Giving Thanks for the Light and the Dark

Last Sunday we heard the reading of the creation story from Genesis. "…darkness covered the face of the deep…. Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from darkness…. And there was evening and there was morning the first day." Thank God for the light, especially on Saturday.

If you sleep in that morning you'll miss our planet's brief pass by one of the four stations on its trip around the sun. Zooming around our home star at about 67,000 miles per hour and spinning on its axis at about 1000 miles per hour (at the equator), the summer solstice will arrive at 6:51 a.m. and we will be well on our way to the shortest and darkest days of the year. Saturday will be the longest day of 2014 at 15 hours, 17minutes and 5 seconds here in Boston, promising to be mostly sunny in the mid 70s--a beautiful day thanks to those 23.4 degrees of axial tilt when the North Pole leans as far toward the sun as it can. You might want to pause and be present to that moment, giving thanks for the earth and the sun and the one who made them and set everything in the universe spinning at seemingly random tilts toward the light.

But what about the darkness we slowly left behind these last six months. In the creation story God calls the light good but doesn’t have much of an opinion on the darkness. God doesn’t call it bad. And neither does Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest and theology professor who published a new memoir last April entitled Learning to Walk in the Dark. Time magazine made her book a cover story that month, saying she was "nudging people down a path toward endarkenment." That's a word I'd never seen before! Taylor's endeavor revives something old in Christian theology in that darkness holds divine mystery. Her book came out in time for Good Friday, calling to mind God's actions in the life death and resurrection of Jesus. As Taylor writes in her book, "I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that saved my life over and over again, so that there is only one conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light." Indeed God can use darkness in powerful ways.

There are many good examples of dark, life-giving encounters with God: God appeared to Abraham in the night and promised him more descendants than the stars. The exodus from Egypt began in the dark. Paul's conversion happened after he lost his sight. And of course Jesus was born beneath a star and was resurrected from a dark tomb. A theology of the cross has taught me to look for God in the dark places of grief and loss, suffering and death, in the troubling and difficult places of life.

In the quiet and early light of this Saturday morning, I will pause and giving thanks for God's ongoing creative work in and through the light, but even more so God's gracious and redeeming work in the darkness.

Faithfully, Ross

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