An election year seems to bring its share of doom and gloom.
It often appears that those running for office (and those who make their living talking about them) would rather highlight the negatives of the opponent or issue than emphasize the positives. The temptation for most of us is to follow suit.
Of course, a strong argument can be made for these being dark times. The economy has taken a dramatic hit, and it seems that crisis looms everywhere one looks in the world. In my own home state of Washington, the people of God are being confronted with a shifting culture that is rapidly moving away from what many believe to be God’s idea of human flourishing. Though the situation is pressing, it shouldn’t be a surprise.
In 1459, Italian painter Andrea Mantegna completed his work depicting the darkest moment that history would ever know: Christ's crucifixion. What better image could portray the darkness of the world than the story told in this week's reading, Mark 14–Luke 3?
Mantegna covers the entire scene portrayed in Mark 15. The two robbers are present. Mary Magdalene and Salome are consoling the mother of Jesus. Some of the soldiers are bartering over the garments belonging to the Messiah. At the center of Mantegna’s painting is Christ crucified, the Son of God treated as a criminal and bearing the weight of all of our sin.
Yet, the painting tells another story as well. On the far right edge there is another man. The centurion sits on his horse, his face turned toward Jesus. Mantegna is attempting to portray the very moment of conversion for this soldier, the point at which he says, “Truly this man was the son of God!” (Mark 15:39, NKJV).
Just as with the centurion, it is precisely during times like this—the darkest of hours—in which the light of the world shines on people's souls.
It seems to me that we have a decision to make. We can choose to mirror the vitriol and rancor of those who would declare this epoch a lost one. We can elect to parrot those who would rant and sow words of despair. Or, we can be a people of hope.
Are we not that people? Are we not the very ones on whom the light of Christ has shone? Yes, of course we are. May we then be a restorative, truthful and loving people who walk boldly into this bent world with the knowledge that it is in those dark streets that the everlasting light shines.
By: Russ Schlecht, senior pastor of Living Word Fellowship (Oak Harbor II) in Oak Harbor, Wash.
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