A Message from Pastor Craig: 9-4-2022

I have been thinking about letting go, and the grace that God gives us to let things go into His care.  Speaking to a men’s group last weekend I talked about how God helps us do that, and then this week I spoke twice to pre-school parents about their children being in our care here at MECE. Thinking about these things made me think of the times that I have had to let go of my boys.

The first time I had to let go of our oldest was when he was just a week or two old.  We had to let him go for surgery, and I remember this empty feeling of seeing him wheeled down the hallway away from us.  It was hard.  Then we had to let both our boys go to preschool.  Then we had to let them go in our car for their first solo drive to Youth Group.  Then it was college.  There are these milestones, I suppose, but they are also times in our lives when we have to let go.  And it’s not just kids.  The beginning of this school year has elicited these particular memories for me.

Where does solace come in these times?  From where does our hope come (as the Psalmist put it)?  Well, our hope comes from the Lord, but more specifically in a wonderful thought about God.  If you understand God as mean and vindictive, or distant (never mind non-existent), then you can’t trust those most precious to you to Him.  With that image of God, we understand Him to be out to get them.  If, on the other hand, we understand God to be good, then we can trust our loved ones to Him.  We can trust their health, their wellbeing, to that Good Father.

Wesleyan theology suggests that God’s goodness, His grace, extends to all of us, whether we are aware of it or not.  God’s grace is around us whether we know God, or even if we do, when we are not aware that we need it.  This is called “Prevenient Grace” in Methodist circles.  And it is a most comforting thought.

Before you drove out this morning, God’s grace was in front of you.  Sometimes we need a little finesse, I mean grace, and sometimes we need a lot.  (You have to be a certain age to catch that reference).  Those times when we need a lot, when we find ourselves dependent on God’s grace and mercy, we become truly grateful for it.  Every time I have had to let go of my children, a project, job, or whatever, I have been mindful that God’s grace is out ahead of them, out ahead of me, caring for them, caring for me, in ways that exceed my own capacity to do, or even imagine.

Prevenient Grace, how sweet the sound!  I hope you will bask in it.  And allow it to point to the many other graces that God makes available to us.

May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Craig

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” 2 Corinthians 9:8,9

A Message from Pastor Craig: 8-28-2022

It’s really romantic the first time that you find yourself finishing the sentence of your new boyfriend or girlfriend. It seems like some confirmation that you’re “soulmates” or something. After years of marriage, I must confess that there is delight in finding that still true.  Added to that, now at this age, there’s some solace found in that ability – sometimes the word fails you, and your spouse can come to the rescue. It’s a great gift.

When coworkers, or strangers, or in this case a machine does it, that’s a whole ‘nother matter. Let me explain. We lost our church Business Administrator about a month ago, and we have not been quick to replace her. Some of us in the office have taken on some of her responsibilities, and among other things, mine has been to tend to all the emails that come to that position. This is not a huge task and I’m glad to do it.

But she had a feature turned on in Outlook that really annoys me. It’s this feature that tries to guess what you are going to say next, and it prints it out ahead of the cursor. So as you type, it throws suggestions at you right ahead of the last character you typed, suggesting to you that you press “Tab” instead of typing out the word whole or even phrase.

Call me old school, call me a curmudgeon, but I don’t want the machine to do this for a couple of reasons! One, it insinuates that it can think faster than I can. It has a possible next word typed all the way out before I have finished typing the last one. Two, it bothers me that my pattern of thinking and writing is so pedestrian that some algorithm-builder in Silicon Valley has compiled enough people saying the same thing that the machine can predict what I am going to say. Am I that mundane? And finally, does my thought pattern so conform to the patterns of this world that I speak the world’s thoughts with its vocabulary? 

The Apostle Paul told us to “NOT conform to the patterns of this world” (Romans 12:2).  Playing this video all the way through makes me worry that the machine will eventually dictate what I say. That is, opting for the word it suggests may be the easiest thing to do right now, but then eventually I may modulate my vocabulary, or worse yet, thought, to conform to the path of least resistance on the keyboard.  Fight the power!!

OK, so, this is a feature that can be turned off.  And while I have not done that on the Business Administrator’s computer, I certainly have not turned it “on” on mine.  (Although my machine just pointed out that I used “on” twice in that sentence).  Maybe my little rant here pursues an unnecessary complaint.  What I do know is that we have to be very careful what voices we allow to reside in our heads, and finish our sentences.  If it’s a lover’s voice, we might finish their sentences because we are thinking, and caring, about the same things.  This is a good thing.  If it’s the voices of attack ads on TV, or hurtful videos on YouTube, that’s not so good.

In Philippians, the Apostle Paul said: “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  I’ll put the whole verse below, but I think that God calls us to search the Scriptures (John 5:39), to let those words reside in us (Joshua 1:8), and thus break those “patterns of this world” that are so predictable, and quite frankly, boring.

I believe the best thoughts that I have are God given.  I think the most beautiful thoughts I have, or words that I express, are gifts from God.  The new song in my heart is because of the work that God is doing in me, not my taking on the cause “du jour” from the news, or the style presented in the latest clothing ad, or the preferences of some influencer on TikTok.  Whatever is excellent or praiseworthy… let’s use the vocabulary of that source instead.

Still reading the emails,

Craig

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

A Message from Pastor Craig: 8-21-2022

Backing out of the driveway the other day, I saw something in the sky.  They call it skywriting.  A plane, way up there in the sky, spelled out letters that, in my case, stopped traffic while it happened.  OK, so I just stopped at the end of my driveway, but still.

What I first saw was a smiley face.  Before it, the plane had already spelled out “God.”  So, naturally, I smiled anticipating some message to follow about God’s love.  But I lost interest as the plane started spelling out the name Steve.  Janice told me later that a last name appeared after that.  So, it turned out to be just a novelty over the skies of Boca.

As I drove towards the church, I noticed that the plane had spelled out a couple of letters, now cloudy (pun intended), in the wind.  So something preceded the word “God,” and I had no idea what that was.  Suddenly, the smile on my face from seeing the smiley face and God together furled as I pondered what those letters might have been, and hence what the message truly sought to communicate.

Added to this wonder was the fact that the letters were all backwards, kind of like reading a message in front of a mirror.  The plane printed out a message aimed at somebody in Boynton, or some other point north of here.  A person facing south up there would have read it correctly, not us.  So the message was not for me, and maybe because of it, I didn’t understand it.  And I realized that I had projected my own proclivities into it, and they didn’t fit.

And, oh, isn’t that the way communication goes?  On occasion we hear something, and the message wasn’t intended for us.  So we try to decipher it, and it doesn’t make sense.  Or we read the message from a perspective that was not intended, and we can feel alienated or confused by it.  How often do we walk by a co-worker, only hear a snippet of their conversation, and we project a whole bunch of our own stuff on them?  I can hear Janice talking on the phone, I only hear one of her comments, and then I have to ask her “who in the world were you talking to?”  And sometimes the answer clarifies things, and sometimes it doesn’t!  The point is, we can hear parts of messages and misunderstand them.

The joke is told of a priest who was going through some recently discovered ancient documents, when he screamed out “it says ‘celebrate’ not ‘celibate!’”  I think we can misread God’s messages.  We can feel God is saying one thing, when He really was saying something else.  We can read the Scriptures, and just like I did with the skywriting message, project our own bias into it, and not understand the real, or intended, message.

That’s why it’s so important to read the Scriptures, for one thing, in their entirety.  Not the whole Bible in one fell swoop, that’s not what I mean, but honoring the context of the verse – not just latching on to one verse like I did the smiley face in the sky.  BTW, theologians call it “text-proofing” when you do that.

The other guard about overhearing the Word of God in disorienting snippets is to study the Scripture with other people.  We have those opportunities here, whether it be an adult Sunday School class that meets after the 9:30 service, to my Bible Study that will start in September, or groups the United Women in Faith have, there are opportunities to not just hear a snippet, but truly study the Word, and in so doing hearing from God what He truly intends us to hear.

The words in the sky eventually faded away.  I had forgotten about them by the time I got to work.  The Word of God does not fade away.  It’s eternal.  And a good, and loving message for you and for me.  Let’s watch and listen for it carefully.

Back at the church,

Craig

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.  Isaiah 40:8

A Message from Pastor Craig: 8-14-2022

I don’t know if it’s romance, or what the word is, but there is a certain fascination, attraction, delight, in finding lighthouses.  I have an image—a photo—sketched in my mind of a picture taken of a lighthouse out in the ocean withstanding enormous waves, and while one crashes against it, surrounding it with massive flows of water, the keeper of the lighthouse stands with the door open at the base of it.  Have you seen that one?

I have always wondered how they staged/timed that picture, but the image contained a sermon in it. It would make a wonderful stained-glass window.  But whether the lighthouse is in the Keys, or Jupiter inlet or Boston, these old bastions of navigational safety beckon to be admired, climbed, and photographed.

And that’s what we did up in Maine. Maine boasts 57 lighthouses.  We only saw a couple and visited just one. They call it the West Quoddy Head Light, which begs some explanation just in its name. The Quoddy Narrows separate the US and Canada.  So the easternmost part of the United States is actually west of Canada and the Narrows. Head Light refers to the actual lighthouse.  It’s not as tall as the lighthouse in Jupiter nor is it the earliest of lighthouses in the US (but it does boast the fact that it’s the closest point in the US to the continent of Africa—now THAT’s counterintuitive!).

We went there to say that we have been to the Easternmost point in the United States. The lighthouse was a bonus but curiously the pictures we took were mostly about the lighthouse.  Why?  Because it’s up on a cliff—it doesn’t have to be tall.  So it looks rather stubby.  It’s painted in red and white stripes, which make it stand out, but not because of artistic or architectural
splendor.  What is it about a lighthouse?

A lighthouse is both a symbol of warning and of hope. A lighthouse signals where the rocks are when navigating at night (and the day for that matter).  In one sense you stay away from the lighthouse.  But they also signal a bay—they mark the land.  After a long journey, the lighthouse beckons the mariner home.  I found this quote on lightbulbs.com, so I don’t know who to attribute it to: “A lighthouse is the face of sanctuary in the seas of adversity.  It symbolizes the light at the end of the tunnel; serving as an
encouragement for those who seem to have lost their one last try.”

Psalm 33:18 says “Surely the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His loving devotion to deliver them.”  Kind of sounds like a lighthouse, doesn’t it?  In our darkest moments, whatever those might be, we look around for signs of light.  We look for hope, we look for God.  And what does the Bible say: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5).

Our worship service today is a lighthouse—beaming the Light which is God, bringing hope to every one of us who come to worship.  But we are to be lighthouses ourselves, offering hope to those around us, not because we are the light, but because the Light is in us.  We may not feel like we have a lot of light to give, but again, it’s not our light anyway.  It’s the light that is in us.  And when we work together?  The light shines bright!

That’s something to think about.

Looking towards the Light,

Craig

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and
not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

A Message from Pastor Craig: 8-7-2022

Normally in this space I like to meditate on something that has happened in daily life that is not necessarily religious, and then come to some positive spiritual thought that emerges from it.  Today, it’s kind of reversed.  The image that I saw this week was religious in nature, but the thought that came from it was not positive.  I apologize for that, but there is a lesson to underscore in the image.

So apparently, last week some folks in the interior of Ukraine held a funeral service for a fallen soldier.  A Ukrainian priest got up and spoke some unflattering comments about Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church, and his words ticked off an old Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.  That old priest came barging up to the pulpit, and pulled a Will Smith, attacking the Ukrainian priest.  When the Ukrainian recoiled a little, the old Russian priest decided to whack the Ukrainian with the decorative cross he had in his hand.  That cross, about 18 inches tall, intended to symbolize the presence of Christ the Russian priest brought to the ceremony, became a weapon against another person.

And of course, the flashes of all the people’s cameras went off in the apex of the priest’s swing.  And we got to read all about it in the following days.  The headline in a Greek newspaper read “Ukrainian Priest Beaten By Russian Priest With Cross At Funeral,” which while technically true, was not the whole story, but certainly left the reader with a sour note.  And towards whom?  If you’re like me, you probably would blame the Russian priest, and he deserves it, after all, he had the cross, he went up to beat somebody with it.  But the rap falls on Christians in general for preaching one thing, and practicing another.  We get labelled partisans and part of the problem instead of the solution with images like that one. That cross being waved belonged not just to that Russian Orthodox priest; it belongs to all of us who claim the crucifixion of Jesus as our redemption.

So, when you point your finger at somebody, you have three fingers pointing back at you.  Right?  So that made me wonder how the rest of the world hears some arguments I might make about politics, or theology?  In my assuredness and outspokenness, people are judging Jesus, are judging the Faith, not just me.  I’m sure that Russian priest is solid about his convictions.  He is sure God is on his side and that justified him lashing out.  But look where it got him.  His righteous indignation led to an embarrassment for us all.

Proverbs 15:4 says: “A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.”  How we encourage one another, how we speak life into people rather than trying to crush it, is something that Christians need to be modelling.  Particularly in these times.  Dale Carnegie said once “Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”  I think that’s very true.  And Jesus said “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12: 36,37).  Sobering words from our Lord.

Let’s seek to outdo one another with goodness and kindness.  And carry our crosses in our hearts, not in our clinched hands.

Trying to listen more than speak,

Craig

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.    Proverbs 11:12

A Message from Pastor Craig: 7-31-2022

Have you heard the term “end of the roaders?” The term speaks, I think, to people who decide to get away and keep going down the road until it ends. In places like Alaska or Key West, and I suppose other hinterland places, the people who have chosen to wander, end up.

I’m not an “end of the roader” but do enjoy seeing the end of the road.  Whether it be a path in the woods, or a dead end in a little town, or some more famous ends of roads, I want to see why it ends, where it ends, how one gets there.  While on the subject, it seems like where the road starts and where it ends may be a matter of opinion, or perspective, or point in time.  There’s a spiritual application to that, I’m sure, and I can’t wait to see what it is.

For instance, Route 66 “starts” in Chicago and ends in LA.  When I decided to drive it, I started my trek in Santa Monica.  My first picture of Route 66 was the end marker.  Likewise, US1, which is a very long road, “ends” in Key West.  But Mile Marker 1 of US1 in the Keys is in downtown Key West.  You may have seen the MM 2 or MM 106 as you have travelled down that way. Is MM 1 the beginning of US1 or the end?

This Summer, Janice and I decided (OK, she acquiesced to my request) to check out the end of I-95 in Holton, Maine, and the end of US1 farther north from there, in Port Kent, Maine.  Now, I understand why I-95 ends in Miami.  But on the other hand I don’t understand why it goes to Holton.  At the very end of I-95 (or is it the beginning?) is a border crossing into the middle of absolutely nowhere Canada.  I can say I’ve been there, but the point was lost on me.

Then, we got back on US1 (someday I am going to be able to say I have driven every mile of US1!) and travelled up to Fort Kent.  Fort Kent is a lovely little town.  And across the border crossing lies the charming little town of Claire.  Divided by the St. John River, it’s a lovely spot, and a place where historically the two sides have mingled.  The evidence is in the French legacy of that part of Maine.  Travelling to the end of US1 is worthwhile—I-95 not so much.

I started life in Arcadia, California.  A couple of years ago I went back to the place where my road started.  The hospital is still there where I was born though it doesn’t look like the black and white photos my Dad took when I was brought out of it.  It was good to be back there, and I pray a thanksgiving prayer for how good God has been to me along the way.

I don’t know where I will end up eventually.  My suspicion is that I have already visited there.  I just don’t know for sure.  Well, I do visit my Dad’s grave in St. Petersburg, FL occasionally and my plot is not too far away.  I have visited that spot many times because of my ancestors being buried there.  I too will “rest with my fathers” (as 1 Kings 2 talks about) there in St. Pete.

So the ends matter.  I have photos and stories to tell of the ends, both in life and on the road.  But you know what?  What makes a journey great is the stuff in between.  I have a lot more photos of coastal Maine and of the rest of the Keys than I do on just the ends of US1.  A lot more time is spent in between the alpha and the omega.  There is a TON more to see and do along Route 66 than at its
extremes.  I have photos to prove it. 

It’s good to see the ends, but I don’t want to stay there.  I am not an “end of the roader.”  And I hope you aren’t either.  There is much that God has in store for us as we go along in this life.  Make sure you take some photos, make some memories, and continuously, I mean continuously, give thanks.

Enjoying the journey,

Craig

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” ~ Colossians 4:2

A Message from Pastor Craig: 7-24-2022

She kept telling us it was the experience of a lifetime, that we would never see anything like this again.  In her euphoria the tour guide told us to never come back, that we would never see it this good.  She squealed in delight: “They’re at 12 o’clock!  Three o’clock!  Six o’clock!  Oh my, they’re everywhere!  This is the most amazing thing I have ever seen!”

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about this young lady’s attitude. We were having a good time.  But was our trip THAT good, THAT different from other times?  Was she exaggerating, was she this effervescent every time?  Let me tell you what was going on.

We were in Boston for a wedding and decided to go on a whale watching tour out of Boston Harbor with our younger son.  On our way out, we placed bets, predictions really – there was no money involved, on how many whales we would see.  Wanting to set the bar low, Janice said one.  I felt even if we saw 10, saying 2 would better Janice’s prediction.  So Drew said 3.

By the end of our tour, the giddy tour guide reported that we had seen somewhere between 25 and 40 different whales.  Not just 40 sightings, but sightings of different whales.  They give names to some of them, and how they know who’s who in the zoo, I mean in the sea, I’m not sure.  What I do know is that for an hour we saw humpback whales feed like a bunch of tourists at an Amish smorgasbord (I’m thinking Shady Maple in PA.  Been there?). 

The whales eat so much that birds come and feed off of the leftovers.  Birds will ride on the heads of whales for a bit, just waiting for the fish that the whale just couldn’t handle.  And when that’s over, the whales dive down and go for more.  That’s when you see that signature whale tale up in the air.

Truthfully, for all I know, everybody gets to see that spectacle.  It’s the only time I’ve been out.  Probably not though, there’s the caveat presented at the beginning that you might not see ANY whales.  They say that for a reason.  I am so glad, and feel blest, that we saw what we saw.

I’m still stuck on the comment the guide made to not come back.  Would I go back?  I don’t know.  It’s a fun ride out and back in and of itself.  But I would NEVER, as a guide, tell people not to come back.  That would be like me as a pastor telling you not to come back on a particularly blessed Sunday morning service.  Why would I do that?  Because I don’t expect God to bless us ever again in that way?  That I never expect that good music, or that good of a sermon, or whatever?

There is no limit to what God can offer.  Every mountain top experience we have ever had with the Lord can be improved on, because there is no limit to God’s goodness and grace.  So there is always reason to come back!

And… Let us not take for granted the glory and the privilege of being in His house every time we come.  We didn’t get jaded to the appearance of a whale even after being out there over an hour.  Even though they were all over the place.  Every time was an encounter with a majestic being that could overwhelm us if they tried.  Every time was an encounter with a being that lives in a different world than ours.  Every time was special.  Over the Stellwaggen Ledge in the Atlantic, or in church this morning.

Glad you’re here,

Craig.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.         Psalm 63:2,3

A Message from Pastor Craig: 7-17-2022

         Did you see the movie “A Night in the Museum?”  I never thought that I would have an actual “night in the museum,” but last weekend I did.  Now, it wasn’t the whole night, and neither Ben Stiller nor Robin Williams were there, and I didn’t have any conversations with any of the exhibits, but still, it was pretty cool.

         One of our nieces got married and had her wedding at the Science Museum in Boston.  When we walked in, the place was packed with people including little kids everywhere.  We were whisked downstairs and outside, where a small ensemble played music for the arriving guests.  Tour boats hurried by in the background, and following the ceremony and requisite wait for photos, they escorted us back inside.  This time to an empty building.  On the ground floor of a  three story atrium with a huge globe of the Earth hanging over us, we did the typical reception thing.  But then, through word of mouth, we found out that the dessert was up one floor.  Which meant that we could explore the exhibits up there, and the third floor for that matter.

They had no monitors, no docents, no roped off areas, we were free to roam the museum!  What?!  We had the whole museum of science to ourselves?  Yep!  Now, THAT’S a venue for a reception!  Lots to do and see.  From the fundamentals of electricity to the actual skeleton of a dinosaur by the name of Cliff, from an exhibit of Antarctica to the botany of California… there was a little something for everybody.

What caught my attention was an exhibit that spanned one side of the third floor which they had labeled “Seeing is Deceiving.”  It combined examples of impressionistic art with optical illusions, kind of a diversion from the more heady stuff of the hard sciences.  One particular work impressed me.  The artist printed some text, I don’t remember what it was, then shaded some of the text to look like a man’s face.  The thing was, up close you could only tell that some text was darker than others.  About three feet away, you could tell that the text was actually a face.  But from across the museum, all it looked like was a face.  The farther away you got, the clearer the face was.  I just loved it, and that night took several people up to see it.  I think it had impressed me more than it did them.  Oh well.

One of the reasons that I liked it is that I have a similar piece of art.  It’s a lithograph of the Sermon on the Mount, printed on a 2X3 foot piece of paper.  Anna Talbot (the artist) began shading the text ever so slightly, until she had turned the words into the face of Jesus.  I have loved this piece for many years now, although it’s quite an old piece – it will be 100 years old in six years from now.

I never felt that the work was “deceiving.”  I felt it revealed more than it concealed.  The tinting elicited more value, not less.  Some of the displays in the museum did make- say shapes- look bigger or smaller than they were because of their context, but this?  No, there was more to see, whether you first saw it from a distance, or up close.

And in the case of my lithograph on the wall, it reveals Jesus in the text.  That’s illustrative of my homiletical task.  I want us to see and show Jesus whenever we read or write something.  I think the job of the Christian is to try to find Jesus in all that we see – to see the creative power of God in nature, to see the attributes of Jesus in our Christian brothers and sisters, and to learn how to be better people from whatever text we encounter (which might be a cautionary word about what we choose to read).

It was great to spend “a night at the museum.”  We’ve enjoyed our vacation time and are grateful to First Boca for the privilege of taking the time away.  But it’s also great to be back in worship with you all.  It’s good to be home!

Appreciating beauty wherever it is to be found,

Craig.

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:29

A Message from Pastor Craig: 6-26-2022

This is not a series on space, but after last week’s article on watching the full moon rise, I had various comments about space. One in particular caught my attention (thanks Rosie!).  It was pointed out to me that on Thursday (last Thursday as you are reading this) five planets were going to line up, and they would be in the same order that we learned in school. In school we learned the planets in the order of where their orbits are in relation to the sun, and on Thursday, just before dawn, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn lined up from left to right with the moon thrown in as a lagniappe.

Like many coincidences in space, these things don’t happen very often—the last time these planets lined up in this order was March 5, 1864.  That was a long time ago!  And there was no Internet to let people know about it like we have today.

So why does this matter?  Well, it doesn’t, except that I find predicting such an occurrence remarkable, and to be able to be notified to see it a treat.  (I’m sorry I’m writing this post-facto!). Jesus told His disciples that he would die and rise on the third day.  And while nobody stood around the tomb to watch the event (except some soldiers who must have really been spooked), the disciples did stick around together in Jerusalem long enough to witness the outcome.  They missed the
privilege of seeing Jesus actually emerge triumphant, but they (and we) still got to experience its benefit.

Now, with the planets lining up, there’s no actual benefit.  Although it does remind me of the statement “all the stars aligned….”  I think that idiom means that a series of circumstances all happened so that some desired outcome happened.   That’s not a Webster Dictionary definition, but sounds about right.  Now, do stars actually align for the events of humans to happen?  No.  Astrology is a capricious reading of the sky interpreted in as many ways as there are astrologers that beg you to order your life accordingly.  It’s not to be confused with astronomy, which is able to predict the wonders we see in the sky.

I don’t think that using the idiom “all the stars lined up” means ascent to astrology necessarily.  But I do think that we need to be mindful that God is full of mercy and grace, and that God blesses us in remarkable ways, and that when things work out for good, it’s not that the “stars all lined up” but that God worked out circumstances in our favor.  And we don’t “thank our lucky stars” (whatever that means) but we give thanks to God when we see those wonderful things happen.

The five planets lining up is a celestial phenomena that happens because of their respective orbits.  The idiom “planets lining up” should actually be the preamble of thanksgiving to God.  He worked things together for our good.  The Apostle Paul went so far as to say that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Now, that doesn’t say that all things work out for good.  It says that God is working in all things to bring good.  There’s a difference.  But Paul seeks to convey to us the idea that the Creator of all those planets and stars actually gets
involved in our lives intending for our good.  That’s remarkable.  Even more than a full moon rising or five planets aligning in order.

Smiling with delight,

Craig

He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.  Psalm 147:4

A Message from Pastor Craig: 6-19-2022

Last Tuesday was the full moon for the month. The moon rose at 8:54 pm. Thanks to our Circle of Eight, we stood ready to greet it on the southern end of Deerfield Beach. Do you know the fictional story of the explorer who got caught by cannibals, and reading through his journal, he found that the next night would be a lunar eclipse, so he pretended to be a god, or an angel, and “made the moon
disappear?” I felt somewhat like that. I felt that I had some secret knowledge like that (but it was actually my friend, Pat, that did). We stood, particularly in the last couple of minutes, with eager expectation for the vast ocean to lob some celestial body up into the sky. I know, that sounds less than romantic. It really was a lovely moment, a moment of beauty and delight as the light of the moon, first faint, then quite red, began to light the evening sky.

So, it turns out that you can type in “moonrise times” on your phone, and any number of websites will tell you when this wonderful phenomena will happen. I have an app on my phone that tells you what star you have your phone trained on. It identifies stars, and even man-made objects like the Hubble telescope and the Space Station. And of course, the moon. When I pulled it up, lo and behold, there was the moon, just below the horizon.

You see, I already had the information in my hands. I had as much predictive power over the rising of the moon as Pat did. But I didn’t know. I didn’t know to look. It never crossed my mind. Such a beautiful sight, and such a wonderful experience, had never crossed my mind. Romans 10 asks “How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (v. 14). We would not have been out there had we not been invited (and without somebody organizing Circle of Eight!). We would not have enjoyed the moonrise had Pat not invited us. This is the simple work of the evangelist. We think the truth of Jesus is common knowledge – and it is, the Bible is readily available on literally everyone’s phone. But they won’t look, they won’t know what to look up, if we don’t tell them. I was reminded of that last night.

The websites said that the moon would rise at 8:54 pm. And my Skyview app showed the moon right at the horizon. But at 8:55 we still couldn’t see the moon. Now my app showed the moon above the horizon. But we couldn’t see it. What was wrong?! The cannibals were going to eat us! Was the information wrong? How could this be? When you watch a sunset, and the sun disappears above the horizon, it is obscured by clouds hanging low on the horizon. The thing is, in the sunlight you can see the clouds, it is obvious what is happening.  Not so at night.  We couldn’t see the long line of clouds that draped the horizon. So we had to wait, and wait with some (now) uncertain faith that we would see it. The moon had risen, it was above the horizon, the apps had not lied. We just had to wait.

Again, this is how it is with God’s truth. It’s there. It’s happened. What God promises is true. But sometimes we don’t see it immediately. Circumstances, our own doubts, misinformation gets in the way sometimes. Think of the resurrection of Jesus. It happened. But at first nobody saw Him. That doesn’t mean He hadn’t risen. And when Thomas was told about it, he still didn’t believe, for a little while. But Jesus was there, clouds of doubt, clouds of the constraints of time and space kept many from seeing. But it still happened.

And those circumstances still keep many, even ourselves, from believing.  From Romans 10, I learn that many people out there will only come to know Jesus if I tell them about it, if I point them in the right direction. But also in the life of the believer, there are blessings that take a long time to see. Last night I was reminded that they are still there. You just have to wait for the truth to rise above the doubt, I mean, the moon to rise above the clouds.

Back home now,

Craig

Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  I Corinthians 13:12