A Call In the Night
The following is a slightly modified version of the cover letter to November’s Presbytery meeting. I provide it here in hope that it will benefit a wider group of readers than Presbytery commissioners alone.
On November 2nd in Placentia, Uli Chi, the guest preacher for Tobin Wilson’s installation service, observed, “God often calls us in the night.” It was an “aha moment” for me.
The Bible has notable references to God’s nighttime communications: over a hundred verses mention dreams (see Num. 12:6), and other times the message is a “word” (I Chron. 17:3). But some moments are easy to miss. When Elijah spent the night on Mt. Carmel, then the word of the LORD came to him (I Kings 19:9).
As I thought about Dr. Chi’s comment, I found myself wondering why God speaks at night. Are we more likely to hear—because our minds quiet down, or because the darkness reminds us of our limits? Or is it less about our experience than something intrinsic to the character of God, who spoke light into darkness, at both the Creation and the Incarnation?
Honestly, I didn’t make much progress on my questions. But I was encouraged.
For if God speaks: when we are less self-confident; when we once thought we saw the path clearly but now the light is dimmer; when we’ve paused to reorient ourselves; when we realize we need a rest—if God speaks in such moments, then perhaps you and I can take hope when we say to each other, “I’m a bit in the dark right now.” Perhaps then God’s Word will break through.
That encourages me. After all, the Presbytery faces a time of enormous transition. Our church configurations are shifting. Our staff roles are in flux.
And the transition is deeper and broader than our presbytery alone. Throughout the country, the relationship of the church to society is changing dramatically, and churches struggle to adjust. Throughout the denomination, presbyteries and synods ask how they should reconfigure in order to serve their congregations.
The landscape of faith, in other words, grows more and more unfamiliar. Sure, you can find plenty of advice in the Christian bookstores. But I’d submit to you that the church in America is still in the dark.
But if Dr. Chi is right, then being in the dark is a blessed moment. We have before us not a time for fear, but an opportunity to listen quietly for the voice of God—and perhaps even to hear it.
Somewhere along the Way—