Dec 09

Of Darkness and Silence

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Dome of the Holy Sepulchre

In this season of Advent, of darkness and flickering candles, silence feels more appropriate than many words. Mystery more appropriate than explanation. Poets lead us into the heart of mystery, challenging the ways we see the world, refusing easy answers. In the midst of non-indictments, torture

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Dome of the Holy Sepulchre

In this season of Advent, of darkness and flickering candles, silence feels more appropriate than many words. Mystery more appropriate than explanation.

Poets lead us into the heart of mystery, challenging the ways we see the world, refusing easy answers.

In the midst of non-indictments, torture reports, holiday blues, the stark cold darkness of this season, sit with these words, look for the light.

Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, Winter, 1993

On the domed ceiling God
is thinking:
I made them my joy,
and everything else I created
I made to bless them.
But see what they do!
I know their hearts
and arguments:

“We’re descended from
Cain. Evil is nothing new,
so what does it matter now
if we shell the infirmary,
and the well where the fearful
and rash alike must
come for water?”

God thinks Mary into being.
Suspended at the apogee
of the golden dome,
she curls in a brown pod,
and inside her mind
of Christ, cloaked in blood,
lodges and begins to grow.

–Jane Kenyon

**The Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898

**The Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898

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Dec 02

Waiting

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Waiting can be exciting. Waiting can be painful. Waiting can be both at once. Tension. Anticipation and hesitation. Joy and Fear, all wrapped up in one uncomfortable package. Waiting. Which is the heart of this Advent season. The nights grow long, but this is called the “season

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Waiting can be exciting.

Waiting can be painful.

Waiting can be both at once.

Tension.

Anticipation and hesitation.

Joy and Fear, all wrapped up in one uncomfortable package.

Waiting.

Which is the heart of this Advent season. The nights grow long, but this is called the “season of light.” The twilight tension causes us to wonder: which will grip us finally, the bright light or the dense darkness?

Sufjan Stevens puts it this way:

“Once in a while, you may think you see better than the others
Scrambling around in the dark with your drum
There is a time when young men must grow up and be brothers
Are you afraid of growing too fast?”  (“The Child With the Star on His Head“)

Isn’t that the Advent lie we settle for? Don’t we all scramble around in the darkness, thinking we can see better than the others, even though we can’t see much of anything?

Our waiting is tempered by the flash of a new toy. Illuminated by the glitz of a seasonal spectacle. Neither will overcome the darkness, both will lose their luster and we’ll be left in the dark.

There’s a kind of false child-likeness in this fleeting search for the light. Jesus praised the children and little ones, but probably not because of their tendency to dash after new shiny things.

We turn waiting into stalling or settling. Stalling the journey of growth and transformation. Settling for the flashing lights whose cords will eventually burn out.

You can wait and grow, you can’t stall and grow.

Waiting means there will be a time to grow up, stalling is settling for the fear of that growth. Fear of bumping into our own darkness. Fear of bumping into the darkness of our sisters and brothers, of our enemies. Fear that the light may not come and so settling for the glitz and glamor of this commercial season.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. For there is another, a “child with a star on his head, and all of the world rests on his shoulders.” And he won’t call us to bright lights that will eventually fade. He’ll call us to the light of the world.

He will expose our darkness and the darkness of our sisters and brothers. His light will pierce the darkness all around us, the darkness of death and disease. The darkness of violence and injustice. The darkness of trying to purchase eternal life with a credit card. The darkness of stumbling around in isolation, contented with our own understanding of the world and our place within it.

The light will come, but the light will not leave us alone in the darkness. Because in the light we won’t just see the child, we’ll see faces all around us. Faces, which moments before weren’t far from our own, but which were kept hidden from our eyes by the darkness we settled for.

**Student-led vigil at Georgetown,  by MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA

The light has already come, and the light will come again. But will we be transformed and walk in the light or settle for the darkness of our own path, our own way? That’s the question I’m wrestling with this advent season.

Yes, Come, Lord Jesus. Transform our darkness to light. Free us from bondage to the lesser lights we chase after, set our hearts alone on your Light, the One who was and is and is to come.

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Apr 16

Twilight of Holy Week

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twilight

Today is the worst hump day of the year. Next week, hump day will mean the midpoint of the week, a casual slide into the weekend and rest and relaxation. But this week, it’s just not the same. This holy hump day seems  like the

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twilight

Today is the worst hump day of the year. Next week, hump day will mean the midpoint of the week, a casual slide into the weekend and rest and relaxation. But this week, it’s just not the same.

This holy hump day seems  like the last glimmer of twilight. Tomorrow darkness sets in and it will be dark…for three days.
So forgive me for not being as excited about hump day this week.
I’m a liturgical nerd. I love the services of Holy Week and the fact that they only come along once a year. I love the reminder that we have all like sheep gone astray, yet there is One who is faithful to us even still (Isa 53:6).

Most years I even love the waiting and hoping for Easter Sunday to arrive. Those agonizing moments on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

But, what I don’t think about and don’t know how to love rightly is the conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world.

The rest of the year we can skirt around the conflict. Sure there are some skirmishes when the authorities aren’t pleased with Jesus. Sure, folks try to throw Jesus off a cliff. But, mostly we can proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God and Jesus’ declaration that all are welcome in this new reality.

But this week, after today, it’s hard to sit in the pain. The pain of the reality that you and I will betray (have betrayed) the One who has welcomed us.

That for all our holy thoughts and Lenten fasts, we’re still more prone to choose our way–the way of this world–then follow Jesus to the cross.

That at the same moment we want to single out Judas, we remember Peter and the others deserted Jesus, too (Matt. 26:34).

That we too might be willing to sell out our best friend for thirty pieces of silver.

taking of Christ

**Taking of Christ, Caravaggio

Because this is the crisis point for the kingdom of God.

In the next few days we’ll get to see the two sides trot out their best:

  • The fickle crowds’ shouts will turn from “Hosanna” to “Crucify.” But the faithful one will walk the long road to Golgotha.
  • The men (Peter and the boys)–respected and deemed worthy by society–will flee in fear, but the women (The Mary’s and others)–second class citizens in the first century–will stand with Jesus at the cross.
  • Rome will try to thwart kill this “King of the Jews” to mete out “justice,” but Jesus will submit and bring a greater justice than Rome can imagine.

But before all that, there is one last glimmer of twilight. After Jesus predicts that Judas will betray him, he doesn’t cast him out:

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:26-29)

 Jesus commands them to drink–all of them–even Peter, even Judas.

Jesus commands you to drink, too. Not because of your faithfulness, but his. Not because he’s ignorant of the events to come, but (to steal a phrase from Lewis) because he knows the deeper magic.

Even in the face of the darkness to come, Jesus still has time to share a meal with his friends. Even though he knows we, like them, will desert him, he promises to drink with us again in his Father’s kingdom.

It’s going to get dark, but hold on to the twilight.

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Feb 19

When It Gets Dark

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When It Gets Dark

This is a guest post by Casey Tygrett.   Walking through our house one night, with the lights off, I suddenly became disoriented. My arms extended out in front of me, fingers searching for a door frame or a light switch, I looked like a

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When It Gets Dark
This is a guest post by Casey Tygrett.
 
Walking through our house one night, with the lights off, I suddenly became disoriented.

My arms extended out in front of me, fingers searching for a door frame or a light switch, I looked like a bewildered Frankenstein monster cruising through the dining room.

I had made that trip – from the bathroom to the bedroom and vice versa – more times than I could count but for some reason the depth of darkness made it impossible to navigate. I began to wonder if I had been turned around, maybe headed in the wrong direction. I suppose if I had wandered long enough without making contact with a hard surface, I would have wondered whether or not I was still in the house.

As irrational as that sounds, when you don’t find something solid in the darkness it is all too easy to assume the worst.

Thinking on this as I drove to the office today, and the old hymn “The Solid Rock” came to mind. One line in particular:

When darkness seems to hide His face…

I encounter in myself and in others the tendency to lose God in the darkness. The darkness of health & financial issues, the darkness of a loss of that “electric spiritual sensation” that comes from our first encounters with prayer & Scripture, the darkness of relational dysfunction and destruction – all of it can lead to our experience of the hiding of God’s face.

We lose Him in the darkness and we assume, not that the light is inadequate to see Him, but that He is gone.

Behavioral psychologists talk about the learning process that infants go through to establish something called “object permanence.” When you show a toddler a rubber ball, then hide it behind your back, the child is devastated. Why? The reason is that they have no sense of object permanence – for all they know the ball has evaporated and vanished and no longer exists.

When we are faced with darkness in our lives, our sense of object permanence – in relation to God – is knocked off kilter. We get saturated in darkness and start to believe that our flittering fingers will never again grasp the firm, solid face of hope and grace and salvation.

David wondered, in the darkness of his conflict with enemies, how long this darkness would last?
 
Jesus wondered, pierced on a Roman execution device, how long God would turn away from this suffering?
**Candles in the dark--Rob Milsom / CC ND 2.0

**Candles in the dark–Rob Milsom / CC ND 2.0

So what do we do? We grope in the darkness. We put our hands out in front, we walk and we stumble and we stubbornly remember that God is present and good and true even when the light is insufficient to see Him. Even when we suffer. Even when we are confused, misdirected, and even feel lost.

We stumble through darkness knowing that the dark may “hide” His face, but it cannot “overcome” it.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1 John 1:2-4)


Casey Tygrett is the spiritual formation pastor at Parkview Christian Church. He is also part of the adjunct faculty at Lincoln Christian University & Seminary and blogs at www.caseytygrett.com. He and his family live in suburban Chicago, IL.

 

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