Walking Through the Dark Valley

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Psalm 23:4a

I memorized Psalm 23 as a child in Vacation Bible School. Newer translations change the wording on the 4th verse some. But, whether translated as:  “darkest valley,”valley as dark as death,”or “deepest darkness,” . . . The psalm writer and we know a dark valley, when we tarry there. We know how fear creeps in.

Otis Moss III is the senior pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The church had previously been served by well known and even famous pastors. But, within a few months of his arriving, the church was in an uproar. At this year’s (2022) gathering of the Festival of Homiletics, he related the story of his early time there. False stories and rumors spread about the former pastor and the church. Trinity became the center of controversy, when one of its members, Barack Obama, announced he was running for president. Out of context clips of their previous pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, were shown on You Tube, edited to create anger and resentment against the church and its members.

Both the church and Moss’s family received death threats, every day for at least a year, about forty threats a day. Coming in the form of emails, letters, phone calls . . . they warned of death, destruction and bombings. The church had to hire twenty-four hour security. Moss said, “I got no sleep. Every little sound would wake me up. I wanted my children to have a normal childhood. Every time I heard a sound, I would ask myself, is this the night I will have to confront someone who was trying to take my family’s life?”

One night, after hearing sounds in the house, he walked around the house, checking every room and every door, every creak. Eventually, he realized the sound was coming from his little daughter’s bedroom.

As he opened the door, there was his little girl spinning around dancing. “Daddy,” she said, “I’m dancing, look at me. Look daddy, I’m dancing.” He told her, “It’s 3AM, you need to go to sleep. She was practicing for her ballet recital.”  She said again, “Look Daddy I’m dancing.”

Once more he started tell her again, to go to bed, but before the words were out of his mouth, he paused and simply watched her, while words formed in his mind, “Look at your daughter. She’s dancing in the dark. The darkness is all around her, but the darkness is not inside of her. You need to learn how to dance in the dark.”

Then Otis Moss III told those gathered, (and those of us watching online) . . . “There will be moments of darkness, but please do not let it inside of you. Learn how to dance in the dark.”

Our Psalm writer walked through dark valleys, even the valley of the shadow of death, confident and unafraid, having learned how to dance in the dark.

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