Step Outside

“Late last month the Boundary Waters was named a dark sky sanctuary by the International Dark Sky Association, a nonprofit that works around the world to reduce light pollution and protect night skies. It’s one of just 13 such designations in the world

To qualify, a place has to have exceptional starry nights, and a “nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or education value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.

 . . . We’re looking at a sky that people looked at thousands of years ago. And to me it feels like preserving a really special heritage. It’s part of the fabric of the Boundary Waters.”

Boundary Waters designated a dark sky sanctuary

Many years before this recent designation of “dark sky sanctuary”, I took in the “exceptional starry nights”. I did this during my two-week canoe trips out of Ely, MN into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The trips were about camping out in a secluded wilderness with close friends. And for me at least, it was about getting out of town and experiencing a different reality. My parents were not campers.

Born and raised in the city of Chicago and later moving to the suburbs, life was lived under manmade illumination.

I ate, played, did homework – did everything – by the light of incandescent, fluorescent or thungsten-halogen lamps. At night I walked or rode my bike under the mango-yellow light of street lamps.

In the Boundary Waters Wilderness there was none of that. When the campfire smoldered out, or when I wandered off from the camp, the firmament provided the only light.

Within that night sky sanctuary, absent of “light pollution”, billions of stars were sending out light. I learned later that the starlight had come to me from the distant past.

The night sky sanctuary is a time machine. Things had been set in motion long before I came around. I needed to step outside my frame of reference to understand this.

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Within the eyewitness testimony recorded in Mark’s gospel, there is an account not recorded in the other three gospels. We read of a blind man receiving his sight in two stages. The account is situated right after the account of the disciples not “seeing” – not understanding – what is right in from of them.

In Mark chapter 8 vs. 12-21, we find the disciples concerned about not having brought enough bread for their boat crossing. Their concern and confusion began when they did not understand Jesus’ warning.

“Beware!” said Jesus sternly to them, “watch out for leaven – the Pharisees’ leaven, and Herod’s leaven too!”

(One could say that “the leaven of the Pharisees” leads to a rising sense of self-righteousness. And, the “leaven” of Herod leads to a rising sense of self-importance. Both leavens lead to an eclipsing of the light of day.)

Jesus then sternly replies to the disciples and their mumbling about not bringing bread.

“Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand? Have your hearts gone hard? Can’t you see with your two good eyes? Can’t you hear with your two good ears?”

Jesus goes on to point out the obvious to his disciples: they were directly involved in feeding the five thousand and the four thousand. Each time they started with only a few loaves and ended up with baskets full of leftovers. How could they not understand and take in what took place in their presence?

Then comes the account of the man without two good eyes. Mark 8: 22-26:

They arrived at Bethsaida. A blind man was brought to Jesus, and they begged him to touch him. He took his hand, led him outside the village, and put spittle on his eyes. Then he laid hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything?”

“I can see people,” said the man, peering around, “but they look like trees walking about.”

Then Jesus laid his hands on him once more. This time he looked hard, and his sight came back: he could see everything clearly. Jesus sent him back home.

Don’t even go into the village, he said.

The blind man recovers partial sight after Jesus touches him. He gains full sight after Jesus touches him again. The man looks really, really hard all around. Everything then came into view for the once-blind man. He can now “walk perfectly on all his paths.”

Though I’ve read this passage many times before, what stood out this time – Jesus leading the blind man out of the village before restoring his sight. Did the village represent an established framework of thinking – a frame of reference – that needed to be reorientated by Jesus?

Was the variation in setting, from where the man had long groped for a path to outside the village, meant to be an object lesson for the disciples? They also groped for understanding. Did they need to step outside the village understanding of things?

Was the relocation outside the village for the healing a means to clear away obstacles from the man’s path? To straighten out paths for the blind man and the understanding of the disciples?

The disciples and Mark’s readers would no doubt understand the meaning within this account. Seeing and not seeing correlate to understanding and not understanding in words of the prophet Isaiah (Is. 6: 9-10). And both states correlate with the path one walks. This is heard in the words of the Damascus Document found near the Qumran community.

The “Teacher” exhorts the reader to “Listen to me and I shall open your eyes so that you can see and understand the deeds of God . . . so that you can walk perfectly on all his paths” (CD2:14-16)

The gospel of Mark opens with quotes from prophets Isaiah (40:3) and Malachi (3:1) in reference to John the Baptist:

“Look! I am sending my messenger ahead of me; he will clear the way for you! A shout goes up in the desert: Make way for the Lord! Clear a straight path for him!”

In the verses that follow we read of relocation, redirection and the clearing away of impediments in order to walk perfectly.

Mark writes of John the Baptist appearing in the desert announcing a baptism of repentance. A relocation outside the village.

Then we read that “the spirt pushed him (Jesus) out into the desert.” A redirection from villages. (Imagine the night sky over the desert – a dark sky sanctuary declaring the glory of God.)

The blind man, once groping for a path, stepped outside his frame of reference with Jesus. There, he was healed and saw what the disciples had yet come to see– that Jesus is the Frame of Reference. All else is darkness, murkiness, groping, and . . . mumbling.

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2017 Biologos Conference, Astronomer and President of BioLogos Deborah Haarsma: Christ and the Cosmos

Star Course: The King Awakens

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” [The magi]

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.”

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” The Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 2

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Star course:  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…Bright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gif

“Our starting point has to be ‘what is a star?’  The visible Universe is, to a very good approximation, made up of hydrogen and helium, the two simplest elements formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang. After around a billion years of expansion, the Universe was cool enough for slightly denser regions in the gas clouds to start clumping together under their own gravity.  These were the seeds of the galaxies, and within them, around smaller clumps, the first stars began to form.” Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw, The Quantum Universe

Bright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gifLife Star or stellar nucleogenesis:

“Every atom of carbon in every living being was once inside a star, since the interior nuclear furnaces of the stars are the only places in the universe where this element can be made.” John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth (emphasis added)

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stars

The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay…

The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes

But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes (Well, after all, this little baby spoke the Big Bang! What could scare Him?!)

The Stars AlignBright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gif

The Star of Bethlehem or perhaps Venus or a confluence of the star Regulus with Jupiter and Venus was creations’ royal birth notice.  Astrologers of the East took notice of the star’s position.  They left on their long journey tracking the star’s brilliance to the very space and time of the king’s invasion – Mary and Bethlehem and the Roman empire (and w/o NORAD, too!)

“We, with our modern democratic and arithmetical presuppositions would so have liked and expected all men to start equal in their search for God. One has the picture of a great centripetal roads coming from all directions with well-disposed people, all meaning the same thing, and getting closer and closer together. How shockingly opposite to that is the Christian story!

 One people picked out of the whole earth; that people purged and proved again and again. Some are lost in the desert before they reach Palestine; some stay in Babylon; some becoming indifferent. The whole thing narrows and narrows, until at last it comes down to a little point, small as the point of a spear – a Jewish girl at her prayers.

 That is what the whole of human nature has harrowed down to before the Incarnation takes place. Very unlike what we expected, but, of course, not in the least unlike what seems, in general, as shown by nature, to be God’s way of working.” C.S. Lewis,” The Grand Miracle”, God in the Dock

Bright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gifStar of David nucleogenesis

“The poor baby wakes” …in a star-based body.  God had laid down his garment of resplendent shekinah glory and put on oxygen and carbon and…a baby’s swaddling clothes and…the sin of the whole world.  He did this out of love.  This king would redeem the world He loved.

Earth’s most common element, iron, created by extremely large stars with extremely hot cores would be formed by Romans into nails.    These nails would be used to crucify the invading King.

Elements_of_the_Human_Body-01

“The idea of a divine sharing in human life and triumph over death is certainly a powerful myth.  However, as a Christian I believe it is more than that, for it is enacted myth.” John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth (emphasis added)

Death star or dust to dust, carbon to carbon:

“The doctrine of the Incarnation offers theology a profound insight as it wrestles with the problem of evil and suffering.  The Christian God does not just look down with compassion on the travail of creation, viewed from the invulnerability of heaven, but in the cross of Christ we see that God is truly ‘a fellow sufferer who understands’ (in [A.N.] Whitehead’s phrase), knowing that suffering from the inside, so to speak.  This moving insight seems to me to meet the problem of suffering at the deepest level of diving response and theological insight.”… John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth

Incarnation miracle – It was in the starsBright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gif

“The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation.

 There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about. It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion—an invasion which intends complete conquest and “occupation.” C.S. Lewis, Miracles

Bright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gif“Pilgrim, we’re home.”

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” The apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians 4: 4-7

The Dark Side

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”  The Gospel according to John 3:19