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The Light Shines in the Darkness

March 16, 2019

It was an overcast and dreary day as we drove from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Rapid City, South Dakota a couple of weeks ago. It was time for us to take a much needed short break to recharge batteries. Despite the lack of sunshine, being able to capture this picture of a hawk in flight was a wonderful blessing! The light shines often in the most unexpected and wonderful ways. After those few short days, which included a delightful drive through the VERY snow covered Badlands National Park, we began our drive back to Estes Park in what could be called increasingly deteriorating weather. At one point on the journey, I decided to cancel church services due to the snow and ice in Estes Park. That began a week which would include more snow, more cancellations, getting stuck in the snow in the parking lot at Church and at the YMCA of the Rockies, and otherwise slip sliding around.

As the week progressed, there were Melodrama practices at church for our Mission Fundraiser and other church business that needed to be taken care of. The sun did finally come out and the atmosphere seemed to lighten. That all changed on Thursday evening as the news came out about the horrific mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand at two mosques. Fifty individuals have died thus far in the shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch. What has also been appalling is the response by some lower case “c” christians to the attacks as if they were somehow justified by their god!

When times of tragedy like this strike, I often experience a dark night of the soul. The pessimist in me shakes his head and says, why are you surprised by the hatred in this world? As I prayed and wept, an anger came up from deep within me. A wordless scream arose in my heart as I wept. I wept as I thought of the dead, the injured, and all who were traumatized by this event. I wept as I thought of my Muslim friends and co-workers from my days in the Air Force, including the leaders of the Islamic faith community.

So it is in this context that I am struggling with the lectionary passage from the book of Psalms for this Second Sunday in Lent. Psalm 27 opens with these words: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh– my adversaries and foes– they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1-3)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear… I can’t help but wonder if any thoughts like that were going through the heads of the victims of this atrocity. Even though the Psalms, the Torah, and the Gospel are respected by Muslim believers as revelations to the prophets David, Moses, and Jesus, they are not holy books. Yet Allah is the one who creates and protects. Just as they have seen their faith hijacked by fundamentalist fanatics who cry Allah Akbar as they carry out their atrocious deeds in the name of their god; those of us who follow Christ have seen the same sort of hijacking carried out by fundamentalist fanatics in the name of their god.

In terms of words, phrases, or sentences which shimmer or stand out to me, there are two that bring me hope and light in the midst of the darkness. The first is verse five which states: One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. This isn’t some sort of Pollyanna vision, but rather it is a hope that we can live in God’s house wherever it might be all the days of our life. In the opening sentences of the Morning Prayer liturgy from Celtic Daily Prayer (a Northumbria Community Prayer Book) which Denise and I use, we say the following: One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. You may hear a portion of it at this link: https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/3-northumbria-community-one-thing-i-have-asked-of-the-lord-from-celtic-daily-prayer/

This sort of wish is not, in my eyes, a wish for pearly gates and streets of gold when “we all get to heaven” as the song says. This is a wish… a hope… a goal… on earth as it is in heaven as Jesus taught us to pray… on earth right now! My own desire is to see God’s presence in the midst of life’s messiness… to see God’s light shining out in the midst of the darkness. This is, in my eyes, the fulfillment of Micah 6:8. God’s call to Do Justice; to Love Kindness/Mercy; and to Walk Humbly with God! It is a fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets as summarized by Jesus. Love God with all of your being. Love your neighbor as yourself. Or in the words of the Mission Statement of Central Presbyterian Church in Mobile, Alabama: Love God. Love Neighbor. Live like Jesus. https://cpcmidtown.com/

While I am often discouraged and saddened by world events; and in particular by people who claim to follow Christ; I am still hopeful. These closing words from Psalm 27 (verses 13-14) speak to that hope: I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Dear reader, as we look for that day and as we wait, may we join together in being a part of that vision right here and right now. Will you join with me and seek to be a part of the building of God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven? Or as the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, the PC(USA) Stated Clerk called us to be at the 223rd General Assembly in St Louis last year… be a part of building God’s Kin-dom by being the hands and feet of Christ here and now!

6 Comments
  1. Dan permalink

    I know you know, darkness can not conquer darkness only light can overcome darkness. And you my friends are full of light.

  2. Colets permalink

    Great job!
    I often find myself STRESSED with all the hate & division.
    I recognize we are different & we have different beliefs. I guess wanting Peace is an unrealistic expectation.
    Thanks for taking the time to allow our God to use you in your gift of writing.
    <

  3. Thank you for your healing and hope-filled words. Light does keep shining in the darkness, and the darkness still hasn’t overcome it.

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