One of the benefits of living in a rural setting is being able to walk out of the house at night and, with minimal artificial light and tall buildings around you, you can go to an open field and witness a crystal clear vista of the brightest array of stars. Each time we do so we experience a glimpse of the divine meeting between God and Abram, as described in the first reading, when God dared him to count the stars, because that many and then some would be his descendants. As we look up at that same sky thousands of years later, with just as many stars to fill it, we are reminded God had us in mind during that divine meeting with Abram. We are his descendants, children of not just him, but of God.
And when we ever do catch ourselves looking up at that same night sky, God still dares us to count the stars. But I’m not so sure any human being would even want to, even if we could. We are too impatient, too easily frustrated, too much thinking we have infinitely better things to do than waste our time with the natural beauty of God. We don’t have time to be still, to ponder, to stand in amazement at what this God is up to. Nevertheless, God still dares humanity to count the stars, because that many and then some is how many children of all ages God has to care for each and every day.
For us we’re just fine concerning ourselves with our own group of family and friends and, perhaps, some co-workers, but we tend to lose love and compassion when going beyond that, no matter how much technology and communication has drawn the world closer together. And yet this whole time, even before the internet or any telephonic device, God had the whole world surrounded with a grace brighter than any light in the sky, a beam that could shatter any darkness of hatred and violence that descendants of Abram have pulverized God’s Creation with from the beginning.
So God still dares us to count the stars. God still dares us to imagine how immense the universe really is, how long it’s been going on, and how much longer it will be. God lures us into wondering how vast the mercy of God must be to allow it to go on with all the harm we children of Abram have not simply done to the Creation, but to each other, and the impact we will leave on generations to come. God provokes us to walk out the door at night, when all seems peaceful in our homes, in our life, even but for a moment, and look up at the sky, at all those stars: imagine that many number of lives looking up at the same sky, the number of God’s children in immense chaos, wondering if they’ll be safe inside their home, where the next meal will be coming from, if their job is secure for the rest of this year, and some who, quite frankly, wonder if their life is even worth living anymore. They’ll look at the same night sky and have their own divine meeting with God, but theirs won’t be as pleasant as the one we heard in Genesis this morning. It will be a shouting match with God, desperately begging God to shatter their night sky that lasts much longer than a single evening with the unquenchable light of the Christ.
All of this can go on when we stand in front of our own home, and simply be thankful for all the blessings that pour out on us each and every day that we so often take for granted. All of this can happen under a single sky with this One God to somehow take care of us all, not just for a night, but for eternity.
So as we continue down this journey of Lent, in this season where darkness is gradually fading in length, it provides its own subtle, but beautiful reminder that light can still somehow pierce the darkness, no matter how much it can overpower people’s lives all over the world. God will still dare us to count the stars, but God knows we can’t on our own. God knows we cannot fully understand all that God has done for us. God certainly knows we do not have the full stamina of love to truly care for every person on the face of the earth. God knows we do not have enough mercy. God will still lure us to try, but God will ultimately be the One to take care of all of it for us: for our sake, for the sake of the entire world, including all the people well beyond our sight and knowledge. God has the whole world taken care of for eternity, brought to reality on the cross, to be sure, but nevertheless the work still continues.
And so Lent is not meant to be relived year after year as another opportunity for us to better figure out God, but to simply, in our own utter humility, stand in awe of God, amazed at the vastness of God’s love, compassion, and the sacrifice that was made for all the children God had in mind in that divine meeting with Abram. All the stars can light up the sky and still not come close to the brightness of life that shattered the universe from an empty tomb. God dares us to try to understand, and in the end, fall short of the glory of God, where God alone can pick us up from the height of a cross into a world beyond those stars forevermore. And for that, we give thanks to this God of everlasting life indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon