The Word in the Wings
From the stage: “Your word is a lamp to my feet”
By: KAYA WEAVER
The opening sequence of Casefile: Euangelion takes place in darkness. The dancers take turns traversing the stage, each shining a flashlight on her feet, providing just enough illumination to dance a direct path to the other side. The sequence calls to mind an image from Scripture:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Though this psalmist exhibits exceptional focus on the centrality of God’s word to a life of goodness, Psalm 119 is not the only chapter that suggests what God’s people are to do with God’s word. If we read about how Joshua, Josiah, and Jesus interact with the words of Scripture, we can see how God’s word mediates trusting relationships with Yahweh, thus lighting the path to life.
After God delivers Israel from slavery in Egypt, God’s people spend forty years wandering the wilderness, testing God and being tested. Before the Israelites enter the land God has promised to give them, Moses reminds them of all the instructions God has given them so they can live well in the land together. Before they cross into the land, Moses dies and Joshua succeeds him as the people’s leader. As Joshua prepares to lead Israel into unknown territory, Yahweh directs him,
“Don’t let this book of instruction depart from your mouth, but meditate on it day and night so you may keep acting in accord with everything written in it…don’t be afraid and don’t be dismayed, for Yahweh your God is with you wherever you go.”
Having God’s word in his mind at all times lets Joshua continually apprehend the presence of God. With God’s word always accessible, Joshua knows he can trust God to be with him when he ventures into the new land.
Generations later, the people of Israel and most of their leaders have not kept God’s instructions faithfully. When King Josiah learns that Israel’s faithlessness has angered Yahweh, he grieves over his people’s broken relationship with their God. But Yahweh assures him,
“Because your heart is tender and you were humble before God when you heard Yahweh’s words concerning this place and its inhabitants…I also have heard…”
Josiah is vulnerable before God, allowing the words of Scripture to challenge and change him. Josiah shows trust by responding to God instead of rejecting God. Because God is trustworthy, God responds to Josiah’s vulnerability with compassion.
Before Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee, God’s Spirit leads him into the wilderness for forty days of trials, mirroring Israel’s forty years of wandering and testing. When an opponent tempts Jesus to prove his own authority by testing or rejecting God, Jesus answers with Scripture from Deuteronomy:
“It is said, ‘You will not test the Lord your God.’”
Jesus maintains that the right way to relate to God is not by testing but by trusting. Because of his knowledge of Scripture and his relationship with God that gives him wisdom to interpret Scripture, Jesus trusts that God’s promises, more than physical power or earthly authority, lead to life.
The characters in Casefile: Euangelion, much like Joshua, Josiah, and Jesus, face trials that require them to choose whether they will trust in themselves, in earthly authorities, or in the promises in God’s word. Contrasting movement qualities and recurring motifs evoke different feelings around each character, and these details tell a story about where their trust leads them. By what light does each character discern their path? In what can they trust to lead to freedom and life?
The story of each of these biblical figures is also an invitation for those of us reading about them today. Like Joshua, read and consider God’s word at any time of day, and let it remind you that God never leaves you. Like Josiah, let your heart be tender towards God. If you sense God working through this ballet, through the words of Scripture, or through another work of art or thing of beauty, let God move you and draw you closer through the thoughts and emotions it evokes. Like Jesus, when you face trials, recall the promises and instructions in God’s word, and trust that God is the surest source of abundant life.
Scripture quotations in this post are my own translation.
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