I do love sunrises; especially when there are just enough morning clouds and dust particles to spread the morning sun into a palette of reds and peaches and magentas and purples that no artist can reproduce. The effect literally takes my breath; even when I know the truth in the sailors’ adage, “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.” The dramatic colors warn that a storm is on the way, but they do quicken my pulse and open my heart to the urge to praise God for the unmatchable glory and beauty of creation.
Yes, I am one of those morning people. Watching the sky imperceptibly lightening from the deep black of night into the Carolina blue of daylight sky as the stars fade out sets a peaceful tone for the rest of my day. It DOES feel like reassurance from God. Today is a new day. The night of weeping is past and gone; now is the time to gird up our loins and renew the work to make the world resemble more the kindom of heaven. To sit quietly as the dawn seeps in, watching the sun rise above the horizon does feel as like encouragement from God. But there is more to faith than sunrise.
We were studying the Hebrew Scriptures in seminary, reading the Creation stories in Genesis and the establishment stories in Exodus and Leviticus when my eyes were opened to something I had read hundreds of times before and never noticed. You see it overtly in Exodus and Leviticus as the foundation is being laid for the identity of the Jewish people, but it is also there in Genesis. These books are part of the foundation of Judaism; they lay out what it means to be a person of faith in God.
And in these works that lay the foundation, faith in God is everything. Every action of life, no matter how mundane, is an occasion for the living out of one’s faith. The center of a faithful life is to trust in God with everything, no matter what the external circumstances. Jesus summarizes this value when he says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength.” Faith in God; trust in God no matter the circumstance is at the core of this love for God.
The insight that astounded me in these Hebrew texts was that their faith was even expressed in how they measured their days.
For a morning person like me, the dawning of a new day seems the natural place to mark the beginning of the new day. In the Industrial world we live, we start the new day at midnight, since that is the hour when the fewest of us are working. But that is not where the Hebrew Scriptures mark the day.
As an act of faith, the Hebrew Scriptures mark the beginning of a new day at sunset. Not sunrise, where we witness the proof that God will send us another day, but at sunset, when our eyes tell us the day has been defeated and night has won. At sunset, when all we have to prove God will send us a new day is our trust in God. Beginning the new day at sunset is a deliberate act of faith in God, declaring our trust in God even when our eyes see what seems to be the opposite.
Thank you God, for sunrises; and for the chance to express our faith at sunset.