Reflections on Easter, travel and epic eclipse


We recently celebrated the most important event in the history of Christianity. In all the decades that I have been in pastoral ministry, I always have been present with the church that I serve for all of Holy Week. This year was an exception. I received an invitation earlier this year to travel with a group from an organization called Frontier Fellowship to visit partners in ministry in Central Asia, with plans to arrive back in Ohio mid-Holy Week. I was invited to preach on Palm Sunday at a small church in a remote town in Kyrgyzstan, with a translator to Russian and by Thursday evening, after over 30 hours of travel that included a missed connection in Chicago, I was home. I was more than a bit jet-lagged, but arrived in time for our traditional Maundy Thursday Prayer and Communion gathering.

The day after my return, Christians around the globe were remembering the painful public death of Jesus on one of the most barbaric instruments of torture known in human history. At Good Friday services people sat in silence or listened in remorse or even wept as they recalled the enormity of human suffering and the great price that our Savior paid for our redemption. One of my missionary friends posted on Facebook that he joined a local church that gathered together to watch “The Passion of the Christ.” He thought he had seen the movie before and certainly knew the story, but remarked that it seemed totally new and a graphic reminder of what it cost Jesus. I was reminded of my trip, meeting courageous and loving women and men willing to suffer and die even today to share and live out the incomprehensible love of Christ that redeemed their hearts and lives.

Three of the Bible’s four gospels mention a three-hour period of darkness when Jesus died. There is a belief among Christians that an eclipse occurred during the crucifixion, although no natural eclipse on record ever lasted three hours. Luke 23:44 records the event this way: “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon for the sun stopped shining.”

Jesus tried to explain to his disciples as he entered Jerusalem that week what would be required of him, but they didn’t understand that all that happened was for a higher purpose and was the fulfillment of a plan from the beginning of time. Something occurred that dark day 2,000 years ago, that has brought light to people for centuries.

On Monday, April 8, a solar eclipse swept from Texas to Maine. Central Ohio had clear skies for the eclipse viewing window (from 3:08 to 3:19 p.m.) when the moon blocked out the sun and cast part of the Buckeye State into near total darkness. Knowing that our farm near Ostrander would be viewing the eclipse totality, we posted a Facebook invitation welcoming people to come watch the event from our home, and from camp chairs and blankets on our lawn, we looked through flimsy glasses across the pasture toward the bright sun above our flock of noisy sheep. Ewes calling to lambs and lambs calling back could be heard as we waited and the noisy cacophony included an occasional dog bark or chicken cluck. But a strange thing happened when the sun was obscured and darkness fell and all that could be seen was the ring of fire. The sheep were still, the baaing fell silent. It was eerie and quiet and reverent. For me it was as though our motley farm collection of rescues and retirees reminded us that the heavens were declaring the glory of God.

I know it will take a while for me to process all that I have seen and experienced over the past several weeks. I am grateful to have been able to see a part of the world that is so rich with Biblical history. To have walked the street of ancient Ephesus and sit in the coliseum where Paul preached was an unforgettable experience. In Istanbul, we toured the “Hagia Sophia,” which was once the most magnificent church in the Eastern Roman Empire, completed in 567 but after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, the Christian mosaics were plastered over and the sacred murals were covered with many layers of paint and it became a mosque. As the years have gone by, the paintings of patriarchs and the mosaics of Virgin Mary cradling baby Jesus and the resurrected Christ as well as ornate painted crosses and lofty angels have appeared through the chipping plaster and peeling paint. I will long remember these images.

But most of all it is the faithful people and their stories that I will never forget. Stories of dreams and divine encounters with Jesus, and life changing miracles, including experiences of persecution and protection under Soviet Rule. I am inspired by miraculous revelations of Christ’s death and resurrection. People of all ages shared their struggles to comply with the requirements of Islam, or fundamentalist religions and then finding life through the grace and mercy of Jesus. They described with tears of gratitude that they had encountered the Savior for which their heart longed. The prophet Isaiah (9:2) foretold that the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death upon them hath the light shined.

This season I have learned through my personal experiences with Jesus, from traveling in parts of the world and encountering faithful people in places where to believe is to be willing to die, and from a rare and magnificent eclipse that the light shines and gives witness to its power over darkness.

Rev. Virginia R. Teitt is director of the New Wilmington Mission Conference.

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