Parson to Person: My Lord, what a mornin’
Despite efforts to smother religious references in popular discussion, an April Time magazine cover story was titled “Finding God in the Dark.” It was a sizeable review of the popular writer Barbara Taylor Brown whom a major university has called one of the 12 best preachers in the world and with looks to charm the magazine cover.
Her thesis is that for many persons’ life-transforming light arises out of episodes of utter darkness and despair. Probably the number one symptom of illness in the world today is depression. Following debilitating stroke a decade ago I’ve been there and done that, personally.
A hackneyed story line runs, “It was a dark and stormy night...” Well, is this not the way the very Bible begins? “In the beginning the world was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the waters.”
We are told that the spirit of the Lord hovered over the face of the waters, whereupon He gave His first command: “Let there be light!”
Here we have the original drama of the world and methinks of all individual lives.
The historians Charles and Mary Beard said that one of the greatest lessons of history is “When it is dark enough you can see the stars.”
It was in the deep darkness atop Mt. Sinai that Moses met with God. Barbara Brown, mentioned above, reminds us that God approached Abraham in darkness, Jacob wrestled with an angel until “the breaking of the dawn.” Jesus was born on a silent night, and was resurrected from a dark tomb.
In all my decades of teaching the major religions of the world there comes the analogy of darkness and light in no less of a list than this.
Zoroastrianism from Persis
Taoism from China
Hinduism and Buddhism from India
Cosmology from Egypt
Judaism from Israel
Islam from Arabia
Christianity out of Jerusalem
When the mystical writer of the Gospel of John tried to summarize the life of Jesus he kept it simple: “This is to attest that light came into the world but the people preferred darkness.”
Can you think of a more repeatable sequence in history? Life is so shaped like Holy Week – the tragedy of Good Friday transcended by the triumph of Easter.
The ultimate optimist of the Old Testament and Jesus’ favorite prophet, Isaiah, admonishes us, “Arise, shine for thy light is come!” But I still think the old black spiritual says it better: “My Lord, what a mornin’.”