By Pastor Julian Harris
Consider the bright stars in heaven's floor. We're part of something incredibly wonderful – more marvelous than we imagine. We ought to go out and look at it once in a while so we don't lose our place
in it, the sense of belonging. We can even forget that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and not mere human beings having a spiritual experience.
The late philosopher-scientist Dr. Jacob Bronowski describes what happens when we forget to dream, when our imagination is consumed in our own consumption and we become earthbound:
The Statues of Easter Island stand in their uniformity, identical in visage, looking at the sky with their with empty eye sockets and watching the sun and the stars go overhead without ever trying to understand them. When the Dutch discovered this island on Easter Sunday in 1722 they said it had the makings of an earthly paradise. But it didn't. An earthly paradise is not made by this empty repetition, like a caged animal going round and round and making always the same thing.
These frozen faces, these frozen frames in a film that's running down, mark a civilization that failed to take the first step on the ascent of rational knowledge. (Starry Messenger, The Ascent of Man)
Instead of exploring beyond that limited island, the Rapa Nui people stayed there, consuming all their resources in their seemingly insane pursuit of carving these rocks call Moai. Easter Island is over a thousand miles from the nearest inhabited land, Pitcairn Island. How did the people get there? By accident, of course, but irrelevant, the better question being: Why did they stay there? One must have imagination and a vision of the heavens and the movement of stars to navigate such distances. They became marooned as surely as Robinson Crusoe found himself some 1,500 miles to the east of Easter Island, castaway on an island that bears his name. They all died for lack of food and boredom. Did you get that—BOREDOM!
The Lord Jesus Christ invited His disciples to come with Him to a mountain top high above the world, in some sense out of this world, so that they might see heaven more clearly and discover something about the relationship between the Creator and creation and more importantly about the changed nature of man himself now united to the Divine in Christ:
So let us then try to climb the mountain, not by stepping on what is below us, but to pull us up at what is above us, for my part at the stars; amen. (M.C. Escher)
In following Christ and joining the Prophets Moses and Elijah in witnessing to His Transfiguration, these men became His Apostles, that is to say, eye-witnesses to an extraordinary event that was to mark a beginning to a heretofore unimagined life and a touchstone and compass to keep them on course for the stars: Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:16-19)
Extraordinary, simply extraordinary, isn’t it?
Romantic as it might seem I nonetheless should like to imagine that there on the mountain Transfiguration’s inner light joined the stars to illuminate the night of man. Those embers among the ashes, those seeds lying dormant within his breast, quickened to life by the night-light beyond all expectations and expression save those of imagination enabled, baptized as it were, by faith.
In far away fields untouched by the progress of man’s machines and mind for artificial things, missionaries commune with their God in temples of the night bedazzled and bedecked with stars beyond counting, like Abraham’s children’s children. They embrace impossible tasks with limitless enthusiasm and superhuman capacity for hope and adventure. Have you been there lately? Writer and naturalist Henry Beston invites us nightly to the drama which unfolds above us and enfolds us:
When the great earth, abandoning day, rolls up the deeps of the heavens and the universe, a new door opens for the human spirit, and there are few so clownish that some awareness of the mystery of being does not touch them as they gaze. For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars-pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time. Fugitive though the instant be, the spirit of man is, during it, ennobled by a genuine moment of emotional dignity, and poetry makes its own both the human spirit and experience. (The Outermost House)
Many have followed and will follow Him to the mountaintop and gain the sight. Croagh Patrick means Patrick’s Mountain, the holiest height in Ireland’s county Mayo. Sometime around 800 AD St. Patrick saw and said:
I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me, and raised me up, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity - benefits beyond men's conception. (Confessio, 5)
The Trappist Thomas Merton ascended his Seven Story Mountain to discover:
What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous...The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. saw and said:
I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me...Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
(3 April 1968)