Stars in the night

This past week Liz and I traveled to a remote area of Big Bend National Park, where we hiked, enjoyed sunrises and sunsets, and marveled at the stars. Big Bend, as it happens, is one of the areas most free of ambient light in this region of the country, making it ideal for stargazing. As many of you know, in such remote areas the nighttime stars turn out in numbers, putting on a show for free.

I’m always reminded on a star-studded night of Thomas Carlyle’s axiomatic words: The eternal stars shine out again, so soon as it is dark enough.

They are words I’ve quoted more often in the last year than in my entire life previously, and always in reference to you—the congregation of Laurel Heights United Methodist Church.

The year has brought an immeasurable number of challenges to our world, our country, our community, and our congregation, including a pandemic, social unrest and a national soul-searching around issues of racial equity, a deeply divisive political environment, and economic strain. Through them all you have proven even-keeled, flexible, compassionate, patient, stalwart, agile, creative, and generous. I have watched our staff and lay leadership rise to meet the challenges we’ve faced with poise, intelligence, good spirit, and tremendous resourcefulness. In the midst of a host of uncertainties you have manifested a deep sense of assurance both that our lives and our life together are in God’s hands, and that vexing times in particular call the church to offer hope and good news to the world.

As I see you lead and serve, give and worship, imagine and create in all the ways you have through this arduous time, I am both honored and humbled to be your pastor, deeply inspired by you for my own leadership and service among you. My friends in Christ, thank you.

The expressions of your faith and faithfulness, like the stars under a Big Bend sky, are too many to name. Let me mention one recent development: In response to our Giving Hope focus, with its invitation to lend financial support the mission and ministries of Laurel Heights in the coming year, so far nearly half of you have increased your commitment from the cur-rent year. I don’t believe I have ever witnessed such a sweeping response of love, support, and hopefulness.

Thank you, Laurel Heights, for all the ways you are living out the gospel call to love and serve God and your neighbor—both in season and out. You have been among the stars, always in the sky, but in this “nighttime” of a year shining out once again.

Grace and peace.

Rev. Paul L. Escamilla