Faith: It is Good

By: Rev. Kelly W. Taylor

It wasn’t early on the first day of the week,  but rather on a Tuesday. Nevertheless, the dissonance hummed as, just as on the first Easter morning, commonplace
ritual suddenly exploded into an extraordinary, profound moment the morning of March 20, 2018.

That single moment had begun some three years prior with a vision for a chapel in a promised land located just on the other side of our Jordan, the Cape Fear River.
In this chapel, all people would feel welcome, sense the spirit descending like a dove from its rafters and see the goodness of God in its beauty. Above all, this chapel would be a dwelling place for love, the kind of consuming, sacrificial love of God demonstrated by Jesus on the cross.

Hope was riding high, expectations grand. But from the first turn of dirt, vision met relentless challenge – wicked weather drowned building supplies, diminutive details became gargantuan conversations and this simple building of love hit some very complicated snags. Sound familiar? Whether dismayed disciples or capable contractors, who among us is not acquainted with a “two steps forward, three steps back” existence?

Yet, persistence and hope are woven by the Creator into human DNA. So onward and upward, a magnificent chapel grew out of a modest pile of lumber and block. Like the first Holy Week, the seven days prior to that Tuesday were rife with suffering, persecution, death and disappointment, which brings me to the story of a man named David.

Suddenly, the dark clouds opened and, like the first ray of light in Creation, as the flash that shown forth from the Empty Tomb, a shaft of light exploded down from the sky and focused directly on the cross.

David Brown was chosen to set the cross atop the chapel. Chosen in the way that Moses was chosen, David tried every way he could to pass off the job to someone else. It
boomeranged every time. The job was failure waiting to happen. David explained it this way:

“We had to drill 18 holes through a 12-inchsolid concrete block wall, with four No. 7 rebar in every cell. The three matching brackets were
13 feet, top to bottom, spaced from 6 feet to 6 feet apart centered, running along a 53-foot wall that had been built using a 4-foot level. We were sure we’d have to drill out every hole, again and again, to get it right because, let’s face it, nobody is that good. But tell me I can’t do something, and I’ll die trying. I’m stubborn like that.”

Meanwhile, we were virtually unaware that this stubborn Cyrene was already carrying the weight of the world.

In David’s case, the weight of the world wasn’t an ‘I’ve had a tough week’ kind of burden, mind you. His was a matrix few can fathom. Leading up to that Tuesday, David received the news early one morning that his brother had died suddenly of a heart attack.

Burdened with grief, he and his other brother visited with their sister-in-law, then returned home. David had barely fallen asleep when the phone rang and a voice delivered the news that his second brother, whom he had just been with earlier, had also died suddenly, the same day. Two funerals were followed by a major
contractor who didn’t show up, a transmission torn out of his work truck, a collision with a deer that totaled his car and delay upon delay on the matter of setting the cross. When David awoke that Tuesday morning, discouragement lay on his heart like a heavy stone sealing off any hope that this day would be any different from the one before.

My cellphone rang. “Reverend, we’re setting the cross now, if you want to take pictures.” I ran up the hill from the back of campus and arrived, winded, to the scene of the cross. David sat straddling the chapel peak, held by nothing except reckless abandon and the grace of God.

Because the boom could not reach the top of the cross, men shouted critical instructions from David to spotter to crane operator and back again. Diesel engines on heavy equipment sputtered and clunked, adding to the coarse scene. Wind whistled at 40 miles per hour, 20 April 2021 rolling the dark storm clouds overhead like smoke billowing from a freight train.

Throwing a rope over the cross like caution to the wind, David lassoed his target in a single remarkable attempt. His own words rang back, No one is that good! Reaching out, this cowboy pulled the cross to the brackets, and every hole (every one of them!) aligned perfectly on the first try.

Suddenly, the dark clouds opened and, like the first ray of light in Creation, as the flash that shown forth from the Empty Tomb, a shaft of light exploded down from the sky and focused directly on the cross.

Let there be light! I stood speechless, thunderstruck. In disbelief and panic, my glance jumping between camera and reality, I rubbed my eyes, cleaned the lens of the camera and scanned the crowd, wondering if anyone else saw what I did. In clear view, a laborer, the soldier keeping watch over the job, fell to the ground dropping first to his knees then lying prostrate in an amalgamation of fear and reverence. He was like a dead man, except he gushed forth praise and prayer in Spanish. His comrade knelt, too. A fellow staff member standing behind me yelled in paced words of unbelief, “Did – you – see – that?”

Dark clouds closed again. I walked to the adjacent parking lot searching for a cell signal to call Sharon and Ron Matthews, the donors whose faithful discipleship and Christ-centered stewardship made the chapel possible. I stumbled over my words as I tried to recount the theophany to them and then disconnected
the call with the explanation that a photo was worth the proverbial 1,000 words. Ron called back and detailed to me how he and Sharon had been wrestling in prayer, feeling persecution from a myriad of forces in life, and how they had prayed for confirmation of hope, of love, of direction and for peace. Let there be light.

Fellow laborers swarmed around David Brown, now on ground level, seeking a firsthand account from one closer to the sky than they. David had not seen the light, but
only felt the sudden and intense warmth of its presence – a presence sensed through the ray of light but also through the smooth and flawless execution of a job that was nearly impossible.

No one is that good. David wept at the realization that God and his brothers had made possible the impossible. Death and darkness gave way to life and light. And it was good. I essentially sprinted back to my office, anxious to recount this astonishing moment to anyone who’d listen. By the time I arrived, the events of the morning nearly overwhelmed me. I closed the door to my office and stared at the photo. Mary reasoned the risen Christ to be the gardener, and that thieves had stolen the body of Jesus. “Just tell me where you have taken him…” I reasoned this ray of light to be a burst from the cellphone camera. Except it wasn’t. I knew it in my gut. No amount of reasoning could deny that this light was from God, a confirmation, a promise realized, a blessing, God’s approval… this is good.

There were few eyewitnesses, but news of this moment at the cross spread exponentially and swiftly. The mood on the construction site changed and on the campus, too. People buzzed around talking about the light, the cross, and the photo which turned out to be a kind of further confirmation of the unbelievable. Later in the day, the construction supervisor stopped by my office to talk about what, by now, was being called a miracle. Once strangers, we were now joined by this common experience, a pair
of doubting Thomases not wanting to say too much publicly until we ourselves believed.

Questions lingered: Did this really happen? What did it mean, for me, for the campus, for our shared work, for the community? As the story spread, so did my realization that this moment was not about any single person. It was about the light, as dazzling and brilliant as rays reflecting off the new fallen snow at midday. The Light proclaimed: “It is good!” I recalled the truth of Romans 8: no height nor depth, no power on Earth below nor in heaven above nor anything else in all creation can stop the promise, purpose and love of God.

The light continues to shine through the Sharon and Ron Matthews Ministry Center.

Sunlight brings to life the individual facets of the magnificent stained-glass windows even as the light of God brings life to individuals in the community through worship, baptisms, prayer, hospitality, music, fellowship, the spoken word and, most of all, through the love of God.

God continues to say, “Let there be light,” and there is light. It is good.