Looking Up, Reaching Out

For a few minutes, maybe an hour on Monday, the world slowed down in order to look up into the heavens. Some folks left home over the weekend; or set out early on Monday to be in the Path of Totality. Others went to the roof top, the backyard, the Brickyard or the courtyard to catch a glimpse of the Great American Eclipse of 2017. There was so much that was beautiful about Monday – the heavens declared the glory of God and the firmament proclaimed God’s handiwork! But, something of heaven happened on the ground too. America divided, looked up and, for at least one important moment, saw herself (ourselves) as one Nation under God.

Below is a devotion written by Mary Ellen Taylor for the Presbyterian Women Coordinating Team on Tuesday, then adapted for West Raleigh’s blog, On Being Church. It is a beautiful reflection on her eclipse experience. There are many other experiences that bear witness to what happens on the ground when we take the time to look up. Please, please share those experiences by adding a comment so that we can re-member that eclipse moment and let it shape our common future.



bodies in relationship,

illuminating one another.

at the very moment of their mutual darkness.

We use the word 'eclipse' to talk about something that is ending,

or being surpassed,

something losing its supremacy,

something dying and fighting for its life.

Hear how much

that echoes our own fears,

as individuals, as peoples.

But that is not what an eclipse is.

An eclipse

is bodies

very different from one another

coming into alignment

such that we see suddenly

in their relationship with one another

something startling—

darkness & light fused..."

-Scott Neely

Written by Mary Ellen Taylor

I had planned a devotional in advance for Tuesday’s meeting, but those thoughts were supplanted after the eclipse experience Monday. The counsel of friends chased away our initial indecision about pursuing the path of totality, but Hank and I had no idea how spiritually moving this adventure would be.

So we hatched plans with no specific destination other than avoiding cloud cover which meant that we kept driving west, again with the counsel of friends. Eventually, we felt guided to Lake Murray near Columbia, SC on a beautiful broad sandy lake shore dotted with pines, but also with spacious clearings. The area was teeming with people of all ages and ethnicities. Some came well-prepared for the day and others strolled in empty-handed. Some sat for the duration; others were constantly on the move. Within view of our little chair circle, a nearby crowd grilled hotdogs, a guitarist entertained us with folk songs, people sat in groups on blankets, and a large family tenderly cared for a matriarch in a wheelchair. Some had expensive telescopes that they shared, most had glasses, and a few came with pin-hole viewers. It was the Kingdom of God’s people coming together with the common goal of experiencing God’s wondrous creation.

After the moon began nibbling at the sun, there was a steady growing groundswell of anticipation for totality. Most days, the sun, moon, and earth seem ordinary, but on Monday they became extraordinary due to their relationship to one another. Towards the moment of totality, the temperature dropped and the view of the “sunset” over the lake was spectacular. It was as if a switch was flipped as the moon completely aligned with the sun and darkness arrived. The brilliant white light of the corona made me weep in wonder and joy. In that moment, I realized that the ordinary becomes extraordinary when in right relationship and that despite darkness that sometimes invades our journeys, there is always God’s love, God’s hope, God’s grace, and God’s Light.

Psalm 139 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.


God of relationships, God of the ordinary and extraordinary, God of love, hope, and grace,

Help us to remember that ordinary people can do the extraordinary,

And, that even when “light becomes night,” that “your right hand will hold us fast” as we live into relationship with you in your steadfast Light.

Alleluia and Amen.

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