After 131 posts, it is time to explain the name of this blog….
The year I was born, pastor and hymn writer Herbert Brokering penned the lyrics to “Earth and All Stars.” When I was seventeen I was able to meet Brokering when he led a workshop for the Lutheran youth of Marion County Ohio. It was here I first heard this hymn which had been set to music four years after Brokering wrote the lyrics.
It is a thoroughly contemporary piece celebrating God’s active work in creation and human endeavor. It is also a hymn I rather like, which surprises many who know me as someone who enjoys Bach more than the likes of contemporary hymnody. (Of course, I did not escape Bach that weekend either.)
But why name my blog for this hymn?
I was an infant the year the lyrics were penned and with infant eyes I was able to observe the beauty of the Palatinate forest, an idyllic piece of the world filled with medieval villages and vineyards. I soon left that landscape for the fierce landscape of the American southwest, where my sister was born. When I was eleven I returned to the Palatinate with my family when my father was assigned to work with the Signal Corps in Pirmasens.
My father and I would hike in the highlands surrounding our home in Munchweiler and at night my sister and I would stand in a vast clearing where the American chapel stood and look up at the stars. One night we saw a brilliant one fall to the earth. Since that time I have often stood with her, usually in a driveway in rural Ohio, looking up at the stars and trying to see another come down to earth. I have seen a few, but none that ever matched the brilliance of the one that night.
It is only appropriate that the sight was never repeated. Stars are not meant to fall. They are meant to remain in the sky as beacons for travelers and sojourners. With a sextant they are to be measured at angles from the point of horizon to garner one’s location on this vast great planet. If a star were ever to move or dance or fall, it could only be for a very remarkable reason.
There is something about being a child in a military family. Life is not about the constant. From a young age you know the world as being in flux and not entirely good. The man you think of as your protection is often absent and with thousands of others, he may at any time be called to violence that you and others may know security. His comfort is looking into the sky knowing that he sees the same stellar constants that you also see. And his comfort is knowing that there are other constants who are often far away who do move and dance, who laugh and cry and fall and scrape their knees. To him, they are the justification to be in harm’s way and their letters and photos are his sustenance. For him, the creature makes right the creation. His stars are the reason he can say the earth is good.
The stars are sometimes called down from heaven. These are the ones who are the testimony that creation is indeed very good. They have been for me the stellar constants that belong in heaven, but walk the good earth.
I have often been adrift and lost. From an early age I was a sojourner moving from place to place. In my adult life I became settled in terms of geography, though I was no more rooted in the interior life. (And when I travel, I still prove it is easy to become lost in the most literal way.)
I mention my sister on this page because when I was young, she was the person who was most consistent to me. As children we wandered through many landscapes following streams, going into caves, walking around in neighborhoods. I would often decide I wanted to see or do something and my sister would be left helping me find the way there or more importantly find a way home. Since then others have been called to do the same. To recount all these instances is not the purpose of this post. Suffice it to say many of those stories are in the posts that appear here.
And now the point of the matter….it is not good to be alone or without a home. That we have been given both in the presence of the earth and the stars tells us grace abounds and abounds more than the world of darkness. It is true that life will give us dark nights. The storm will rage and dim the light that dwells in the sky. But we will still be grounded to the earth and when we are unable to locate the lights in the sky, it is because they have come down to be with us to hold the sextant of the soul and to unfold the maps that lead us all to heaven. How wonderful that in this grace, we are given the earth and all stars.