Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
Today is a pretty big deal– it has been nearly 100 years since a total eclipse has moved from coast to coast across the United States. Today, tens of millions of Americans will witness the “eclipse of the century,” which will pass over 3,000 miles of land. There will not be another solar eclipse, and it will only be partial, until April 8, 2024. Indeed, there has been much hype surrounding the eclipse with people buying up eclipse glasses, flocking to remote parts of the country to get a good vantage point, attending rooftop parties, and heeding dire warnings about eye care. There is much intrigue surrounding this historic event because an eclipse is a type of mystery when day turns to night for a few minutes in time and the natural order of the world is briefly suspended.
I realize that a celestial event has much more to do with science than faith; however, I think that this once-in-a-lifetime event is an important time for reflection. The Bible also speaks a lot about light and darkness. Many would say that we are living in dark times. Just recently, we have witnessed acts of hatred and brutality fueled by racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry. However, for us to be a witness to the “light” of the world, the hope that we have for redemption, there must be darkness for light to shine. As Barbara Brown Taylor says in her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” In other words, through darkness we find courage, we understand the world in new ways, and we feel God’s presence around us, guiding us through things seen and unseen. Often, it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most. We are ready for the presence of God only when we have experienced the absence of God. We are also more acutely aware of and appreciative of this presence in our lives when we have previously been without it.
While “the eclipse of the century” may seem apocalyptic, and so many of the images we have seen in the past week in both Charlottesville and in our home communities also evoke images of death and destruction, I pray that today can be a beginning of a transformation—a realization that we must turn inward to release what no longer serves us and set the stage for brighter tomorrows. Now is a time for both revelation and awakening. I pray that these past few weeks may be a revelation that we live in a country in which black and brown people have been systemically oppressed for centuries. May it be an awakening in the sense that more people are now aware of racial injustice and their own privilege, as well as the fact that this state of institutionalized violence and oppression must end. We must embrace both the light and the darkness in ourselves and others. Today, as we get to see the spectacular display of nature showing us stars and pure darkness in the middle of the day, I pray that we can use this moment to send love to the darkest part of ourselves and use today as a reminder that it’s a necessary to reveal those dark parts, our own biases and prejudices, to allow the light of Christ into our hearts to shine even brighter.