• Paul Coulter

As long as the earth endures

Hi! So, I’ve finally decided to start blogging. I’ve no idea how often I’ll post here or how long I’ll keep this up, but I thought today was a great day to begin. Why? Because it’s the first day of Spring and we’ve just had a solar eclipse. These things together got me thinking.

I love the turning of the seasons. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter all have their charms – each has a beauty of its own. I’ve been particularly enjoying the coming of Spring this year, though. Somehow the lengthening of the days, the brightening of the skies and the (admittedly stop and start) increase in temperatures has been speaking powerfully to me of the potential for fresh beginnings. Some weeks ago the snowdrops poked their heads above the soil in my front garden, followed at a respectable distance by the miniature narcissi planted beside them. I’m still waiting for the daffodils to open and the trees to bud, but nature tells me that Spring is certainly coming and now our calendars tell us it has arrived! God has built the seasons into the pattern of our world and into the rhythm of our lives. I married a wife who grew up in a tropical country without seasonal changes and I’ve often tried to imagine how different life must be without the waxing and waning of the sun and the apparent death and rebirth of trees. No more ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD) for starters!!! But at the same time, don’t the seasons challenge us to think of the passing of time through our lives?

Our pagan ancestors feared as the days shortened that the sun might never return – winter filled them with dread and equinoxes and solstices were portentous events. They didn’t know that the Creator had made a promise many years before to a family who clambered off a boat that had shielded them through the most cataclysmic event in human history. As Noah stood bespattered by blood and ashes, God ‘smelt’ the fragrance of his offerings and promised (Genesis 8:22):

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.

There will be a day when the earth will pass away, but it will not come until God has decreed it, and is not this day (at least not so far)! The seasons are a sign of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. God is in control – history is in God’s hands! So, then, what of the eclipse? What struck me about it was the sheer power of the sun. Although where I am here in the north of Ireland the eclipse was supposed to be 93 or 95% total, we weren’t plunged into pitch darkness. Yes, the sky darkened a little, but even a few per cent of the sun was more than enough to light the way. Eclipses also used to be read as portents by the ancients and even my modernistic mind found the experience somehow ominous, or perhaps awe-inspiring. Such reminders of my smallness and how little I comprehend of the workings of the universe are welcome – like a shake in my drowsiness. As I walked my children to school, I was waiting for the eclipse but observing the ingenuity of mankind in the buildings we passed and the cars that passed us. We may be tiny – puny in the face of the sun’s power (my son even asked what makes the sun so hot and I struggled to explain nuclear reactions to him!) – but we are still wonderful in our creativity and ability to bring order to the world. Even the fact that the news was able to tell me when the eclipse would be there and how long it would last is evidence of the astounding potential of science. The facts that we live in an orderly world and that our minds have the ability to figure out its workings are powerful pointers towards the fact that our universe is not the product of random chance, but an intricately designed wonder. How much more is that true of our minds! The experience of a few minutes of relative darkness this morning drew my mind to an account of a period of a few hours of darkness, recounted in the Gospels that tell of Jesus’ death. As he hung on the cross the sun was darkened for three hours. No eclipse this – the maximum duration of eclipses is a few minutes and they can’t happen during a full moon (Jesus died at Passover, which is always a full moon). This supernatural darkness was a sign – one which the Old Testament prophet Amos (5:18-20) associated with God’s wrath and judgement . At that point in human history God’s Son was under God’s judgement, not for his own wrongdoings, but for ours. He willingly bore our sins, taking our punishment so that we could be forgiven, dying our death so that we could live. This was the real turning point of history. Our world is glorious, but it is not perfect. Our minds are awesome, but they are also flawed. Only through the darkness of the cross could the world be restored. In the cross we see the power of God, compared to which power of the sun, indeed the collected power of all the millions of stars in our universe, pales into insignificance. Power not only to create and sustain the universe and all life within it, but also to forgive sins and restore lives that are broken. Easter is just around the corner. Spring is here. The sun was eclipsed this morning, but only for a moment. At the cross God’s Son (forgive the pun) was eclipsed, but only for a moment. His work was done – He was victorious. Now He is risen, with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2). There is hope because Jesus died and rose again. I pray that you will join me on this journey of faith in the living Son of God. I hope any posts I make in future on this blog will challenge and encourage you. May you know God’s blessing today!

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