Thoughts from the Pastor...

by Pastor Jeffrey M. Halenza

         A theologian has written about growing up under the sheer immensity of a Kansas sky.  From childhood into early adulthood, whenever she wanted to see God she would look up at the night sky where she would see, to use the words of the Psalmist, “the work of God’s fingers”  - the moon and stars “set in their courses.”  Such a sight was a reminder for her that there was a purpose and order to things and that God was truly Lord of creation, and a reminder too that she had a place in creation and purpose as well.  Years later when she was about to move to New York City, she woke up one night weeping.  She was afraid she would never see the sky again.  What she was really afraid of was that she would be cut off from God.  Now and then a single star will outshine the city lights and she feels that God is in sight once more.

         From time to time she escapes the city and retreats to a rickety, old house in the Virginia Blue Ridge.  “It is far from any city, and there are no neighboring houses in sight,” she writes, “so the night sky approaches with clarity, blackness and brilliance…”  She finds it a special joy to sleep out doors under the stars.  Rain drives her inside, as do temperatures below 28 degrees.  But otherwise, she pulls on warm socks and a sweat suit and drags her sleeping bag onto the deck over the porch roof.  She tends to sleep lightly, waking and then falling back asleep.  Yet she rejoices in this broken sleep, because she can watch the constellations move slowly across the sky and almost feel the earth turn.  There are showers of falling stars, the moon emerging from the clouds. In the winter it is not unusual to scrape frost from her sleeping bag; in the summer she wonders if snakes might climb as high as the porch roof.  She’s become a legend to the locals:  “So you’re the woman who sleeps outdoors all year round, even in the winter!” they exclaim.

          She writes that she knows what impels her, what draws her to lie under the night sky.  She knows why she is sometimes taken by surprise, sometimes awestruck, almost involuntarily calls out God’s name.  “It’s because I have seen the work of God’s fingers,” she says.  “And for a little while, I know who I am.  I know my place.”

          And the truth is we can lose sight of God, we can feel cut off from God — especially in the city.  In the frantic pace of life in a city, on the mad-house freeways or in the crowded stores, in the midst of the demands that constantly pull us this way and that way, in the face of the violence and anger that often confront us, and amid the loneliness in a city, we can forget who we are, why we are here, what our purpose and place in the universe is.  But it’s not just the city of course. Illness and disease and the confusions and challenges of growing older can cause us to lose sight of God, feel cut off from God.

         So I think it would do us all some good if now and then we could retreat to a place where the night sky can be seen black and brilliant and the stars shine bright, and we could look up in awe and wonder at the work of God’s fingers.  Even if we could only retreat to a deck or backyard now and then, still it would do us some good.

         Perhaps we would see again that beneath and beyond what is often the chaos and confusion of our lives there is purpose and order and that God is truly Lord.  And remember who we are: God’s own child.  And that we have a place: we are part of God’s creation and in his care.  And thus know peace.

          What I wish for all of you is that: the opportunity to escape for a little while and to find God again — and your own self again — and know the peace and gladness of such a thing.

                                                                                                                                                            God be with you,