given on August 10, 2014
Tonight the second of three supermoons in one year will be visible. Astrologically this is a phenomena that occurs about every 13 months, but this year there are a total of five; the next supermoon is to occur September 28, 2015; in fact, the next three include that one, then one on November 14, 2016, and one on January 2, 1018—none in 2017.
A supermoon occurs when the moon is the closest is can possibly be to the earth.
The supermoon occurs when the moon becomes full on the same days as its perigee, which is the point in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth. The supermoon of August is one of the largest and brightest full moons of the year. The U.S. Naval Observatory says the moon will be 12% bigger and 30% brighter than it was in January 2014. [Accessed on August 9, 2014 at http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/08/us/irpt-august-supermoon/%5D
The first supermoon this year was on July 12, and the final one will be on September 8. In one year, three months of supermoon viewings is almost like the return of Hailey’s Comet which occurs once every 75 years.
Can you imagine what it would be like if we were only able to be that close to God so rarely? Fortunately God is with us all the time, in full and open view. Unfortunately there are so many whose lives are too cloudy to witness our Super God.
Think about the comparison of the supermoon and our relationship to God. The moon only becomes super when its orbit brings it the closest it can get to the earth. Now that does not mean the moon disappears or is not ever visible, in fact it is in our night sky each and every day. It does not matter whether it is a cloudy night or a star-filled night. The moon is there.
God is always there, too. In fact we do not have to wait until the sun sets to witness God’s presence. God is with us continually. He is always prepared to hear our pleas, to ease our pain, and to demonstrate his grace. God is our Super God.
Certainly the supermoon is easy to identify and witness. It is a concrete object we have no doubt is real in our world. There is a clear pattern of the moon waxing and waning or more commonly, of the new moon growing to a full moon and then disappearing again as the earth’s shadow shifts through the moon’s orbit. This orbit is repeated every four weeks, and it is so familiar we often ignore it.
Do we ignore God, too? God’s presence is constant and it never has to go through an orbit but maybe we are the ones orbiting God. Maybe we are the reason we do not see God in our lives. Maybe others see God in us, but we are not shining as brightly as the moon. Maybe we shine God’s presence only once in a great while like the astrological event of the supermoon.
Pause for a moment, maybe even close your eyes, and consider yourself as a supermoon orbiting God. Do you reflect God? Do you wax and wane in how you let God shine through you? Have you fallen into an orbiting pattern?
Falling into an orbit around God is easy. Our lives get so busy that we fill up the calendar with monthly meetings, with special appointments—always critical—and we go to work each day whether on a job or as a caretaker or parent. We run all day trying to keep our lives in order and when the head hits the pillow, we drift off to sleep.
If we are to be daily reflections of God, then we must actively participate in God’s commandment and commission.
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Sometimes loving one another is tough. And then to consider reaching out to others and asking them to become followers of Christ seems like one task too many.
Can it be done? Can we love one another as we love ourselves? Can we share our faith in a manner others want to have that same faith? Sure it can. No one said it was easy, but if we can establish our orbit around God so soundly that even when we are challenged and we suddenly feeling ourselves spin out of control, it is possible to re-establish that orbit.
What tools are needed to maintain that orbit? John Wesley called them the works of piety:
. . . prayer an essential part of Christian living. He called it, in many of his writings, the most important means of grace.
read the Bible every day, usually early in the day or late in the evening. . . .
[He also] emphasized the importance of fasting (giving up something whether food or routine such as internet surfing) and participating in Christian community (typically weekly worship). . . .
[Italic phrases added for clarification purposes. Accessed on August 9, 2014 at https://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wesley/disciple.stm%5D
These three disciplines or methods of maintaining a strong relationship with God can keep our orbits safe and steady.
In today’s culture, these three practices may not fit very well into the routines we have established in our lives, but in order for God to shine in our lives, these routines needed to be included and even polished, so to speak, so that others can see God’s presence and feel compelled to seek that same joy in their lives.
Think about how really simple life is when we develop a sound routine of getting up, going to work, fixing supper, relaxing, and even going to bed. These are healthy patterns for our physical lives, so why not establish healthy patterns for our spiritual lives.
Prayer—talking with God. We think about all kinds of things even while we are doing something else. Why can’t these thoughts turn to God? God has been there listening; and if the problems you face are what keeps your mind churning, then God probably has been waiting for you to talk to him rather than to yourself.
Prayer is private, it is your personal tool, it is like going to a counselor to work out the issues in your life. At the same time prayer is your praise and your thanksgiving. When you see something happen that is glorious—like the supermoon tonight if there are no clouds—you are sharing that sense of awe with God, too. When you open up that paycheck and see that total, you thank God for your strength and skills that made that possible.
Private prayer can lighten the load we humans tend to think is way too heavy for us to carry. Remember that guiding verse from Philippians 4:13: For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. That is one verse that keeps me focused during the week or in the midst of a major life challenge.
Bible reading sounds a great deal like schoolwork, but the key is to find the translation that speaks to you. Ask others which one they prefer and why. If possible, go on line and compare translations. The website I prefer is Biblegateway.com. There are so many resources, and so many choices in print that it can be overwhelming, but let that be part of the fun. Finding God’s word that speaks directly to you makes reading the Bible regularly much simpler, more appealing, and easier to understand.
The stories in the Old Testament probably compare more to our lives before knowing God. We read the stories knowing that even though the Israelites were the “chosen” people of God, they struggled. The life challenges over 5,000 years ago are the same as those today. Following God sustained them and their generations.
The New Testament shows a simpler way of life. The old rules were wrapped up into one commandment and Jesus demonstrated the mannerisms and the temperament needed to follow that commandment. When he did that, crowds of people came to see him, to listen to him, and to witness Super God in their ancient world.
Today, we see the global community right there on our TVs in a moment’s notice. We see the challenges to God and feel the sadness when a natural disaster hits, when a mine collapses, or when one people clash with another people. God’s presence becomes clouded and if we do not do all that we can for all who we can whenever we can, then those clouds will darken and no supermoon will be able to shine through.
The final practice really is worship. Fasting has lost its significance in today’s culture. Traditionally it has meant going without food for a certain period of time, usually a day; but fasting means disciplining one’s self more than anything. Possibly it can take on different images such as no snacks for 24 hours, or no coffee for a day, or no sodas for a week, or maybe shift that idea to a different focus—no internet or no tv for 12 hours, 24 hours, or eve a few days.
The other side of worship is Christian fellowship. Faithful Christians are expected to be in church each week for worship. In fact the United Methodists have somewhat of a standing rule that no one should miss more than four Sundays a year. For many of us that seems undoable, but it is a goal to reach. God will know what effort you are applying.
Of course Christian fellowship can include other activities, too. Maybe a Bible study becomes part of the Christian practices. Maybe it is to serve in one way or another. Maybe it is to join with the others in a mission trip or service activity. The opportunities are there or can be created; and these are the times others can see our super God shining in our own lives.
Tonight, get outside and look for a crack in the clouds so you can witness the supermoon. Take the kids out, call your friends, drive out in the country away from city lights, and revel in the glory of God as you witness the second supermoon of the year. Then tackle the month one day at a time practicing to become a super Christian sharing God’s light with others. In September, celebrate God’s grace in your life with the third supermoon this year.
Dear Super God,
maker of heaven and earth,
creator of the supermoon
as well as the world in which we live.
Hear our prayers as we step forward
in our Christian journeys.
Help us carry on a conversation with you
as we struggle to shine as your children.
Help us to talk out the troubles that shadow
your presence in our lives.
And, when we find joy, peace, and love
in our lives; hear our praises
Share your wisdom through the Bible,
in the words that speak to us.
Help us put those words into use
so others may see your presence, too.
As we open the doors to the church,
strengthen our faith through others
who love you, too.
May we hear your words of grace and love
as clearly as we see the moon on starry nights.
May we find strength and confidence
to share your love, your grace, your radiance
with those still in the shadows. –Amen