Preaching: Rebecca A. Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, June 26, 2016
Scripture Reference: Genesis 1:1-19, Daniel 2:17-23
Sermon: All My Days: Night and Day
My dad has more than enough night lights in his house. There is at least one light for every room, but then last week as we were preparing for bed my dad was strategically placing lights all over the place so that the kids would be able to find their way if they woke up. There were lights in the hall, two at straights, through the living room. My dad was not going to have his grandkids feeling afraid or lost.
The truth is that many of us fear the darkness, of not being able to see or know where we are at or where we should be going. We don’t have very good connotations of the darkness. It is something we fear. It is why we say things like, “I feel like I am in the dark on this.” In times when we don’t feel like we know something, when we feel in the dark, we feel vulnerable, like we can be taken advantage of or hurt in some way. We feel out of control, not knowing where we should be going or what we should be doing. The darkness isn’t something we value, but a place of struggle, of chaos.
In our lives those can be moments when we are struggling with our children, not sure how best to help them with their trouble they’re having in school, or how to nurture them to be confident and able to navigate the many pressures they feel. Sometimes the struggles we have are with relationships in our lives: how to move past hurts and patterns of behavior that aren’t healthy, how to love someone and be present with them without enabling poor choices and lifestyles. Many in our society struggle with finances, fearing they don’t have enough to retire, struggling to pay off debts. Young adults are struggling to become independent as they face high costs to live on their own, as they try and find a job path that is meaningful. We all have struggles, these moments of wrestling in our lives, times that feel like chaos, where we just want some clarity, some answers to help us figure things out; and hopefully, it comes before things get any worse, any more stressful. We are longing for something to shed light on our darkness.
Only darkness isn’t bad. It has value. In fact, I recently heard we need complete darkness when sleeping; it allows us a deeper, more restorative sleep. Even our scriptures today help us to see the value of darkness, to know there is nothing to fear in the darkness. In Psalm 139, we hear even in the darkness God is there. “Even darkness is not dark to God,” the psalmist says, for God is present and able to fully be God. There is nothing, even the darkness, that can stop the work of God.
We hear clear witness to that in the creation story. Even in the darkness, when there seems to be nothing, God still sees the possibilities. Even in the darkness God is at work, creating, bringing forth light. The darkness is not bad; it holds possibilities. God is in fact pleased by what comes out of the darkness – a whole new creation.
But in that chaos, in those struggles, we fear the void, the unseen. Only as the story attests, God gives us signs, lights to mark the way, to tell us where we are, to even know the time it is. God brings forth light so we can see.
It’s true not just in the work of creation, but our lives. Daniel, for example, finds himself in a challenging position. The king, on a rampage, has threatened the lives of all wise men because they are unable to not only interpret the king’s dream but tell him what the dream was. One after another they tell the king this is too hard a task. They tell him it is impossible. They just need a little more information.
Does that not sound like us in times of struggle? We feel like we are in over our heads. We desperately want some clue. It all just feels like too much.
Only Daniel hears what is happening, and he steps forward. He goes to the king and asks for more time. And then, Daniel becomes a model for us. He shows us how to respond in times of struggle. He goes to his friends and he asks them to join him in praying for God’s help. He asked God to show him what he needed to know. And God did. That night in a vision God reveals to Daniel what the king needed to hear; God sheds light on the mystery. Daniel breaks forth in songs of thanks and trust acknowledging God sees in the darkness, bringing forth light so we, too, can see.
Our prayer bead for today, like the story of Daniel, reminds us to turn to God in prayer when we are struggling. It invites us into a time of naming our struggles, naming the places where we need answers and direction, and then waiting; but not just any waiting. Waiting with anticipation that God will shed light on our darkness. Waiting with trust that God will answer; waiting with openness to see the sighs that God puts before us. It is so easy to get frustrated and feel like God is not there helping us, but our readings remind us God is there, and God is bringing forth light.
It’s interesting to me that there is something about the darkness of the night that draws out my sermons. I have certainly written during the day, but there is something about the night in which my thoughts flow more freely for my sermon or a dance I am choreographing. Only there are still those nights when I feel like I am beating my head against the wall, my mind feeling empty. I can’t tell you the number of times I have gone to bed on a Friday feeling completely frustrated and at a loss about what to say. I go to bed praying, asking God for help, for direction, for inspiration, and so many times I awaken remembering things from my dreams that bring insight and understanding or even at times being in a state of sleepy wakefulness during which I am laying there writing my sermon. Out of the darkness, in visions of the night, God has guided me through my struggles.
Sometimes the answers don’t happen overnight. Sometimes it can be weeks, months, even years before we find our way forward out of our struggle. But our prayers aren’t for an overnight answer. It may be our wish, but our prayer is to see the light. Maybe it is even a prayer asking that we might better see signs God is offering, whether it be answers or assurance that God is present. Our prayers are acts of hope, of faith that as we name our struggles, as we ask God for help, God will bring forth light and understanding.
The darkness of our lives, the struggles we face may feel overwhelming, but the good news we have heard today is God is there. God is not overcome by the darkness; rather, God is at work, even there, creating and bringing forth light for all to see.