Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Daylight, Twilight, and Waiting for the Resurrection: John Mark McMillan, Karl Barth, and Modern Psalm for Lent

"We live on the edge

On the edge of a darkness oh

We live on the edge

On the edge of a darkness oh

But daylight is coming on" (full lyrics here)

As we draw towards Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we are indeed living on the edge of Lenten darkness and holding onto the hope for Resurrection Sunday to come. This week's Modern Psalm for Lent comes from John Mark McMillan, known mostly for his popular song sung in many congregations around the country, "How He Loves." However, "Daylight" spins a different edge and draws attention to the tension of the gospel: life and death, darkness and light, sorrow and hope, twilight and daylight, cross and empty tomb. Relevant Magazine featured McMillan a few years ago, stating:

"McMillan adds that the Church should incorporate more songs dealing with tragedy, loss and despair into its worship. He points to one of his favorites—Bruce Springsteen—as an example of someone who sings about hope to those who don’t have it." (Kevin Selders, July 2010)

Interesting. Springsteen as inspiration for liturgy and worship?

I find Karl Barth a little more helpful for framing this Lenten worship experience, who reminds us that the Christian hope and life "sometimes resembles the dawn, sometimes the end of day, but is always wrapped in twilight." (Church Dogmatics IV.3, p. 907).

So while we wait for the dawning of the new day to come, both at Easter and when Christ will return to make all things new, may we also "hasten toward it" as we live out our concern for all those whom daylight could not come soon enough:

"No, [Christians] wait and hasten toward the dawn of God's day, the appearing of his righteousness, the parousia of Jesus Christ. They not only wait but also hasten. They wait by hastening. Their waiting takes place in the hastening. Aiming at God's kingdom, established on its coming and not on the status quo, they do not just look toward it but run toward it as fast as their feet will carry them. This is inevitable if in their hearts and on their lips the petition, 'thy kingdom come' is not an indolent and despondent prayer but one that is zealous and brave." (Karl Barth, The Christian Life, 263).

May this be so, because daylight is coming on...

Read Luke 15

Thoughts to ponder

1. In what ways do you see the world around you, especially locally, "on the edge of darkness?" What would it look like to hasten towards new light alongside your neighbors there?

2. In what ways do you see the world around you reflective of God's coming light and promised resurrection? What would it look like to share these stories of hope with your neighbors?

3. In light of McMillan, Barth, and the parables of Jesus, what does it mean to engage in these sorts of discoveries and elaborate pursuits of welcome, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation? How have you experienced this kind of embrace? When have you extended the same to another?