Day 29, April 11, 2020
“The Beauty of the Sunset”
The first thing we saw that morning was the sunset. The sun had not even risen in the sky, and yet the first thing we saw was the sunset. We were up very early, watching the morning news. Our favorite morning station gave a shoutout to someone from Westerly for capturing a beautiful picture of the sunset the night before. We’re still getting used to living in a small town, where we live in the shadow of the big cities like Warwick and Cranston and that metropolis with the State Capitol, Providence. So you can imagine when we heard the broadcaster say Westerly, we perked up. I grabbed my phone. Rewinding just a bit I came back to the sunset that was on the screen with our town’s name prominently displayed.
I think I know right where the person was when they took the picture. Looking to the west, toward Watch Hill their sunset captures all the colors that were so brilliantly displayed, and some of our most treasured landmarks were in the picture as well: The Ocean House, The Watch Hill Lighthouse, and Taylor Swift’s house. It was a classic Westerly and Watch Hill Sunset. If you want to talk to me when I get tired of seeing a beautiful sunset, you had better stick around a couple of hundred years. Who in the world ever gets tired of a beautiful sunset?
A dear friend of mine named Tom wrote a book entitled, “The Beauty of the Sunset”. Writing later in his life, the implications of a sunset go beyond simply the sinking into the horizon of that blazing ball of glory as yet another day comes to an end. The sunset also serves as a reminder that one day our life on earth will come to an end. I have not noticed it in our obituaries here in New England, but in the south, it was not uncommon to see the birth and death of a person listed as their Sunrise and Sunset. Using the image of a sunset my friend Tom wrote a book encouraging us to treasure each and every moment and day and season that life brings our way.
Sometimes sunsets hurt a bit. This past week our son Alex and his wife Tay called us sobbing to say their cute and cuddly little puppy Harley had a disease she just couldn’t lick. They were on their way to the veterinarian to put her down. Harley was just four years old. A little while later they posted on Facebook, “It’s not fair, you were only four, but we made each day count. We’re going to miss you every day our little adventure pup.” Then Wednesday late afternoon we found out one of our beloved church members, Karen Cole had died suddenly of a heart attack. Sometimes the beauty of a sunset can take your breath away. Sometimes the suddenness of a sunset can knock the wind out of you, leaving you feeling lost and alone.
Tonight, I will be thinking of both the sunsets that are beautiful and the sunsets that are heartbreaking. The sunset tonight, whether the colors burst into radiant glory or even if the clouds obscure our view, the sunset tonight is a special sunset. It is the sunset of ones who watched the sky grow dark 2,000 years ago never believing there would be anything that would ever take their breath away again. Frightened disciples and distraught women gathered as the sun set. They wept tears of agony. Their dear Lord Jesus had suffered, and died, and been buried deep within a tomb. That kind of loss colors your view of the sunset.
What none of them knew that night, as the sun set on what felt like the beginning of a life of total despair, was that by the next day when they watched yet another sunset, the world would be turned upside down. Their world would be turned upside. The sun set that Saturday on a world that was filled with bitter sadness. The next time the sun set, at the end of that miraculous Easter Day, the world would be changed forever, and for the better.
I don’t know how the sun will set for you tonight. I know of a dear family celebrating the birthday today of a daughter who is no longer with them. That is a mournful sunset. Maybe the sunset for you is sad. Maybe the sunset for you is filled with fear and uncertainty as this Coronavirus has disrupted our routines, our friendships, our church life, the economy of the world, and the health of some one million people. I don’t know how the sun will set for you tonight.
Regardless of how the sun sets for you tonight, I pray that by the time the sun sets tomorrow night, you will be reminded that death has been defeated, that sin has been forgiven, that life has burst forth from the grave, and that Jesus Christ is alive and he is with us. I hope by the time you watch the sunset tomorrow night you will know all the way to the bottom of your heart that Jesus Christ is alive. Jesus is alive in this world. Jesus is alive in your heart. Because of that there is nothing that can ever separate us from the God who holds us close in his arms of love.
There are so many beautiful sunsets in our lives. But there is no sunset more beautiful than the sunset on Easter Day, when as the sun sets, we are filled with the calm assurance that our God is alive. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
With the love of Christ,