A Darkness To Be Felt

An Easter Greeting

"a darkness to be felt"
Dear Church,

On Wednesday of this Holy Week, my eyes stopped in my morning reading in the Old Testament: "a darkness to be felt." The line pitted inside me like a dread of impending pain. It was the Lord's own turn of words, emphasizing to Moses the extent of gloom that would befall the land of Egypt in the penultimate plague, before the final doom of the firstborn.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt." So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days [of course – for 3 days!]. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days... (Exodus 10:21-23).

This was not a mere dim darkness. This was not usual night-time, with some glow of star or moon, even behind clouds, nor any illumination of ambient light. This was black, thick, impervious darkness – a darkness in which you dared not stand, nor even stretch out your hand, for fear it might not return. This was no cave of finding oneself, but a darkness in which one could find or know nothing but oneself at utter loss. It was a darkness to be felt.

I am certain this steeped darkness of the ninth plague of Egypt is a hint and precursor to the grievesome Thursday night of Gethsemane; the darkness confirmed by Jesus at His arrest following: "this is your hour - when darkness reigns" (Luke 22:53). I am equally certain that the darkness of Good Friday from noon to 3 PM, enveloping the land as the innocent Son of God hung on the cross absorbing to Himself all penalty of all sin of all time, was this kind of darkness.  Impenetrable suffocating darkness...in which all motion and companionship and hope were stopped. There was no natural phenomenon upon which to blame or excuse this darkness. More than a harmattan dust cloud or eclipse, the Gospeler Luke anticipates such dismissive reasoning, and simply states the supernatural cause: "for the sun stopped shining" (Luke 23:45). This was a darkness from which no one could escape nor move to improve their position; this was a darkness in which any evasion or distraction from the despairing extent and result of my wages for sin was impossible. This darkness is impetus for both repentance for Sin, and the rescue by faith from it; and is also that which moves those saved to reach out to those who are not. These Good Friday hours of tenebrosity make the world stop; and the Church start. This is a darkness to be FELT.

So it must be seen – I am certain it is intended: that as every gospel writers' next-to-concluding chapter shows this black shade of sin and soul; so in flipping the Easter page to each Gospel’s final chapter...Dawn appears. The end of night; the dawning break of day is the first thought of every Gospel's conclusion. The dawn of hope, and life, and faith, and salvation, and witness, and mission.

As I have aged in years and ministry it seems though night is longer and rest somehow shorter.  The weight of the darkness of the world, around the Church and in myself, bears heavier than before upon thoughts and sleep. But alongside this, and to my surprise, I have come to conclude what I never would have said of myself in earlier life: I have become a morning person. I love the quiet of the early day. I love to rise in the dark, and sit dim and cobwebbed in thought, with coffee in hand, watching out the window – for the first hint of dawn. I actually feel cheated if I oversleep, or if schedule or changing clocks or season rob me of this. Dawn is the end of the reign of darkness. If there is a darkness that can be felt, dawn is also something that can seep into the soul. Dawn is the promise. The promise that Sin and death – they are defeated; that the deep darkness of night – it is ended; that the grave – it is never a home but only a short stay; that the Church - you can neither quench nor kill her; her mission and the end of it are sure. Dawn is for the Church what the rainbow is for humanity. At dawn, we can see the Kingdom coming – disciples being made, churches being planted, generations to come of believers and followers of Jesus. Easter's dawning gleam is the resolve of Good Friday's dark despair, because of the Life that pulses in Savior Jesus; because of dawn on Easter and the start of each day…of this I am certain.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week... Matthew 28:1
Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise... Mark 16:2
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning... Luke 24:1
Grace, Peace, & the Dawn to You,
Rev. Paul Larson
President, Church of the Lutheran Brethren

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