look here http://www.misericordia.edu/users/davies/thomas/Trans.htm
Other early Christian writings are available here http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/