Eclipse brings more than moment of darkness

By Becky Spell Vann - Contributing columnist
Sonshine Kids at the Learning Station enjoyed looking at a piece of history last week when they viewed the solar eclipse of 2017. -
The solar eclipse last week, for some, is more than just a few minutes of darkness, but a sign of things to come. -

Do you think the great American solar eclipse we witnessed this week was a wink and/or a warning from God?

Was it a red letter day you prepared for with anticipation? This story stirred while listening to powerful sermons by an Australian preacher and my pastor, Dr. Ray Ammons, on the eve of the eclipse.

Enjoying early morning time at home before dressing for church, my phone beeped with a message from a dear friend that said, ‘please read’! So, I sat down at my kitchen table and read an email endorsed by Anne Graham Lotz. One hour later, I rose from my chair in awe of an Australian preacher’s sermon, “American Solar Eclipse – A Warning from God”!

My journal was filled with notes from the message; my heart was filled with wonder and weariness ‘for such a time as this’ in our nation — in the world God created. The preacher linked signs in the sky to happenings throughout history. The message in Matthew 16:4 points to evil times when people were seeking signs not Jesus. The sign of Jonah shows the power of running from and obeying God. Jonah did not want to warn the nation of Ninevah, so he fled and found himself in the belly of the whale.

The rest of his story intrigues with Jonah finally heading to Ninevah to preach God’s word and warn the people to change their ways. A total solar eclipse went over Ninevah before Jonah arrived with a word from God. Aug. 21, 1914, a total solar eclipse crossed over eastern Europe shortly after the outbreak of World War I. America had a total solar eclipse on June 8, 1918 along with a flu epidemic that killed thousands. On April 8, 2024 another total eclipse is predicted to cross America and turn day into darkness. Are these signs that have deeper meaning when we study God’s word?

Will God judge America? In 1831 a French historian was sent to America to study the prosperity of our nation. He wrote, “America is great because America is good!” He noted the importance of powerful sermons preached from pulpits and unity among people.

His study concluded, “When America stops being good, she will cease being great.” Has America turned her back on what is good? His serious sermon provided much food for thought and scripture to study. His conclusion consoled, “God controls signs. What can we, as a people, do? We can leave timing in God’s Hands but be ready every day for His return or to be called Home.

Be nicer – kinder – blunt if needed – stand up for Jesus. Take every opportunity – help others – be prepared – study the Word – look up – and love one another.” Feeling sad and happy, I dressed in silence while pondering the preacher’s words about signs God sends and looking up instead of down. Driving to church, I wondered if my pastor would talk about the solar eclipse!

Our Sunday school lesson, taught by the son of a couple in our class, paralleled with the preacher from Australia’s sermon. Joel emphasized the humility of the woman who asked Jesus to have mercy on her and help her demon possessed daughter. His teaching gave a new perspective on this simple but profound story in Matthew 15. Her pleas for help and large faith did not go unnoticed by Jesus. The story shows Jesus’ love for all people, his disciples lack of patience for the woman who was looked down on and bothered them with her begging, the woman’s humility even when name calling (in verse 26) could have caused hostile reactions (like we witness on constant newsfeeds ), and Jesus healing her daughter because of her humble nature and large faith.

Before closing my Bible, I read the first part of chapter 16 in awe. The same scripture in the Australian preacher’s sermon screamed like a sign from my Living Bible. “This evil, unbelieving nation is asking for some strange sign in the heavens, but no further proof will be given except the miracle that happened to Jonah.” Then Jesus walked out on them! Jonah’s story is much greater than being swallowed by a whale and being spit out with assurance he was to be obedient to God’s calling. Signs preceded Jonah’s obedience to go to Ninevah and warn the people to turn from their evil ways. Being led to Matthew 16:4 twice within the hour was compelling! Are God’s warnings to American going unnoticed?

Our worship service confirmed the stirring for this story. Pastor Ray began the children’s sermon asking the children if they knew how to wink? He told them God shows things in the sky for us to know He loves us. Sharing about the eclipse with wee ones trying their best to wink was wonderful. His short sermon settled in my heart with an image of God winking at us through signs in the sky. I thought of King David being the ‘apple of God’s Eye’ and knew he received many winks. Words from the Australian preacher surfaced as we sang a hymn, “Those who love Jesus get many signs.”

Dr. Ammons’ sermon began with reading from 1 Kings 17. He shared about Elijah, the prophet, who told King Ahab there would be no rain for several years and Elijah’s obedience to do what the Lord said, even going to a village to be fed by a widow with no flour or cooking oil; yet, she believed God would provide.

When her son died, God worked a miracle and her son became alive as did her faith. She believed that what happened was from the Lord. Then, my pastor, shared with great humility how he came to be where he is today, how God guides us and grows our faith when we believe and love one another along the way.

He encouraged us to look up in the sky with wonder as the moon covers the sun and see God winking at us as a sign of His love. My heart raced as we sang the closing song and ushers passed the offering plate. When I shook my pastor’s hand, I shared how his sermon touched me and asked if he thought the eclipse was a warning from God to get prepared? He humbly smiled and said, “We should be prepared every day.” His words warmed my heart with assurance that Jesus loves us and filled His Word with signs to love Him completely – with heart, mind and soul, to love one another – loving our neighbors as ourselves, and even loving our enemies.

Driving home, I pondered on the state of affairs in hearts, homes, heads of state, and nations on the planet God created for His children — red and yellow black and white! Words from the early morning sermon surfaced, “Has America turned her back on God and what is good. Is even the good side faded?” Revelation warnings came to mind – a time will come when what is wrong will seem right and what is right will seem wrong, seasons will seem the same, people’s ears will be closed up, brothers will turn against brothers. Still, God says, “I am standing at the door, constantly knocking. If anyone hears and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with Me. “

Feeling forlorn, I thought of words from every message I had heard on the eve of the eclipse…Stop looking down at things of the world. Look up and see the signs of God our Creator and Christ our Savior who loves deep and wide and says in Revelation, “Let all who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” God simply wants us to love Him first, honor, obey, enjoy a close relationship with Him, love others, help people in need, and keep Him in the center of our lives. Hate, deception, anger, pride, unforgiving hearts, calloused hearts, evil in any form or fashion is not pleasing to God and puts His children in danger of living “in a place where He is not’ for eternity!

Sitting at my kitchen table again, eating a bowl of cereal for Sunday lunch, I looked around the room and felt the love of the Lord and loved ones envelope me with warmth and comfort like cozy gloves on a cold day. Out of nowhere, a red letter day in 1971 popped in my mind with me standing on the stage at Clement High School singing a song about love. The message in that song is more real today than ever, “Take a good look around and if you’re looking down, put a little love in your heart. And the world will be a better place — for you and me — you just wait and see…Put a little love in your heart”!

Is God warning America to turn back to Him and put love in hearts where hate rages and sin reigns? Is God winking through signs that only He can send that show how much He loves all His children of the world?

As I write, a summer storm rages with sounds and signs that only our Creator could send. Looking outside my window, a spectacular lightning show flashes across our sky while people in Texas prepare for a hurricane to hit their home sweet home. Is He warning through climate patterns and natural disasters? Is He winking through sunrises and sunsets that take our breath away? Thoughts of the beautiful signs He sends every day in our skies consume. The beauty of cloud formations, perfect timing of the rising ball of fire that gives light and warmth to His world, stars shining in brilliant harmony, breathtaking sunsets with glorious hues, and a spacious Carolina blue sky are surely signs that He loves and looks after me and you!

Therefore, the great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 could have been a wink of love to warn us that time is short and being prepared is wise! Let’s look up for a wink from God and put a lot of love in our hearts!

Sonshine Kids at the Learning Station enjoyed looking at a piece of history last week when they viewed the solar eclipse of 2017. Kids at the Learning Station enjoyed looking at a piece of history last week when they viewed the solar eclipse of 2017.

The solar eclipse last week, for some, is more than just a few minutes of darkness, but a sign of things to come. solar eclipse last week, for some, is more than just a few minutes of darkness, but a sign of things to come.

By Becky Spell Vann

Contributing columnist