Scripture: Genesis 1: 14-19 and John 1: 1-9
This morning I want to share specifically with you about my lifelong love for the moon and the lessons I continue to learn from it. When I was 24, I was far from home and the moon became a fixture in the sky that I knew my family could see as well, which made them seem not so far away.
Since then I have fallen in love with the moon’s phases, consistency, and predictability. I have created what I call a theology of the moon in which I compare our spiritual lives with the moon’s phases. I have led a weekend retreat on my thoughts and want to share an overview of those thoughts and then the new lesson I learned from the recent Solar Eclipse.
In Genesis, the storytellers of the Hebrews tell us that the sun and moon were separate sources of light, one created to rule the day and one created to rule the night. In our scientific world, we have figured out how all this light works. According to Wikipedia the sun is a “nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma… consisting of helium, oxygen, carbon, neon and iron.” The moon is a permanent natural satellite which orbits the Earth. It has no light of its own. Light leaves the sun and reflects off the moon back to the earth. The earth also has no light of its own, only what it receives from the sun and the moon.
In my analogy, we are the moon, the sun is the Light (God), and the earth is everyone around us.
In John 1, Jesus is the light of the world. The source of all light and life. Just like the moon and earth, we humans have no light of our own. We receive light from the Son (S-O-N) and are reflectors of God’s light. Humankind receives God’s light from the Son and from us when we reflect God’s light. Without the Son we are in darkness.
Back to Wikipedia for more about the moon:
The same lunar surface always faces Earth. This face is variously sunlit depending on the position of the Moon in its orbit. Therefore, the portion of this hemisphere that is visible to an observer on Earth can vary from about 100% (full moon) to 0% (new moon)
The far side of the Moon always faces away from Earth. Although both sides of the moon experience two weeks of sunlight followed by two weeks of night, the far side is sometimes called the "dark side of the Moon," with "dark" meaning "unknown" rather than lack of light.
The phase of the moon is the shape of the (sunlit) portion of the Moon as seen by an observer on Earth. The lunar phases change as the Moon orbits the Earth, according to the changing positions of the Moon and Sun relative to the Earth. The descriptor waxing is used when the Moon's apparent size is increasing, from new moon toward full moon, and waning when the size is decreasing.
Just as the moon always has a side that is fully lit, The Light is always with us.
Sometimes we feel completely in the Light like a full moon. Sometimes we feel the Light waxing or waning, but regardless of how much we reflect, or feel connected to the Light, it is always there, completely. Never failing. During a new moon, when the moon looks dark to the earth, it is still completely lit up on the other side. In the same way, when we feel/reflect no Light, we are in a new moon phase, often called a dark night of the soul. While we may feel cut off from God we are still completely in God’s Light.
I recently read and highly recommend the book “Learning to Walk in the Dark” by Barbara Brown Taylor. In it she explores how to let go of our fear of the dark and to instead embrace it. Here is a short excerpt of her reflections on the darkness:
Darkness is shorthand for anything that scares me--either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I did not want to find out. If I had my way, I would eliminate everything from chronic back pain to the fear of the devil from my life and the lives of those I love. At least I think I would. The problem is this: when, despite all my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life, plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, I have not died. The monsters have not dragged me out of bed and taken me back to their lair. Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.
I have been through several dark nights of the soul and I agree there is much to be learned in the darkness.
The last piece of my metaphor involves eclipses and my definition of sin. For me, sin involves God’s light being blocked. During a lunar eclipse, the earth blocks the light we are able to see coming from the sun. In the same way, other people in our lives can block our ability to see the Light of God. During a solar eclipse, the moon blocks the light of the sun from the earth. In the same way we can block the Light of God from others.
With this analogy in the back of my mind, I went into watching the solar eclipse with anticipation and excitement. I wondered how scary the loss of light must have been for those who witnessed this sight before we could predict its coming. Since we knew what was going to happen, we could actually celebrate and appreciate the darkness as it came.
What I didn’t anticipate was the immense beauty of the corona during totality. Pictures and descriptions by people who had experienced it before did not begin to prepare me for the experience. As I have contemplated my encounter with the eclipse, I am drawn back to my analogy…. The moon blocked the sun’s light, but not completely. I can block God’s Light from others, but not completely. God is amazing and finds a way to shine around my shortcomings. Try as we might, we cannot stop God.
Now that I have new insights, I look forward to leading my retreat again someday.
Source of both darkness and light,
Thank you for giving us life.
We acknowledge that we have no light of our own,
But that we each carry your Light inside of us.
Thank you for showing us how to be light to others,
Help us sit in the darkness without fear.