Midway through leading my congregation in this past Sunday's Psalm, I found myself thinking, "this would be a perfect scripture for the day before the eclipse!" I resolved to continue onward with the responsive reading, but to spend time this week gathering resources for possible use on Sunday, August 20th, a day that in my worship planning I had failed to note as "Solar Eclipse Eve."
The coming eclipse is big news here in Lincoln, Nebraska. We are located in the path of the eclipse, so each day brings with it new warnings about not looking directly at the sun, information about which stores have run out of or have shipped in a new supply of eclipse glasses, and updates about planning for students in Lincoln's schools to participate in eclipse viewing.
I assumed it would be simple to find resources upon which to draw for sermon content on Eclipse Eve, but what I have found is either in the death-and-destruction scripture end of things or uses a significant number of words to provide information about star charts and karma. I'll acknowledge my use of words like "theology" and "spirituality" in my search may be part of the problem.
I did find some advice from a specifically non-Christian astronomer who suggested eclipse viewers remember that there are two ninety minute time periods, one before and one after the eclipse, that are worthy of attention as their own special celestial events.
Putting the idea movement of the sun and moon towards and away from each other together with the reality that many people are making special arrangements to travel to a specific location to view the eclipse brings to my mind a word that I associate with both theology and spirituality - Pilgrimage.
Perhaps Eclipse Eve could be considered a time of preparation for a day of pilgrimage as we recognize both the patterns of nature, such as the way sun and moon traverse the sky and as we recognize human pilgrim journeys, both physical and spiritual.
The community in which I live and work has spent a good amount of time this past year preparing for the eclipse, gathering tools such as eclipse glasses, planning educational events well in advance and group viewing parties for the actual day, and plotting both viewing locations and routes to those locations to best view the eclipse. The eclipse itself will be a journey we watch as the sun and moon trace their paths across the sky, intersecting for as long as two minutes as darkness falls upon those of us directly below.
I think it will be appropriate for us as Disciples to spend some time the day before as we gather to worship to contemplate how we prepare ourselves for our faith journey. What tools are helpful for us our our spiritual pilgrimage? Do we make time for our spiritual journey the way we do for celestial events? What would it be helpful to learn more about in an intentional way so we can be better prepared for our ongoing pilgrimage through this life? Who might we invite to join us, and what could we learn from one another?
roses and perennials from 33rd St in Omaha