The Eclipse We All Needed


Our region experienced a total eclipse on Monday. Perhaps you heard.
Hopefully, you had the chance to catch the spectacular event that took place in the heavens and here on earth. To (most) everyone’s delight, the sky cover cooperated and we were able to experience a total eclipse of the sun.
Most people’s reflections on Monday’s ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ phenomenon seemed to match my own. People noted that they got warm staring up at the sun for a couple of hours. Others remarked that the light before and after totality was eerie—as though one was looking at the world with sunglasses. You told me that the temperature dropped anywhere from 10-20 F at your locations. Many of you remarked that totality didn’t last as long as you had anticipated, and wasn’t as dark as you had expected. A few folk mentioned that the four or five minutes before totality was the most dramatic element of the event as darkness rapidly swept over the land. And many of us would see a couple of planets appear, though there was great disagreement as to what we were looking at.
Yes, all of this is ripe for spiritual analysis, metaphor and sermonizing. The darkness spread over us but it didn’t last long. True. The presence of light enables life to exist and flourish. Of course. Even when we are immersed in darkness, there’s still light to be seen. Absolutely.
The Psalmist agrees with us: “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:11-12
But there’s another observation that I’d like to make that doesn’t fit so nicely into astrological observation. For me, I was struck—and encouraged—by the unifying effect that the solar eclipse had on our community and upon our nation.
I know that I don’t have to tell you that our nation has experienced a terrible and divisive summer. Hate speech, violence, threat, and the dark and sinful shadow of racism has haunted us these past weeks and months. Fear and anger have become our sanctuaries and our reactions as a people have revealed a disdain for the Kingdom of God that Jesus heralds. Despair has become a common refrain.
That is, except for Monday. Eclipse Day found us eager to be with one another, eager to have a shared experienced, eager to look up. Momentarily cushioned from the realities of our world, we delighted in being a people together. Knowing that there was something that couldn’t be denied, spun, vilified, or argued over, most everyone in our nation was able to stop what we were doing and observe something so majestic that it took our breath away and stung our eyes with tears. Traffic was terrible. But people were kind and patient with one another. Resources were diminished and scaled back. But people were gracious with one another. Masses of people descended upon our small town representing more diversity than we could ever expect in Western North Carolina. Did that cause discord? Not one bit. Individuals who would never ordinarily associate with one another shared space on their blankets, passed around snacks and loaned protective glasses out. For a brief afternoon, I was reminded of the comradery, strength and hope that is present when we allow ourselves to focus our attention together.
Eclipse Day was a great day for us. But let’s not wait until May 11, 2078 before we experience that same unifying moment again.
There’s Kingdom Work to be done, y’all, to ensure that we won’t have to postpone shalom—peace—for 61 years. I’m ready. Who’s with me?