Tuesday, May 30, 2023

CN | Lanterns, Fireworks & Stars: "Only One Thing Is Needed"

NASA "Celestial Fireworks" for 25th Anniversary

God took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” ... Is not God in the heights of heaven? And see how lofty are the highest stars! ... He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. ... Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession? ... This is what the Lord says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night ... "only one thing is needed." + Genesis 15:5; Job 22:12; Psalm 147:4; Song of Songs 6:10; Jeremiah 31:35; Luke 10:42

The previous post, Still: Becoming More Attentive (Less Distracted) People, featured some thoughts from Leighton Ford's The Attentive Life on how we are invited to be attentive people because God is an attentive God and the wonder-filled and whole-making Story He is writing for us is worthy of our attention. This bonus post will feature a few reflections from Chapter 5: Active Life: A Slower Pace in a Faster World. Why? Maybe because what I need and Emmaus City Church needs is to live into this consideration: Perhaps in a faster world we could use a slower church  or at least churches that help us to slow down and pay attention.

We live in an age of continuous partial attention. 
+ Linda Stone

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry. 
+ Dallas Willard to John Ortberg

Only one thing is needed. 
+ Jesus (see Luke 10:38-42)

One Who Paid Attention: Kierkegaard's Lanterns, Fireworks and Stars

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote two small parables that illuminate our human condition of speed and inattention.

Parable of the Lanterns and Stars: A certain rich man traveled in a finely appointed carriage, with lanterns on each corner of his vehicle to light the road around and ahead. He went his way in satisfaction and security, assured that his wealth provided him with a good life. One day along the road the rich man passed a poor peasant who had no carriage to carry him, no lamp to light his way. Yet while the rich man pitied the poor peasant who had no money to buy all the creature comforts, the poor peasant could see the stars, which the rich man himself missed because he was blinded by his lamps.
Parable of the Fireworks and Stars: Another Kierkegaard parable compared fireworks to the stars. Displays of fireworks hold our attention with increasing levels of dazzlement. They start at a modest pace, then become louder, with more and more rockets exploding in multiple directions, showering more brilliant colors, going ever higher into the night sky, until with one final burst of noise and brilliance and color it is all over. The creators of fireworks shows, said Kierkegaard, have to produce more and more artificial excitement to keep us entertained, but with the stars it is far different. We can, if we will, lie on our back on a hill gazing into the night sky, hour after hour, and always there is more to see in the unchanging canopy of the stars overhead, more almost magical attraction, more sensing the mystery of the stars whose message in light was sent to us from millions of years past, more drawing of our souls to consider the vastness of eternity and the meaning of time. 
Stars are like messengers sent by the Creator who also made us, to lure us into pondering the meaning of it all and to consider the great end of our lives. (Fireworks are like the diversions we create to keep us from facing the reality of our lives.) We need to understand the great sweep of the Story of God and how our story with its small s relates to God's Story. 
Stars by Jonathan Foreman, 2009 A.D.
Maybe I've been the problem, maybe I'm the one to blame; but even when I turn it off and blame myself, the outcome feels the same. I've been thinking maybe I've been partly cloudy, maybe I'm the chance of rain. And maybe I'm overcast, and maybe all my luck's washed down the drain. I've been thinking about everyone, everyone, we look so lonely ... 
But when I look at the stars, when I look at the stars,
When I look at the stars, I see Someone else.
When I look at the stars, the stars, I feel like myself.
Stars looking at our planet, watching entropy and pain; and maybe start to wonder how the chaos in our lives could pass as sane. I've been thinking about the meaning of resistance, of a hope beyond my own, and suddenly the infinite and penitent begin to look like home. I've been thinking about everyone, everyone, we look so empty ... (Chorus)

Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins termed the inscape of things  the deep reality of creation known only to attentive eyes and hearts in the landscapes around. In all of life there is:

The things that don't matter can be regarded with indifference and forgotten. 
The good things of life take priority. 
But the best and deepest are discovered only through attentive waiting. 
"Only one thing is needful." + Jesus

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Christ is all,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

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