Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Light in the darkness

"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5

In the days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we are called to think about Jesus' sacrifical death on the cross. It is a strange liturgical place to be - we mourn the death of Jesus and yet at the same time we also know that soon we will be celebrating his resurrection.

In the darkness of the night before Easter as I write this, I remember the first time I really experienced Lent the way I wish I always could. When I was in seminary I would visit a Greek Orthodox church for vespers on a regular basis. It was nice to just be someone in the worship service instead of the person leading (or learning to lead) the worship service. One year, along with some friends, I took part in most of the Holy week services.

I remember standing for hours during the very long Holy week services. I remember the heart wrenching sadness I felt on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday when Jesus was betrayed, beaten, humiliated, and then crucified - a terrible, tortuously long death by suffocation. I remember the priest draping all the icons and the altar in black cloth and the lights going out. On Holy Saturday, we stood vigil - waiting for midnight to come so that we could celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. It was a full sensory experience of Lent - the dark chapel, the procession led by the priest and altar boys with the congregation following the Holy Cross (or the Tree of Life as the Orthodox call it). We processed around the chapel three times just before midnight. As the clock struck twelve, the priest led us back to the front door and knocked upon it. When the door opened, the lights came on and all the black draping had been taken down. The joy that I felt at that moment was physical. Jesus was alive again! He had died for me and yet somehow, he had come back to life and would never leave me alone again.

Tonight, most churches are dark because we want to remember the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Tomorrow, however, the lights come on, the black comes down and the lilies of Easter will be seen and smelled everywhere.

I know (and Jesus knows) that Easter Sunday is not going to necessarily fix whatever is wrong in your life right now. Your loved ones might be ill and dying. Your marriage might be in a horribly difficult place. You might feel like a complete failure. But hang in there. Because "It's Friday but Sunday is coming" is not just for Easter. It is for the entirety of the Christian journey.

We live much of our lives in the shadow between dark and light, but we know that we will end our journey in the light. I know that God has given each of us hope to hold onto until we get there. Whether it is the joyful moment when the lights come back on in the church at midnight on Easter Sunday, a kind word of a friend or even a stranger, or the song that comes on the radio at just the right moment to give you a second wind - I know that God's light is trying to find a way to shine in your life.

In the happiness of Easter Sunday when we all get dressed up and have egg hunts and have the best meal since Christmas, I hope that we can also remember the joy of God's light that shines in whatever darkness this world might give us.



Maggie April 4, 2010 at 10:33 PM  

Thank you for your wonderful words today. I am so grateful that when we are in those dark places we can know that "Sunday's coming." Hallelujah! He is Risen; He is Risen, Indeed!