“Everything is made to perish; the wonder of anything at all is that it has not already done so. No, he thought. The wonder of anything is that it was made in the first place. What persists beyond this cataclysm of making and unmaking?” ~Paul Harding
What persists indeed? There are times when all appears to be perishing, especially in the dying time of year when the world is drying up, blowing away like the dust storms in the parched midwest which soil the air like so much smoke. The obituary pages predominate in the paper, accompanying an overload of bad news, mass shootings and suicide bombings. All appears to be perishing with no relief or hope.
But it is waning light and shortening days coloring my view like haze in the sky painting a sunset blood red. Darkness is temporary and inevitably helpless; it can never overcome the light of all things made.
Life persists in the midst of perishing because of the cataclysm of a loving and bleeding God dying as sacrifice. Nothing, nothing can ever be the same.
“God goes where God has never gone before.” ~ Kathleen Mulhern in Dry Bones
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. ~John 1: 3-5
“There was only the dark infinity in which nothing was. And something happened. At the distance of a star something happened, and everything began. The Word did not come into being, but it was. It did not break upon the silence, but it was older than the silence and the silence was made of it.” N. Scott Momaday in “House Made of Dawn”
Traveling today through the open spaces of Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, I am aware of a spiritual essence rising from the vistas extending as far as the eye can see. The Plains Peoples, from which my Stanford professor Scott Momaday came, intimately understood the infinity of creation. They were born, lived and loved, hunted and died beneath the silent stars.
Something happened, lighting the darkness and overcoming nothingness.
Something happened and the story of the Beginning breathes within us.
Something happened when God’s silence spoke.
His Word was, and always was, and always will be.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.
This is not like choosing sides on teams in grade school, numbering off one-two-one-two until everyone knows where they stand. This is not like an election year where choosing sides means aligning myself with the political party that seems to be the best fit at the time, even if I don’t agree with all their platform points. This is not like a Lincoln-Douglas debate tournament where I might represent one viewpoint for the first round, and then be asked to represent the opposite viewpoint in the second half.
It is more like being chosen for one side or the other, even if, klutz that I am, it means always being the last to be chosen for any sports team with all my limitations, my poor coordination, my weakness and my flaws.
This choice is not for an hour or a day or a year, but for eternity; whether to stand in the light as it shines on my dark, glum, sullen head or stay unexposed and hidden in the shadows.
It isn’t just about choosing,
but being chosen,
just as I am.
Though the light shines on things unclean, yet it is not thereby defiled.
And so it starts with the Word. There is nothing more powerful, more sustaining, more everlasting, more connecting than the Word that is spoken and written, heard and read, taken in and understood, forever becoming part of our vocabulary to be passed on again and again. It not only dwells among us but lives within us.
When all else falls away, there will always be the Word that became flesh–foretold, forewarned, forsaken, forgiving.
If the beginning was the Word, then it makes perfect sense: we were created to listen. This is the season for listening as if we are hearing it all for the first time.