On Saturday night, the eve of 9/11, Highlands Church splurged and rented two 100,000 watt beacon lights to cast two sovereign beams into the night sky to commemorate and to give homage to the events of 9/11. The original purpose that the church rented these lights, and made this investment was simply to offer a quiet but meaningful commemoration of the lives lost on 9/11, and to help people connect the church to a relevant expression of people's pain, and a potential place for hope. Little did we know what an incredible experience it would be in connecting people in the community to the light of Christ...in helping people to follow the light.
Promptly at 8:00PM, like the starting of an antique engine of an old model T Ford, the two huge beacon lights were started up, and turned on. Almost at once they sent light beams into a seeming cosmic soup of mist and night sky. From my own house, almost two miles away from the church, I could see the lights cutting through the blackness of the night, like some great peace offering, or a covenant made by some patriarchal tribe from my faith system's past. As the lights started up I could almost hear the Hebrew words, ""CARAT BAREEAT" (cut a covenant) being emitted from their source. Later that evening, people as far away as Creston (15 miles) and Bradley (20 miles) would tell me that they too could see the lights from their own front porches. My own daughter, just 3 years old, squealed with delight at seeing the lights that evening, completely unwitting of what they symbolized or the reason that they existed for the tragedies of 9/11.
But here was my favorite part of the experience. When I arrived at the church at 8:30 to prepare for the memorial service that we would hold there (for the handful of people who would come) there was an incredibly powerful and very organic commotion of energy. It seemed that people from everywhere, every country road and cowboy hamlet around the church, were driving towards the light. I personally witnessed a tow-truck company employee drive up in his rig, get out of the cab of his truck, pull out his cell phone and take a picture of the twin beacons. I saw a cable company utility man pull his van right up next to the church and roll down his window, and peer at the lights for at least fifteen minutes, before wiping the tears from his eyes and driving away. My favorite sight were the image of two high school kids, gang-like in their attire and demeanor, jumping out from two bushes near the church, glancing up at the lights, and then running away, like children who had just tagged an opponent on an elementary school yard and saying - "you're it."
Here's a text that I have been pondering: "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his STAR in the east, and we have come to worship him." (Matt:2:2)
Maybe the gospel of Christ really is as simple as shooting up two twin beams on a Saturday night, in the middle of a field, and seeing who gathers. Maybe it is as basic as helping people to see something that is full of light, and God-filled, and redemptive, and transformative, that they have never seen before. Maybe our jobs as Christ followers really are about cutting through the darkness of the places in which we live, and offering hope. Maybe it is all about helping people to just...follow the light.
All For Now,