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Yet to Come

“Yet to Come” by Peter Andrew Smith
“Seeing is Believing — and Deceiving” by Frank Ramirez

Yet to Come
by Peter Andrew Smith
John 2:1-11

“Okay dear, you enjoy the worship service.” Charlotte locked Margaret’s wheelchair in place. “And think about what you want for your birthday desert before I come back.”

Margaret said nothing and simply stared at the front as Charlotte headed for the door. She had learned a long time ago not to roll her eyes because the staff then felt they needed to talk to her about her attitude and, honestly, she was tired of listening to them.

The church people were making their way through the assembled nursing home residents saying hello and visiting before the chapel service began. A couple of them spoke to her but Margaret didn’t acknowledge them. She found it was easier that way because she didn’t want to get into a conversation. The truth was that she was old, her body hurt, and her life was over. She sighed softly.

The service started and the pastor called for the first hymn. Someone opened her hymn book to the page she needed but didn’t bother looking at the words. Jack had always been the singer in the family. He loved to sing the old hymns. Margaret could still see him looking so dashing up in the choir and she could still almost hear his deep bass voice echoing in the chapel. Margaret felt her eyes becoming moist. She missed Jack with every fibre of her being,

The pastor began to read the lesson for the day about the wedding feast at Cana. Margaret remembered her wedding day. She was so nervous coming down the aisle with all the people staring but Jack looked at her with such love that when he gently took her hand her anxiety was replaced with joy.

The pastor continued to read the lesson and got to the part where they ran out of wine and she remembered that they had run out of cake at the wedding. She had been concerned but Jack just laughed and told her that there was going to be a whole lifetime for them to have cake. Each and every anniversary, every birthday, and any celebration he had made sure there was cake for them to eat.

Her life with Jack had been filled with such joy. She smiled to herself as she remembered Maddie’s birth. Those were wonderful days. Maddie curled up in her arms and Jack sitting beside her. She could almost feel the warmth of their bodies next to her. She was never happier than she had been with both of them in her life.

The pastor told about Jesus telling the servants to fill the stone jars with water and Margaret’s mind went to that terrible day. Maddie was twelve and always careful when she went swimming at the beach but the rip tide caught her and by the time the lifeguard found her she wasn’t breathing. Jack had held Margaret as she wept, as they both wept, and he refused to allow her to become isolated and lost in her grief. She missed her precious little girl and her husband so much.

“You have saved the best for last, ” the pastor said, quoting the steward who tasted the wine Jesus made from the water. Margaret tilted her head. Jack’s last words had been that he loved her and couldn’t wait to see her again in heaven. She desperately wanted to see him and to see Maddie again. She closed her eyes and listened to the choir sing.

She knew the promise of heaven and she believed in the grace which was hers through the cross of Jesus Christ. She trusted that she would go to heaven again and then, then she would be happier than she had ever been on earth. The service finished and Margaret was thinking of the promise of new life which God made through Jesus and what that meant to her. The pastor shook her hand and Margaret met his gaze and nodded at him.

“How was the service?” Charlotte unlocked the brakes of her wheelchair and started back to her room without waiting for an answer.

“Cake,” Margaret announced.

Charlotte stopped and leaned down beside her. “I beg your pardon?”

“I would like to have cake for my birthday.”

“I think that can be arranged.” Charlotte smiled. “Any special type of cake?”

“No.” Margaret looked at the others being wheeled out of the chapel. “But I want enough cake so that everyone can have a piece,”

“We can do that.” Charlotte stood and pushed her down the hallway.

“Can you get my photo album down from the closet shelf when we get back to my room?”

“I can,” Charlotte said. “Do you want to spend some time before supper looking at memories?”

“No.” Margaret shook her head. “I want to spend some time looking forward to the future.”

* * *

Seeing is Believing — and Deceiving
by Frank Ramirez
Psalm 36:5-10

For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light
(Psalm 36:9).

Even those who are not fans of the Star Trek television shows and movies are aware that Spock, Science Officer onboard the Starship Enterprise, came from the planet Vulcan.  The creators of the series determined that Vulcan circled an actual star known both as 40 Eridani A and HD 26965.

That star, which is "only" 16 light years away and visible to the naked eye, is similar in age and size to our Sun. Recently a planet twice the size of Earth was discovered speeding in an orbit forty-two days long around 40 Eridani A. Many Star Trek fans were delighted that a real-life Vulcan had been found.

What many people do not know is that during the 19th century many astronomers believed that because there were irregularities in the orbit of Mercury that could not be explained mathematically, there must be a planet orbiting even closer to the sun. This theoretical planet was nicknamed Vulcan, the god of fire and volcanoes, the divine blacksmith whose forge emitted fierce heat as was assumed would wash over any planet even closer to the sun than Mercury.

The actual error in the calculations that predicted Mercury's orbit was very small, but it was undeniable. The French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier was one of the discoverers of the planet Neptune in the far reaches of the Solar System. It's existence was first proven mathematically because the orbit of Uranus had some irregularities as well, suggesting another planet was out there. Le Verrier seemed like an obvious candidate to discover much closer to the sun.

On rare occasions one can observe the planet Mercury pass in front of the sun. Such a passage is called a transit, and these are cherished because valuable discoveries can be made during a transit.

Le Verrier soon began to receive reports from amateur astronomers who observed what they first believed were sunspots, but were moving. The chief of these was Edmond Methode Lescarbault. Were these transits of Vulcan? He soon found records of other astronomers earlier in the 19th century who also had witnessed such transits. These seemed to confirm the theory and on January 2, 1860, he officially announced the discovery of Vulcan! Lescarbault was awarded the Legion of Honor. The discovery of Vulcan was publicized and applauded.

Over the next few years new sightings were announced, and some began to calculate based on their observations that its orbit was either 17 or 19 days.

Many astronomers remained skeptical. All these observations were accidental. How could anyone predict when it might be possible for reliable witnesses to observe Vulcan?

One obvious way might be during another rare event — a total eclipse of the sun, when the sky would darken in midday, and the stars became visible. One could look at the sun directly and presumably seen a planet closer than Mercury.

A total eclipse was predicted for July 29, 1878, in the western United States. Teams of astronomers made what was a difficult and even dangerous journey, caring for delicate equipment that was sometimes not up to such unpredictable travel.

The date came and the weather cooperated. Among the many observations made were two by respected American astronomers. James Craig Watson, from the Ann Arbor Observatory in Michigan, where he served as director, was in Separation, Wyoming, on the big day. Lewis Swift, who hailed from Rochester, New York, was in Denver. Watson and Swift were discoverers of various asteroids and comets, so they were trained and reliable observers. They were familiar with what stars would be visible near the sun during the eclipse. Both claimed to have, during the precious seconds of totality, observed a planet not on the charts. It seemed that Vulcan's existence was confirmed.

However, their observations did not agree with regard to the position or the magnitude of the object they described. Despite the skepticism this engendered, observations of Vulcan were made several times in the decades that followed.

The existence of Vulcan was finally disproved by Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The theory was published in 1915, but it was not possible to confirm Einstein's predictions about gravity until there was a solar eclipse in 1919, when sunlight was observed to bend exactly as predicted, confirming that there couldn't possibly be a body the size of a planet where Vulcan supposedly orbited.

The psalmist praises God and says, "In your light we see light." The absence of the sun's light permitted respectable astronomers to "see" a planet they believed in that wasn't actually there. The absence of the light of God in our lives may permit us to see what we want to see, rather than the divine reality, as well.


StoryShare, January 20, 2019 issue.

Copyright 2019 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to the StoryShare service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons, in worship and classroom settings, in brief devotions, in radio spots, and as newsletter fillers. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to permissions@csspub.com or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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