Daily Office Readings for Sunday, May 5:
Psalm 93, 96 (Morning)
Psalm 34 (Evening)
1 Timothy 3:14-4:5
You know, it’s amazing how many pages respected medical journals have devoted to debunking the myth of the full moon as it relates to nighttime activity in a hospital Study after study has shown that admission rates don’t go up, trauma cases don’t increase, and psychiatric admissions through the emergency room don’t rise during the full moon. Yet each time one of these studies are published, you can bet there will be a flurry of letters to the editor published in those journals that say, “I don’t believe it.” Some will try to take apart the methodology of the study, some will claim the authors did not take into account some other factor, and some will simply flat-out say, “That’s bull,” in a more erudite fashion than “That’s bull.”
Well, here’s my theory: I think people simply want to believe in the moon, and this belief does not diminish with formal scientific education.
Our passage today hints at why this is. Today’s readings give us glimpses of the sun, the moon, and the stars. The sun is portrayed as a rather fickle character–a thing of beauty in the morning, but as the day wears on, a constant physical and emotional drain because of the heat. By the time the day is over, we’re ready for the sun to vacate for a few hours in that scenario. “Thank you for stopping by, Sun, but I’ve had enough–just go away now. See ya tomorrow.” (You know, I dated someone like that once.)
The stars–well, they’re awesome, frankly–but compared to the sun and the moon, they seem more fixed and unchangeable. They reflect God mightily. But in another sense, they already seem more godly than us. Human beings tend to see God as “out there” rather than right here–so we tend to think of stars as already being in God’s realm. We’ll never be traveling to another star any time soon, at least not in our lifetimes.
But the moon? Now that’s another story entirely.
The moon is our old familiar friend. Every 28 days, we know the moon will be the same way as it is tonight. We know it will be different a week from now. We know that in two weeks, it will be just the opposite as it is now. It’s always different, yet we can trust in its predictability. Out here in the country, I only have two dusk-to-dawn lights. I don’t have to take the dogs very far on their late night potty run before I’m walking in ambient light. I know that when the moon is full, I don’t need a flashlight. When the moon is new, I might consider wearing my headlamp so I don’t trip and fall.
Now, of course, the reality is the moon did not disappear. It’s all about where the moon’s position is in its orbit around the earth, in relationship to the Earth and the sun.
Perhaps that’s a little how it is with our relationship with God. Sometimes, God seems right next to us, reflecting everything in our path; other times, it seems we can only see a sliver of the Divine…or only darkness. These times cycle in our lives. Unfortunately, they are not as regular as the 28 day cycle of the moon. Yet they do cycle back around all the same.
I frequently tell young people that one of the blessings of middle age is I’ve lived long enough to know now that if I can simply wait out my times of darkness and grief, there will be a day that the light will return. No doubt–we often have times that the light of God is distinctly absent. However, just as the moon never really “leaves,” I suspect God never does either. We get a glimpse of that in our reading from 1 Timothy today–“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving.”
That means our grief, despair, and uncertainty, too.
That’s hard to see at the moment it’s happening, but in those moments when the moon is full, and the light of God is bright on our path, we can see how we were formed in the darkness. Note the proviso, though–thanksgiving is the key. I’ve had times in my life that were so stressful, the only thing I could pray was, “God, thank you for giving me the full range of human emotion. I can’t even see my way out of this mess I’m in right now, but at least I’m not dead to it.”
What changes for us when we think of God more like the moon, trusting that sooner or later we’ll be back in the light?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid