I saw red again last night.
Many of you did, too. You stayed up until the wee hours to stand in the cold night air and stare into the sky. Well, some who are not so adventurous took an easier path and set alarm clocks for 2:00 AM and clambered out of beds to peek out their windows for a few moments before slipping between the covers again.
But you saw the red, didn’t you?
I was reminded it was during this very week only a year ago–this week that we who are followers of Christ call Holy Week–that we saw red of a different sort. It was a week of acrimony, loud with the shouts of anger and accusation between brothers, between friends. Red was everywhere as one side of the argument made their positions clear with symbols which they considered vital to their message. Others took offense. It was an ugly week, and felt not holy at all.
I thought of that, as I stood under the frigid sky last night, anticipating the red that I would see. I wasn’t prepared for the message which would be written in the heavens for all to read. Well, perhaps not many saw what I did. Oh, the images they saw would have been no different, but their significance might have varied a bit in the mind of the observers.
The day had been cloudy and overcast, a dreary, dim span of hours. But as the night approached, the clouds blew away, the whole expanse of the sky above was revealed and the full moon arose towards the south in the eastern sky.
It was a brilliant white, its rays almost piercing the sight.
As the dazzling lunar orb swung in its circuit across the sky to the west, almost it appeared that the astronomers had missed the date. There was no dimming of the brightness, no sign of anything out of the ordinary that was to come. Nothing, that is, except for a few fools who stood in the dark and cold waiting for what they believed with a certainty was to come.
And then it happened.
A shadow fell across the eastern sector of the huge, round body. Seemingly, within minutes (it was longer, I know) the whole of the moon was in darkness, eaten up by that same shadow, which consumed it from east to west.
Before long, where moments before one had seen the radiant reflection of light from the surface, all was black. That was it–black.
Not red. Black.
They had been wrong. This was no Blood Moon. There was no red to be seen. Just blackness, nothing more.
To one who had not dressed appropriately for the cold night, the wait seemed interminable. Would the scene never change? Was the anticipation for nothing? This was it? A black shadow?
|Photo: Jeannean Ryman|
No. The watchers were not to be disappointed. It was not long, a matter of minutes, until the shadow of blackness was replaced with a slight reddish glow. That glow grew and spread until all the surface of the once bright white, then dark black, moon had turned to a blood red.
If the empty blackness of the lunar eclipse had made the blood run cold, standing there in the frigid darkness the luminescent glow of the moon bathed in red made chills run up the back. I have written before of moments to be collected and saved in the memory.
This is one of those.
I won’t drag on through the rest of the event, but I do want you to consider, briefly, the sequence that ensued to return the moon to its accustomed state.
After the Blood Moon had hung in the sky for some time, the red began to recede and the dark of the original eclipse, the shadow, returned. But, before you knew it, a matter of another few moments, from the darkness, the shadow, the brilliant white orb that we have always known and expect to see in the sky emerged again.
It was clean and bright, and devoid of any sign of the dark eclipse.
For one who loves imagery and parables, the occurrence of this breathtaking event during Holy Week is invaluable. There are conclusions to be drawn from the imagery of the bright, and the shadowy, and the red moon, followed again by the pure, bright light. I want to ramble on and on about it.
I’ll move on instead.
Tonight, I still see the red.
It’s a different kind of red, though. As I sat down to write tonight, my heart weighed down with the cares of this world, I realized that it is almost Good Friday. I’m not quite sure of the historical accuracy of Friday being the day on which the crucifixion took place, but it is the day on which all Christendom pauses to consider the incredible cost of Grace.
The transaction of redemption wasn’t clean and neat; it wasn’t a simple contract signing in an office. It was messy, and grotesque, and bloody. That’s right. Blood was shed. The contract for Grace was sealed with the blood of the Son of God who said, in bright red, “For you. So that you can be with me in heaven. So that you can live in unity with each other here on earth.”
I’m seeing red.
This week, it seems that all of us who are followers of the Lamb who took away the sins of the world, could take some time to pause and consider what that means to us individually and collectively. I suggest that we might bow or kneel or stand with arms outstretched to heaven and simply be grateful that God’s mercy has reached to us in the red, red blood of His Son who died willingly for us.
The red was–and is–there to give every one of us individually the opportunity to believe. It is also there to demonstrate God’s great love for us collectively, so that we might live together in His love. Perhaps, as we kneel in gratitude, a petition that we can love our neighbors wouldn’t be out of place.
I’m seeing red tonight. It’s a red of a different type than the red I saw last night–a different red than what I saw last year during this week. And, my eyes still hurt as I consider the cost.
The tears come as I realize how far from being a loving disciple I have strayed, arguments and excuses on the tip of my tongue, as I seek to justify my sinful conduct.
I’m grateful that God sees the red, too. It is all He sees, as His Son says, “This one’s mine.”
As we approach this, one of the high and holy days in the life of the Church, I am determined to live in a way consistent with that truth. I pray that it will show in my conduct every other day, as well.
How about it? Are you still seeing red too?
“In letters of crimson, God wrote His love
On the hillside so long, long ago;
For you and for me Jesus died,
And love’s greatest story was told.”
(“Written In Red”~Gordon Jensen~Canadian born song writer)
“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners, to bring you safely home to God.”
(I Peter 3:18a~NLT)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.