In the book of Exodus, the 10thh chapter, Moses confronts Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, with ten plagues delivered by God to force Pharaoh to release the children of Israel from their slavery. The Nile River turned to blood, flies, locusts, and frogs confronted the entire nation in dramatic events. After each of these plagues, Pharaoh relents but ultimately hardens his heart and refuses to let Israel go. The ninth plague brings emotional pressure beyond the physical. The 21st verse of the 10th chapter states that the next to the last epidemic was a plague of darkness. Moonlight did not shimmer on the water, and the faint light of twinkling stars ceased. Without light, the entire nation faced the terrifying curse that God delivered to this point.
Those who live in the city cannot begin to grasp how frightening total darkness is. When I visited my ancestral home in rural Virginia, I experienced complete darkness. There were no streetlights or traffic lights, and the only light one occasionally glimpsed was the headlight of an infrequent truck or car.
On this the first Sunday of Black History Month, I want to make the case that a plague of darkness infects our land. Historically black colleges and universities received the bitter breath of bomb threats to commemorate the beginning of this month, which ultimately proved to be hoaxes. Still, the psychological damage of living with the dread and danger of violence unnerved students and parents alike. When President Biden announced his recommendation for the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy of Justice Breyer, right-wing racist bigots began to decry that an appointment of a Black would be reverse racism. Bigoted voices from Fox News gleefully struck the hate-filled posture that seared the nation in the 19th century and ultimately caused the Civil War. This plague of darkness buttressed by unapologetic bigotry from the majority culture is every bit as dangerous as the psychological and moral failures of the nation that led to the deaths of 600,000 American soldiers, both Union and Confederate, during the Civil War.
Our churches must model what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taught us, that is, to resist the darkness of hatred with every ounce of our being. Notice that God provided the Hebrew children with light in this plague of darkness. I believe this text from Exodus inspired one of the classic spirituals from our ancestral past, “This little light of mine I’m going to let it shine. Everywhere I go, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”