I have been thinking about sunsets lately. You see, I posted on Facebook recently a photo of a sunset that proved to be incredibly popular among my Facebook friends. I took it last August from a small park in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, near to where our family had the indulgent blessing of owning a small house for twenty years. We sold that house last summer, and during our last time staying there, I walked to this small park about a block away as the sun was setting, not just on another day of my life, but in some ways on a chapter in the life of our family. We had spent so many happy days there as our kids grew up and family visited, but now, our kids are grown and are building their own lives, which is the whole deal when you become a parent. And some of the family that used to visit with us there has died. I knew that a chapter in our lives was ending that August evening, and while it was sad, that sunset served as a reminder that there was also something beautiful in it at the same time—beautiful memories, to be sure, but also a beautiful promise that, while we could not really see what was coming next, we could trust the One who held us through all the previous chapters of our lives, all our yesterdays.
This past year has been brutal. We have lost so much—people we love, special celebrations of milestones that will never happen again, our innocence about how deeply the racism runs in our society. It seems like a chapter has closed for us collectively, because even as things around us “re-open,” it seems to be clear that we are not simply going back to how things were before the pandemic began. Some things have changed permanently, which makes a sunset a particularly important image for our times, it seems to me, because a sunset marks a real ending. A day ends. A chapter closes. We cannot go back simply to what was. And yet, a sunset also offers a promise, it seems to me, that there will be the light of a new day. And even though we cannot yet see that new day’s light, we can trust the One, who paints the sky so beautifully at the end of each day, no matter how sad it has been—we can trust this One to be with us through whatever is next.
–Pastor Don Steele