Monday, April 25, 2016

Starry Night

I was thinking about how no one single church can please all people, and how many, many times I’ve considered trying other churches over the last twenty years.  The first time I’d only been attending my church six months, and someone was so negative about the future of the church and the lack of commitment of the staff, that I was completely turned off.  I thought ‘If they say this much to a new person, I wonder just how bad it really is? Maybe I should leave now?’

Over the years, more and more reasons came and went where I thought we/they made the wrong decision, or people behaved very-un-Christ-like and I could barely stand it. I was physically ill over it.  Times where I tried to start programs and when they didn’t take off…times where I felt I wasn’t getting what I needed spiritually to grow.  Hardest have been the times when I realize people are so very human.  People I had on a pedestal fell off and it has taken much prayer and hard work, to move on and yet stay.
Yesterday, during the sermon I had this vision of a shooting star arcing through the darkened room back to Cathy.   Cathy is moving away and I was feeling sad about that.   I tried to remember how we stitched our lives together originally and thought of our trip to Guatemala.  And our trip to Las Vegas.  And all the times we served a meal together.  Then I looked around the darkened room and realized I had a similar fine thread of light linking me to many people in the room.  To Kate, and how she makes me laugh today and as a teenager she attended our ‘ladies’ circle’ because she just liked to.  To Danny and how I used to volunteer at Pioneer club and he attended as a boy.  I started thinking about each person on the stage, and on the floor, and how if I tried not so very hard, I had a history I could recall.  My star reaches out to theirs, and we have this connection.  And how, if I were to move to a new church, I would be a single light, and I would have to start all over filling up my sky.  This is not an inconsequential thing, this connecting glimmer.  It is a serious thing to give up on all the stars in heaven and to go shine alone again.  And even when people break your heart, or behave badly, or make you lose your temper, they are your church family.  They are human.  And if it takes ten years to forgive, maybe it is worth that ten years, if it matures you as a Christian.  Being tested forces you to try to retain your own ethics and values, to really get to the root of what you do and do not believe.  Maybe the trials and tribulations of human-ness are part of what God wants to happen in a church.  Like the lost sheep, he wants those who stray brought back in his fold. 
I recently learned of Vincent Van Gogh’s attempt to be a minister, and how his famous “Starry Night” painting has a possible hidden message in it.  He paints the town with twinkling lights but the church is dark, perhaps to reflect his bitterness at not being accepted to seminary.  But I prefer to think of God’s church as his people, not a building.  The church is dark when all the people are at home.  Because the people are the church, not the building.  And they are lighting Van Gogh’s town from their homes, because it doesn’t happen to be a night where the church has anything going on.  But the people, they still have life to live, shining out from their homes.
Is there anything more beautiful than a navy sky filled with stars?  I don’t think so.  And God gave us this beauty. 
When you are in a town with lots of street lights and neon signs and stadium lights, you can’t see the stars.  The world’s brash light distracts us from any possibility of noticing the starlight.  The trees in my neighborhood are over a hundred years old and obscure the night sky, but imagine what that 100 year old tree seems like from the star's perspective.  If you can get around all the things blocking your view.  The things right in front of your face, that insist on attention.  If you get out in a nice open field, on a clear night, the sight is so lovely.  And so each light in my night sky is a person, and that light is why I keep them in my life.  Why I try, try, and try again.    We are relational beings and relationships are more important, while we’re here on earth, than almost anything else.   Some nights, the heavy clouds disguise the stars, but the stars, they still shine.