“Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.” (Joel 2:1-2)
I am letting myself sit with these opening verses, imagining a dark shadow passing over a mountainside. I wish I had a picture, a visual to show you what I am seeing in my mind’s eye. But a picture would not show you the movement, the light of the mountain being covered with darkness. A picture might be like a thousands words; but let my words paint you this picture. Darkness, gloom; the light on leaves and trees going dim. From a distance it looks like black ink has been poured across the mountain side, and the sun itself hides from the coming wave. The sun uses the clouds to hide its face, and the clouds themselves lose their color and brightness in the face of this coming threat.
In these dark shadows will you, can you beloved reader hold on to hope that the Lord will deliver you? Can you sustain a spot of light in the darkness that has over come your heart and your dwelling?
But of course, I am being melodramatic. There is no unnatural darkness; the sun rises and sets, and the clouds blow across the sky sometimes hiding the sun and other times framing it in the sky. When darkness does come – because of nature, time and the seasons – the light returns. Why should we fear?
Because beloved reader, the darkness is not covering the mountain side but covering our hearts and souls. It is obscuring the light of love, goodness, compassion and righteousness. There is a darkness blotting out our spirit and our soul. What will we do?
“Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” (Verse 13b)
Do you believe, and believe in this beloved reader? Moreover, do want to have this darkness taken away? Do you think you deserve this darkness? Or are you worthy of being in the light of God?
“Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.
Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” (Verses 14-17)
We are at Ash Wednesday. If Transfiguration Sunday was the day we celebrated the light that is Jesus Christ, today we acknowledge the darkness that is in us. How can we hold these two things together – Christ’s light and our darkness? How can we enter into Christ’s light when our soul is dark. These are the questions that I set before us today. These are questions that I hope and pray we find answers to during the season of Lent. Selah!