Black Sky

Pastor Ponderings for Summer

For several years, our youth have attended a conference in the hill country of Texas at Mo Ranch.  Each night at 10:00 p.m. after a long day, all of the participants assemble on a tennis court, the concrete still hot from the afternoon sun.  They lie flat on their backs listening to someone softly read scripture.  It is so dark that you cannot recognize the person next to you.  The stillness and the darkness are unsettling, until your eyes begin to focus on the Night Sky.

A few years ago, John and I made a visit to a similar spot, a place where people travel from all over the world to gaze into some of the most powerful telescopes available to amateur astronomers.  

As I sat in the darkness at the McDonald Observatory, I thought of our youth and the experience that they have at Mo Ranch, and I realized that you can’t look at the night sky without a sense of awe.  I bypassed the expensive telescopes and found a place off the beaten path to stretch out.  Something deep inside spoke to me as I lay there star-gazing.  It’s hard to describe, but perhaps you have had such an experience, too.

For a moment I was transformed from a self-centered understanding that I live and breathe and have my being in the midst of family and friends and colleagues in an important place called the Silicon Valley in the great state of California in the United States of America.  

As I gazed at the night sky, a quiet truth invaded my spirit and took my breath away.  And yet it wasn’t unsettling.  Indeed it was comforting, and awe inspiring.  For me it was a spiritual moment, a moment with the Creator.

At the Observatory there was a guide with a microphone speaking clearly of the science of it all, helping us to understand that the reason the planet Mars appears red is because of the iron dust particles reacting to oxygen.  

At Mo Ranch there was a guide who whispered into a microphone, speaking words of scripture.  You had to strain to hear them.  “Thus says the Lord, the one who created you, the one who formed you.  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

What a gift, to be able to glimpse into the science and the mystery.  Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and all science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Paul writes words of encouragement to a group who are struggling.  “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for all who have not seen me face to face.  I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

As followers of Christ we are invited to share the mystery, not to explain it but to pause in wonder and stand in awe.  I leave with you the wisdom I found written on a coffee mug in the souvenir store at the McDonald Observatory, I think this may be good advice for us all as we live through these uncertain times.  

Instructions from the Night Sky

See the big picture.

Be a star.

Keep looking up.

Don't be afraid of the dark.

Stay full of wonder.

Expand your horizons.

Turn off the lights!

Blessings on your journey!  Margaret