When the Sun Stood Still

In the tenth chapter of the book of Joshua, there is an account of a battle, aided by the observation that the sun and moon stood still for the day. Lots of ink has been spilled trying to figure out what happened. For my purposes here, I want only to reference that description. When one thinks of the sun standing still, probably the closest one comes to envisioning something such as that is a total solar eclipse. Ah, we went one whole day without having to see the word "eclipse" and I spoiled it. Well, bear with me because I want to make a point. On Monday afternoon, I walked up onto the main quad on our campus, and there were literally hundreds of students and faculty and staff, all chattering excitedly, some with small telescopes, many with the now famous eclipse glasses. There was an air of celebration and everyone seemed caught up in the moment. That quadrangle is also the place where several demonstrations and protests have taken place over the past couple of years, in reaction to some of the racial and justice issues that have pervaded our national life recently. There is a similarity between those two gatherings on our campus: both brought people together. In my own life, I have to think back several decades to find a time when people and politics were as polarized as they are right now, in America, and beyond. I think gatherings such as the one occasioned by the eclipse are important, because they help bring us together in a festive atmosphere to celebrate an event, and social barriers come down, to some degree. Hopefully, when other gatherings are necessitated by local, national or world events, some of those bonds established earlier will encourage us to come together to support those who feel marginalized or affected by perceived injustices. World peace will not come because we spent a few minutes with others marveling at our natural world. But perhaps the memory of such moments, when the "sun stood still" however briefly, will help us be less resistant to assembling for less comfortable gatherings, when our presence really matters to those who may feel alone or threatened. Those simple moments illuminated with the pure pleasure of just being together do not get the attention that they deserve: they are Sabbath time for us. We are refreshed and reminded of our common humanity and obligation to build up, not tear down, the community that God created us to be.

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