Since the end of summer I have waited and watched for the telling signs of fall. For me it comes not on a calendar or from the turning of leaves, but the steady drop in temperatures. The morning air is now far less humid and definitely chillier. Now is the time to lug down the backpack from the attic and clean out last spring’s debris. I have restocked it with appropriate food, gear, and the like. Tomorrow I am heading up to the north Georgia Mountains and meet a friend to hike and camp for a few days along a short section of the Appalachian Trail.
Sometimes when I backpack I blaze along clicking off miles and making good “progress” but failing to really see what is around me. There are other times, however, when I am more obedient to the pleasures of faithful watching. Faithful watching comes by staring hard at something until your neck aches. We see sacredness when we faithfully watch and abide. Many of the beautiful displays in this universe are only rewarded by our vigilant watching. Some years ago I was out backpacking with a few other friends and we ended up one evening on the top of Mt. Laconte in North Carolina. The temperatures had dropped once the sun set but the skies were crystal clear. Someone mentioned among the four of us that there was suppose to be a meteor shower that night, so all four of us sprawled on our backs on the top of an open rock face and stared deep into the night sky. Only through faithful gazing did we see streaks in the sky, though not all of us saw all there was. I am reminded of the many times when my back is on the grass and my eyes are looking hard into the sky looking, figuring, pondering, searching. Rarely do we see much in life through a casual glance.
It is not just the night sky that calls us to be sentinels. How many times have I visited the sterile and metallic rooms of a hospital and leaned in to look into the searching eyes of a church member who is watching and waiting. I am trying to be faithful in the listening and looking because together we want to see health and wholeness. And when the news is not good, we are still looking, are we not, either for answers, or for hope, or for courage, or for faith. Faithful attendance, faithful abiding is watching with one another.
There is a place for looking up until your neck hurts for the Holy One. Maureen Memeza writes in The Christian Century, “The Universe is a sacrament of the presence of God…nothing human is alien to God.”
Now we are his body and his blood in this world. The ascension of Jesus does not remove the Holy from us but reminds us of his living in each of us – God with us, God within us, God among us.
I lift up my eyes to the hills–from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth…The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
(Psalm 121:1-2, 8)