Watching the movement of lights in the sky, attending to the signs in the heavens, has been part of the human experience since, well, there have been humans. Whenever the normal cycle of day and night was disturbed in some way, it has been second nature to wonder what it means, why it happens and whether we should be afraid. We humans don’t handle change well. A total eclipse, for ancient people could be at worst, the harbinger of cataclysm; at best, a sign of things to come.
In Acts 2:20, Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost borrows an image from the prophet Joel: “The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.” (NRSV) Joel saw the things that instill awe, reveal our smallness, or upset our routines as a sign that God was in the house; a reminder that the “day of the Lord” was in our future.
Today, we dismiss ancient wisdom about things like eclipses. We know that in the cosmic dance of planets, moon, and sun, a total eclipse of the sun happens somewhere on earth every 18 months or so. We know that it is not magic or a reflection of divine struggles between gods up in the sky. We know, yet we still marvel at the wonder of it all. We drive to places we can see it most clearly. Like our ancient sisters and brothers, we seek to experience the signs in the heavens. I think part of us still seeks meaning in them, too.
Today’s total eclipse reminds me how very small I am in the greater scheme of all there is in this universe. It reminds me that I have little or no control over a world I so desperately work to subjugate to my power. As a matter of faith, an eclipse reminds me that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a power that moves planets, and suns, and moons, and stars. In that sense, it is a moment of judgement that reveals to me the pettiness of my own sense of power and the foolishness of powers and principalities that think they run things. It is also, more powerfully a moment of grace.
Like watching the unwatchable beat of a hummingbird’s wings, or the power of a thunderstorm; like seeing the grandeur of the mountains or the smallness of an ant walking across my driveway; in the way my wife forgives and gives to me for no reason at all but love, the eclipse show me the grace infused life God has made. As I am awed and humbled by my presence before such wonder, I am reminded that I am God’s child. Grace; it is all grace.
Psalm 19 declares, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)
As we ponder the signs in the heavens this day, may we learn to ponder the grace that is revealed in every moment and every thing. May we pray with the psalmist: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Peace to all,
copyright © 2017, Timothy V. Olson