By Marty Norman
Last Easter I attended my first Good Friday “Tenebrae” at a local Bible Church. What a powerful experience! According to Wikepedia Encyclopedia, “Tenebrae” is a Latin word meaning shadow or darkness. A Christian service in the Western Church, it is celebrated in many traditions from Roman Catholic to Episcopalians to Protestants. Taking different forms, the common denominator involves a gradual extinguishing of candles while readings and psalms are chanted or sung. As the candles are extinguished the auditorium is left in total darkness.
What a visual picture of a spiritual truth. Without the light of Christ to permeate the dark, all truth and hope are blotted from view – total darkness.
I don’t know how many of you have ever been in total darkness. I have, and it is scary.
There is a train in Europe that runs between Austria and Italy. For a fee, a car can make a reservation on the back of the flatbed train. By taking a shortcut through the mountains the train winds through a dark tunnel. In the convenience of one’s car, the drive is shortened by hours, much like a ferry on water. I knew that tunnels were dark. But inside the car, on top of that flat bed train, I wasn’t prepared for such darkness. At one point I had to turn the light on just so I could get my bearings. The whole experience was disorienting.
Isn’t that how we are in the middle of the spiritual journey? When we are in a dark place, it is darker than we anticipated. Often we become confused and disoriented. We lose our way. Yet God is the engineer of our train. With his skills and omnipotence, he can navigate us through any tunnel. We just have to trust, knowing that we are in good hands, for he has promised light at the end of the tunnel.
What a good word for the 21st century, especially those of us who are facing family issues or family crisis, dark tunnels we did not anticipate. As we move onto the 21st century track, the totality of this current darkness that we call the world, might overwhelm us.
The world is, indeed, a dark place. Only through Jesus and the indwelling of his Holy Spirit will light come back into this place. Only by turning on the power source are we able to get our bearings, to reorient ourselves to truth. For those of us who are his, with his grace and plan for redemption and his resurrection power, we have the opportunity to be the lights of the world. We are his hands, eyes, feet, and mouth.
No matter how small our effort, we bring his light into a dark world. Only by listening to the heart of the father are we able to help the lambs who have been placed in our care, even in the darkest of tunnels. And make no mistake. The tunnel is darkening. But unlike the Tenebrae, the Christ light will never be extinguished for he has risen, he has risen indeed!
So here’s to tunnels, light, and flatbed trains. Salvation secures a reservation on the train. As permanent riders and passengers we can each take responsibility for seeing that our families and friends have a ticket. Sharing the good news of the gospel, witnessing to our own testimonies and experience help encourage others to make reservations on the train. No amount of darkness can extinguish this eternal light.
All aboard! Full Steam ahead! Get on the train for the train of light is on the move!