Stars + air conditioning + running water and electricity = perfect for me.
When I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm really enjoying the chance to look up at the sky. The thing is, I'm pretty blind. Without my contacts in or my glasses on, I really can't see that far. I'm fine up close - I won't walk into the wall or anything; but I definitely can't see far away. So, it sort of amazes me every time that I can dimly see these shining balls of gas that are so very far away. When I really can't sleep, and I want to actually see the stars, I have to go through the trouble of putting on my glasses. At which point they become so much clearer - and I reach for my glasses almost every time because I like being able to see. I love staring at them in the middle of the night and remembering other times in my life when I've looked up; all the other places where I stood and looked up and searched the skies...on the deck of a ship, in Paris, at a wedding in India, out the window of a hospital room the night before my father died. I love pondering the wideness of a God who can create all this - and taking in their strange, mysterious beauty. I'm aware, though, that there is a lot I'm missing - my eyes can't take it all in.
My glasses are by no means as clear as a telescope might be - or some kind of lens that is bigger and more precise than my glasses. So my vision could be amplified. And the skylight doesn't take up the whole ceiling, either - it's just a square - which affects how much of the sky I can see. And of course, given the way that stars move throughout the seasons, through my little window, with my glasses, I can only see particular constellations - never the whole picture.
This made me think about some of the conversations we've been having in our adult study this summer about the Gospel of Luke. To know God, we first have to open our eyes, which is rather like opening the Bible. Or coming to church. Participating in worship. We have to take the first step. But that isn't enough. Because if we just do that - and think we've figured it out - it's not much different than my blind eyes searching the dark for tiny specs of light - never realizing how much more there is to see.
If we want to get to know God better, we need some help. Some tools - like glasses - or classes. Conversations with our peers, study guides, words from other people who have traveled this journey before us. And then, as we try to see - using what we have, what's readily available to us - we also have to keep in mind that we can't see the whole picture. We can only see a piece at a time- what our brains and hearts can take in, the pieces we allow our brains to stretch to try to understand. They mysteries of God aren't easily understood, either - sometimes they're hard won. Sometimes we have to pull out the charts and maps, the telescopes and binoculars, and we have to really look. Follow a hunch. Search the skies. Ask for help, learn from others. Sometimes it's not easy. Sometimes it's hard to hold some pieces up together - that don't seem to fit.
But this is actually what our Christian communities are for; to give us the glasses, the tools, to show us the road that others have trod, and to offer us companions as we make our way. To help us to see. To open our eyes and our minds. So that we can see - even only the little piece we can see - of God's immeasurable, overwhelming beauty. So that we can begin to trace the power of this God who has created everything - and the love of this God who still stoops to be with us. So that we can put some of our pieces together.
We come to know this God when we study God's word, when we worship together, when through service we learn how to see Jesus in our neighbors. And to be sure, we find clues to this God's mysterious beauty in the stars. Actually, this God is quite everywhere we look - if only we'll put the work into looking. Without it, we miss out on the stunning beauty of God and of God in each other.