Chasing the Sun

After spending days looking at forecasts and plotting courses that would avoid traffic jams this past Monday, my family and I loaded up the car and headed to southern Illinois to try and catch the total solar eclipse. And wow! We are so glad we did!

On our long drive back to Geneva, the whole experience had me reflecting on how celestial events like eclipses have taken on spiritual significance and meaning over the course of human history.

As Christians, these rare events hold significant theological and symbolic meanings, deeply rooted in the biblical narratives that guide our faith. At the same time, we know through science that a solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, briefly obscuring the sun’s light. This natural spectacle has fascinated humanity throughout history because the experience of it is more than a scientific explanation.

I think of how we view these events through Scripture. The biblical narrative is replete with references to the sun, moon, and stars serving as signs from God. Genesis reminds us of God’s creativity, and the eclipse becomes an invitation to recognize the rhythms of the universe as the handiwork of a meticulous Creator who orchestrates the cosmos with precision and purpose.

In the book of Joel, the prophet speaks of a day when the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the day of the LORD. While this apocalyptic imagery might seem distant, it echoes through the ages every time we witness an eclipse—an awe-inspiring reminder that the universe operates under God’s command and timetable. Such events call us to contemplate the majesty and mystery of God’s intention for creation.

Viewing a solar eclipse through the scriptures encourages us to reflect on the transient nature of human concerns against the backdrop of God’s power. Just as the eclipse transiently darkens the day, it can symbolize those moments in life when faith seems overshadowed by trials and hardships. Yet, just as the sun reemerges from the moon’s shadow, we are reminded that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” And how “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The temporary obscuring of the sun serves as a metaphor for hope, a reassurance that light and salvation will follow our darkest moments. Furthermore, a solar eclipse can symbolize the renewal of faith and commitment to God. In moments of darkness, when the familiar light of day is momentarily gone, we are invited to seek the Son, Jesus Christ, who illuminates the path to redemption. Just as a solar eclipse reveals the corona – which was so amazing to see because it’s typically hidden by the sun’s bright light—moments of spiritual darkness can reveal aspects of God’s nature and kingdom that are typically hidden from our busy and distracted eyes.

For me, the solar eclipse was also a call to stewardship of God’s creation. The eclipse highlights the delicate balances and intricate systems within God’s creation that sustain life on earth. It invites us to consider how we care for the earth’s resources, mirroring the care God shows in maintaining the cosmic order. It is a powerful reminder of our duty to ensure that our planet remains a hospitable home for all generations.

One final reflection I had while chasing the sun was the power of community. We stopped in the little town of Dieterich, IL – about 50 miles north of our anticipated destination. While stuck in traffic, locals invited us travelers to stay in their town for their watch party. The prospect of saving a few hours in the car, and since the clouds were not obtrusive, we changed plans and stayed there. The hospitality was great. The local barn band was good. The food was awesome, and the collective cheers during totality added to the whole experience. Here, the eclipse provides another metaphor for the spiritual life. These communal gatherings can reinforce the community’s connection to each other and to the divine, fostering a shared sense of wonder and devotion. This is what we experience through our worship and times of service like our upcoming Rummage Sale, Pancake Breakfast, VBS, and Swedish Days. These are ways we are like the sun, who help us illuminate our communities with God’s grace.

Chasing the ‘Son’ together,