Psalm 147:4-7 – He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre. (NRSV)
Last June, my journey of faith brought me to be the settled pastor at Lakeville United Church of Christ. I had been out of full-time church ministry for almost ten years. God had guided me to open a home for teenage boys, and then to marry my wife, who was a minister with a full-time position in a church. When the doors of the home closed due to my move to be closer to my wife, I had a sense of loss; but when after seven years of marriage my wife made the decision to end our marriage, I was devastated. I felt I had been deserted, as I lost not only my wife and her family, but the members of her church, who had been my friends and my church community. I sat in despair on the floor of my one-bedroom apartment around 2 a.m. one night and cried out to the Lord the questions I believe everyone asks when going through a divorce or some other loss: "Why?" "Where are You, Lord?" "What am I to do now?"
In despair, I thought about ending my life, but then the Lord answered my questions — by having the Holy Spirit guide me outside in the middle of the night. I went out and looked around me — and there were the stars in the dark night sky. My mind recalled how God determined the number of those stars, and I recalled the fifth verse of today's Scripture from Psalm 147: "Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure." I stared at those stars and remembered my old Scoutmaster taking us out and telling us about the constellations and the stories behind them. The Spirit of God came over me with a sense of peace, for though all my life was in disarray, the stars were where they were supposed to be. In seeing them, I was reminded that God is where he is supposed to be — as close as a prayer away and always ready to hear us when we choose to make the time to talk. God heard my despair and answered my prayer by leading me out to see the stars.
That night, I once again went down on my knees to pray for God's guidance, for I had indeed taken a detour on my journey of faith. I told him I would go where he wanted me to go, I would do what he wanted me to do, and I would say what he wanted me to say. By faith I left what once was home, answering the call to come back into full-time ministry, and I have come "home" to Massachusetts where I grew up. In my response to God's call, I have had the opportunity to be reunited with my cousins and to become involved in hosting international students once again.
For those facing times of despair or a sense of loss, my invitation and challenge is to do what I did that night — to cry out to God and then listen for the Spirit of God to answer. We need to be willing to take a walk out into the dark night and to look up to the heavens — for there will be the stars that God created as reminders that he has promised never to leave us or forsake us.
Prayer: Dear God, we thank you for creating the stars as a reminder of your presence. When we become disoriented in our journeys of faith, may your Holy Spirit lead us to go out and look at the night sky. May your Holy Spirit guide us to look up to you instead of down at ourselves. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.