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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Mary C. Earle

Thursday, May 7

I call upon you from the ends of the earth
with heaviness in my heart;
set me on the rock that is higher than I.
—Psalm 61:1

At the time of the commemorations of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I saw some amazing footage on a news program. On videotape taken by an amateur from within the dome in New Orleans, people were called to song by one man. Amid the stench and the despair, amid the dying and the dehydrated, he began singing, This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. He was joined by others. Many others.

They began circling through the inner hallways of the dome, singing in the midst of utter chaos and deprivation. They were calling upon God from the ends of the earth. They were calling on one another to shine in that pit of darkness. They were evoking in each other the call to be neighbors, not enemies. Circling in the hellish atmosphere of fear and mistrust, the singers called on others to join in, to walk with them if possible. To sing no matter what.

How do we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? The temptation is always to put up our harps, as Psalm 138 says. And yet the song—whatever that song may be—has the potential to recall us to our deeper identity, even in the direst of circumstances. It does not necessarily change the immediate circumstance. It does potentially transform our response to the circumstance.

The situation in the dome was one in which people could become beasts instead of human beings. The song reminded people that we are called to bear light in the worst of darkness—not our own light, not light of our own making, but the Light of Christ, the uncreated Light from which the whole creation springs.

No matter what the darkness, one person beginning a song—whether actually or figuratively—can change the whole dynamic. If two or three join in, things change. If a chorus begins to build, even in the presence of death, hope may become real and embodied. We may become neighbors. We may learn each others' names. We may become something other than beasts.

On the documentary, the person who was reflecting on this moment in the dome was clearly moved and mystified. He had witnessed something of God in the midst of the worst. There was this mysterious moment of grace. In the darkness. In the deepest fear. In the moment when it would be so very easy to turn on one another and lose the very humanity Jesus bore.

Grant us, gracious God, the courage to sing a new song, even when the darkness threatens and we forget that we belong to You. Amen.

The Signposts for May originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.