Pastor Kelli Whitman
It started like any other night…Like every other night the three old friends had shared in the observatory on the top of the hill.
Their nightly routine was just beginning. Mel, the oldest of the three, rolled out the star charts on the old, oak table in the center of the room. Bart fiddled with the instruments they would use to watch the skies. The smell of cinnamon tea filled the room as Gary brought the tea pot and three mugs to the table.
The three wise star watchers took up their usual places—Mel and Bart scanned the heavens, reading the stars, watching for a sign, while Gary, the newest member of the group, recorded their observations in a well-worn leather journal. As the three watchers settled into their familiar routine, a comfortable stillness filled the room, broken only by the rustling of the star charts and the scratching of Gary’s pen on the pages of his journal.
Bart saw it first—the star that would disrupt this comfortable, familiar routine and send the three friends on a long and winding journey.
He almost missed it—a star in the eastern sky, winking just a bit brighter than the others. He checked the chart lying on the old oak table in the middle of the room, then looked again at the skies in the east. Then back at the chart…back at the skies.
He asked to see Gary’s journal, and flipped through the notes from the past several weeks. He chewed on this thumb, deep in thought as he turned once more to the eastern sky.
“I think this is it…the star we’ve been waiting for…the star we’ve been watching for,” Bart said to his friends. Mel and Gary looked up at the star Bart pointed out…then down at the charts…then back at the star.
“I think you could be right,” Mel mused thoughtfully.
“So, now what?” Gary asked, excited to be a part of this momentous discovery. “Do we write it on the chart?”
“I think we have to follow it,” Bart said, gazing up at the winking light in the east. “This star is different. We can’t just write it down and put it on a shelf. I think we have to see where it’s leading us.”
“WHAT! Follow it?! But we’re star watchers, not star-followers!” Gary said, his excitement fading a bit. “Following it sounds…scary. We could get lost…We could get out into the middle of the desert and the star could disappear, and then we might never get back here to our familiar, comfortable routine. Maybe we could just tell someone else about the star. Maybe they could follow it instead.”
But Bart wasn’t listening. He was already folding up the charts and gathering supplies for the journey.
Gary turned to Mel who was still gazing up at the star, while his hand rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“Mel,” Gary pleaded. “You’re not really considering this are you? At your age? The journey could be long, and difficult. I mean, it’s a star, not a map! How will you know when to stop? You might just keep wandering forever! Wouldn’t it be better to stay here and drink our tea and stick to what we know works?”
Gary paused to take a breath, and Mel, still gazing at the star, placed his arm on the younger man’s shoulder.
“Look at that star, and tell me what you see,” the old watcher said patiently. Gary opened his mouth to renew his protest, then closed it again. He turned his gaze to the heavens, to the bright light of the star in the east.
Gary looked up at the star, wondering what in the world his friends saw in it. But as he gazed up into the heavens, curiosity began to wiggle in next to his fear. Wonder began to creep in next to his doubt. Longing to move began to overtake his desire to stay. A soft, but persistent voice began to whisper in his ear, “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” 1 He saw a road stretch out before him, the light of the star leading the way to an unknown destination, beckoning him to follow.
He looked back at Mel, who was still gazing at the star.
“It still seems risky,” the young watcher said.
“It is risky,” the older watcher replied, looking at Gary for the first time. “But perhaps ignoring this revelation, perhaps allowing our fear of the journey to trump the possibilities of the star is even more risky.
Perhaps these familiar surroundings and comfortable routines have caused us to stop watching and listening for the call of the Holy One. Perhaps our temptation is to ignore or doubt Divine Wisdom that appears in places we aren’t looking or expecting…in the daily routines of life, conversations with friends, moments shared with family, dreams that keep interrupting our sleep. Perhaps the greatest risk is fooling ourselves into thinking the Holy One has nothing new in store for us, that no new stars will rise to beckon us on, that there are no new roads for us to travel.”
“But what happens when the star leads us onto unfamiliar roads?” Gary asked as the older watcher began to gather a few things for the journey.
“Any journey worth taking will eventually lead you down unfamiliar roads, or roads you never expected to travel,” Mel answered.
“Sometimes we’re forced onto unfamiliar paths by changes in life. We get new jobs, we retire from old jobs, our health changes, our family’s needs change—sometimes we end up on new roads without much choice. Other times we feel called to explore a new path, a new vision, a new possibility. The challenge is to find the holy possibilities that are present on every road we travel.”
“It still sounds scary,” Gary said, as he too began to pack the cinnamon tea and other supplies for the journey.
“Well,” Mel answered, “The good news is you aren’t traveling alone. You have your old friends Bart and Mel to walk with you. And of course the light of the star, the presence of the Holy One, will be with us throughout this adventure—through every surprising turn, or new discovery, even when we have to turn around, or ask for directions, or just stop to get our bearings—the spirit of the Holy One will go with us, leading us, calling to us, waiting for us, and holding us.”2
Just then, Bart stuck his head through the door. “Mel, could you wrap up this sermon so we can get going? The camels are ready, and if we leave now, we can still follow the star for a few hours before the sun comes up.”
Mel picked up his bag and followed Bart outside. Gary lingered for a moment, remembering a poem his mother used to read:
This is not any map you know. Forget longitude. Forget latitude. Do not think of distances or of plotting the most direct route. Astrolabe, sextant, compass: these will not help you here.
This is the map that begins with a star. This is the chart that starts with fire, with blazing, with an ancient light that has outlasted generations, empires, cultures, wars.
Look starward once, then look away. Close your eyes and see how the map begins to blossom behind your lids, how it constellates, its lines stretching out from where you stand.
You cannot see it all, cannot divine the way it will turn and spiral, cannot perceive how the road you walk will lead you finally inside, through the labyrinth of your own heart.
But step out, and you will know what the wise who traveled this path before you knew: the treasure in this map is buried not at journey’s end but at its beginning.3
Then taking one last look at the old, oak table in the center of the room, he following his friends outside to begin a holy adventure. Amen.