Love You To the Moon….And Back
When I was a sophomore in high school, a doddering old English teacher with copious dandruff, too-bright red hair and a face like a lizard challenged us. The assignment? To write an essay explaining the difference between sacred time and secular time. At first, we had no idea what she meant.
So, over-achieving student that I was (I got over it), I set out to understand sacred time. And won her praise and a not-so-coveted spot on the bulletin board for my efforts. After all, this was high school. Geez, who wants their essay read to the class?
And, as I studied and prayed, what I realized was very simple. We think in lines. As if they were truly straight, and eternity goes on forever. In one direction. Linearly.
Columbus was aware of this problem. No one believed that he could sail west from Spain to get to India. Or China. After all, the earth was obviously flat. Patently ridiculous, to go the wrong way, and come….full circle. Oh. Wait.
Half a millennium later, Einstein found the same critics. He realized, through mathematics, that time, and space, are….curved.
Space, itself, is actually curved. Just like the citizens of 1492 Spain couldn’t wrap their heads around a circular earth, it’s hard for human beings to think of the universe the same way. Space is curved. This has been the stuff of some of the best science fiction ever written. Wormhole, anyone? “Warp” speed?
And if we can imagine black holes, wormholes, parallel universes, and all the stuff Captain Kirk and Spock encountered because Einstein’s findings sparked Gene Rodenberry’s imagination, that’s great.
What’s harder? Thinking of time. In circles.
Because, if we can think of time as a straight line, we can imagine that we are making progress. That here and now, in the modern age, we have came farther that anyone ever before us. Where no one has gone before, if you’ll pardon the expression.
But it’s just not true.
Sacred time was a popular concept in medieval times. That’s why my English teacher was interested in it. One author we read postulated that time, and events, were so circular that Jesus’ atoning blood dripped down onto the exact spot where Adam made mankind’s biggest mistake. I like that idea.
Daniel, in the Old Testament, interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a giant, many-layered statue. He clearly stated, that in this God-given visual aid, the golden head of the statue represented the greatest earthly kingdom ever. It would all be downhill from there. America isn’t better than Rome; Rome wasn’t better than Greece. And they all pale, compared to Persia and Babylon. We’re not getting better; we’re getting older.
And this is how we come to the lunar eclipse I watched tonight.
It was the fourth lunar eclipse I’ve seen in 2 years. At my church, and in the circles I run in, this has been a very big deal. They call them “Blood Moons.” A little too sensationalist for me, but it’s a NASA term, because at the height of the eclipse, the moon turns red. Really.
Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, talked about it.
Acts 2:16-20 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
These lunar tetrads (four eclipses in a 2 year period) aren’t that unusual; astronomically speaking, they happen all the time. What’s different this time is that they all four fall exactly on the Biblical feast days, assigned to ancient Israel. Hmm.
The sacred calendar is cyclical–one season follows another. They repeat. If you’re an American, you are accustomed to ending the year with Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Just in time for New Year’s resolutions. And the cycle starts over again. You learn the rhythm of a year. As you get older, you learn the rhythm of a decade, a family, a life. And things repeat themselves. It’s familiar. It’s comforting. Sunday follows Sunday. You go back to work on Monday. And then people wait for Friday to come again.
But it’s more than that. I once watched my daughter, who was 13 at the time, in a school play. She was asked to portray an insane mother, whose child has died in the crib. Not OK. Not only did I not think this inappropriate for 8th grade, but it was like watching myself on stage. And insane. So uncomfortable, because my daughter is a reasonably good actress. And the only way she knows how to be a mother is to be …me. (And on that day, insane). Sheesh.
The point, though, is that our family will come full circle. My daughters will be a lot like me, as I age and become a lot like my mother. My sons will be a lot like their father, as they enter the seasons and roles he used to play for them.
And time, as it marches on, has a way of repeating itself. My pastor said once that you could think of it like a tire. It goes around and around, always coming back to the same place, but still making progress. Ezekiel saw the angel of The Lord as a wheel within a wheel…I think it might be true, that as we come full circle, we make progress. But it might also be true that that same progress brings us…full circle.
That, just like a sailboat on the ocean, what seems linear is really…curved.
The universe seems random, but it is quite precise. Pulsars beat in regular rhythms. Moons, like my Blood Moon, spin around planets. Planets spin around stars, which spin around in galaxies, which circle black holes and singularities (we think).
What to us seems random is really a massive coordinated timepiece. As complex and reliable as a Swiss watch. And, on September 27, 2015, for some reason, our moon was a big and bright as it will be for many, many years. A Blood Moon. A full moon. A harvest moon. A Supermoon All at once. At perigee (the closest spot to Earth in its oval orbit).
What does it mean? I don’t know. But I do know that when the hands of the clock randomly arrive back to 12:00 each night, it marks a new day.
And that, my friends, is where I believe we are.
Good morning. It’s a new day.
And, like my children’s elementary school principal used to say, “Have a great day–or not. The choice is up to you.”