4/18/2019, God Moves… Into the Darkness, Matthew 26:57-75

Remember the nights when you stayed awake in the darkness.

A conversation went sour during the day and you stayed awake in the darkness

     fearing what would come of the relationship the next day.

A phone call was received and you drove to the hospital to stay awake in the darkness
at the bedside of a loved one.
A sickness took over your body and you stayed awake in the darkness
desiring the pain to go away so you could find rest once again.

We enter the darkness with Jesus on this night before his crucifixion, as evening came we have heard how Jesus reclined at the table with his disciples, he prayed in the garden, he was arrested and brought to Caiaphas’ house the high priest for his first trial, and two of the twelve disciples have betrayed and disowned him.

Caiaphas as the high priest had supreme authority over the temple and had been anointed to perform religious duties.  Of all nights with great responsibilities after celebrating the Passover now was having a trial in his home to try to keep peace among the people and in the land.

There is a notable silence in scripture between Peter’s tears on Thursday night to Jesus’ trial before Pilot on Friday morning.  Historians and other writings have helped to piece together what is the traditional view of Jesus’ last night on earth.

While in the holy lands, we visited Caiaphas’s house where the two pictures come from on the back of the bulletin showing a picture of Jesus with a rope underneath his arms and a picture of a small opening into a pit that was a space measuring about 15 by 15 feet.   On Thursday night, Jesus was not only bound by hands and feet with rope but would have been lowered by a rope through this 3 foot opening underneath Caiaphas’ house into a pit. Jesus was surrounded by walls, no windows and no doors.  The only way out was from 20 feet above.  The last night of Jesus’ life was spent alone in darkness until the next morning.

In the book of Hebrews we are reminded that we do not have a high priest named Caiaphas, we have a high priest named Jesus, who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, for in every respect he has been tested as we are, yet without sin. He shared in the suffering, trails, and death like humanity and taught us how to put our full trust in God.

When we think of Jesus’ last night, our Savior experienced a desire to have this cup pass from him yet he placed his full trust in his Father; at the table, in the garden, and in the darkness of the pit.

An Episcopal Priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, can remind us that all darkness is not bad. Growing up we are often taught how to be fearful of the dark, yet we learn things in the dark that we would never learn in the light. We are not created to be just solar people, but lunar people as well, for 1/2 of our life is lived in the dark.

There is beauty that can only be revealed in the darkness such as a full moon, shooting stars, fireworks, Christmas lights, and fire flies.

Barbara writes in her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark and shares often in interviews, a story of how she learned how to appreciate the darkness.  She and her husband had moved out of the city when she retired, she wanted to be where the light pollution didn’t distract her from the beauty of a night sky with twinkling stars and a full moon.

On the farm, she enjoyed the back porch sitting, raising chickens and the slow pace of life.  She learned while raising chickens, that if chickens are in one pen and you need to move them to another pen, the best time to do this is at night. At night, the chickens are sleeping on their perches, and you can come into their house and move them, it is one of her favorite things to do to move chickens in the dark.

When Barbara had a young visitor on the farm, she could think of nothing better to do than move chickens with the child.  She told the child how much fun this would be as they headed out to the chicken house one night, however when they stepped away from the garage, they were in that country darkness.

There were no street lights, only the stars and the moon to light your way. The child was terrified and even paralyzed  with fear, she couldn’t move or see the glow worms in front of her or step into the adventure of moving chickens that night.  What could have been one of the best memories of living in the country turned out to be this child’s worst memory of farm life.

This experience helped Barbara realize that darkness does not always mean danger, loss or uncertainty. Sometimes it means shooting stars, glow worms and moving chickens.  It can be a wonderful time if we don’t let fear blind us to what darkness can help us see.

Our eyes can adjust to see differently in the darkness, where fear is not our only friend but God is. Through faith, this assurance of things not seen, God becomes our abiding source and provider to help us see.

Remember the nights when you stayed awake in the darkness
when it was more out of love than fear.

A conversation began and you stayed awake in the darkness
talking all night long with a person you were beginning to love.

A cry was heard and you stayed awake in the darkness
holding, rocking, and loving your child to sleep.

A decision was needed to be made and you stayed awake in the darkness
praying to God for the right step to take.

The darkness can teach us about fear
or through faith and trust the darkness can teach us about love.

Remember the night when Jesus stayed awake in the darkness,

reminding us that through his sacrifice on the cross we are redeemed by his love forever.

As Paul shared in Romans -with one minor addition by me -

We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us,
For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers
nor things present, not things to come

nor powers
nor height, nor depth

nor anything in all creation,  not even the darkness

will be able to separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As the psalms were embedded in the memory and souls of Jewish men and women, we hear Jesus share familiar words on the cross from Psalm 22 as a human plea for deliverance from the suffering.

We will hear at the end of the service Psalm 88, another human plea in despair that tradition holds that Jesus prayed these words the last night of his life in the sacred pit surrounded by darkness yet embraced by God.

What learn in the darkness from Jesus is love not fear. We learn that the pit of darkness is not the end of the story, neither is the cross. And just as chickens can move from one pen to another best at night, God can move us from one pit to another often at the darkest moments of our life.

What is our comfort, to know that the same love that is present during the day is present with us during the night.  Our task is to reach out and trust that God’s love is embracing us through the darkness, on the cross and will move us toward abundant life now and forevermore.  Amen.

 

 

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