In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Easter 6

A reflection of Acts 17:22-31, 1 Peter 3:13-22, and John 14:15-21

When I was a little girl I used to walk myself to church every week for Sunday school and then again on Tuesday for Christian formation. The rest of my immediately family had no desire to go to church and I apparently was content to walk there myself. I was born into the church; my ancestors for generations back had been active members. It was the only church I knew. This denomination had very clear ideas of who could belong and who could not. It was also a denomination that centered its entire being on the idea that its members were the only people who were going to be admitted into the kingdom of heaven. They taught that it was the one and only true church of God.

One morning in Sunday school the teacher was giving us a lesson on this rule. Apparently, according to this teacher and this church, God made this rule; God decided that this Church was the one and true expression of faithfulness and the only way to salvation. But, even as a young girl I had an active prayer life and knew God’s presence in my life. So. When the teacher expounded on this lesson I couldn’t resist the urge to raise my hand and ask a question to the contrary. “What,” I asked, “Happens to the little babies in Africa who have never heard of this church?” Now, I’m fairly certain that I chose Africa because it was the continent furthest away from my small town and filled with people who probably had no idea our church even existed. I had no idea, really of what had transpired in Africa over the last 300 years. But clearly I thought God was big enough, expansive enough, to not limit people from heaven if they’d never even heard of the possibility of salvation through this church. The teacher however responded, “That’s why we need missionaries, to go over and convert these people and save them.”

I don’t know why it is that random conversations stick with me. I don’t know why I remember this particular conversation so well, although I think the Holy Spirit has something to do with it. I remember the classroom, and the kids, and the teacher. No, not their names, per se, but that we were sitting in a circle facing the teacher, that most of the kids were giggly and throwing spit wads, but that I was listening and thinking, and disagreeing with the teaching of my church. It simply did not fit my experience of God. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since, some 40 years later.

Eventually I left that church and went on an exploration of faith. I wasn’t looking for God; rather I was looking for a means to worship God in community. I was looking for a church that could hold my expansive experience of God and help shape and form me in my life of faith.

In our reading from Acts Paul is standing in front of a crowd at the Areopagus, where he has been brought to defend his teachings. He faces a crowd of Romans steeped in another belief system, a people who are angry and skeptical of his teachings. First he honors the beliefs of the people before him saying, “I see how extremely religious you are in every way.” He even speaks of their altar to an unknown god. He then clarifies the particular points that believers of his Christian faith adhere too which differ from their beliefs. He says: there is God who is known by the people; This God created all that is, including humanity; In this God we live and move and have our being; and This God cannot be found in gold or silver or stone, there is no image that can fully express who this God is, for this God is beyond the imagination of mortals.

1 Peter picks up on this theme, although not explicitly. I am not sure what the author of 1 Peter intended in the writing of this Epistle. It is tragic that this Epistle has been used by the church to encourage abuse and violence. Over the centuries Christians have used portions of 1 Peter to argue for slavery and for the abuse of slaves at the hands of their owners. It has also been used to argue for domestic abuse telling wives to silently tolerate abusive husbands. Like I said, I’m not sure what the author intended but I do know that modern commentators on the Bible are finding new insight into this reading that reframes the suffering. From this perspective it does not support abuse nor does it endorse one human being inflicting violence on another. It says instead that when we defend our faith with integrity we will face skepticism and hostility. According to 1 Peter defending our faith means to live with gentleness, reverence, and integrity - these are the qualities that 1 Peter defines as conveying the nature of God. This passage reminds us to commit ourselves to God by living as Christ teaches us – not by hiding our faith but living it in a public way. Living our faith in a public way means that the grace of God that is working within us is public and obvious to others.

In our gospel reading we learn more about what it means to commit ourselves to God and to live as Christ teaches us. This passage begins and ends with this point – we are to love. Jesus gives us only one commandment, and we hear it over and over – we are to love God, love our selves, and love others. We learn this first from Jesus himself. Later when Jesus has departed this world and ascended to heaven, Jesus leaves with us the Holy Spirit, who continues to teach us about love. The Holy Spirit is that expression of God that remains active in the world and enables us to love as God loves – in an expansive, generous way.

I do think that my Sunday school teacher was on to something important. We do need missionaries in this world. But not the way she and the church of my childhood intended; not missionaries who proclaim a narrow view of salvation and an exclusive view of who God will embrace. And we don’t need missionaries just in Africa. We need missionaries everywhere, missionaries who are able and willing to live lives of faith. We need missionaries who are willing and able to love people just as they are. We need missionaries who meet people wherever they are in their lives and love them. Living as Christ has taught us enables a grace-filled love of God to pour through us. This grace-filled love of God will change lives. We need missionaries who love the broken people and shattered pieces of this world. We need missionaries that move us out and away from violence into the gentleness of God. We need missionaries with an expansive vision of God’s love; a vision that lives with open arms rather than tight fists. Each of us, when we live our lives with gentleness and reverence, become missionaries for God. But as Christian missionaries for God we are also called to live lives of integrity and that means that we love as Christ loves; for it is in this way that Christ will be in us and we will be in him. When Christ is in us and we are in Christ we are close to understanding the nature of God. Still, I think it is helpful to remember, as Paul says, that ultimately God is beyond the imagination of mortals. Let’s not get stuck on, or limited by, some image of who we think God is. Instead let’s embrace God as Jesus did, let us embrace self as Jesus did, let us embrace others as Jesus did, as visions of love.

The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is the rector at St. Francis-in-the-Valley, Green Valley, Arizona. She holds a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Social Work. In addition to parish ministry Terri enjoys time with her husband of 23 years, her children 19 and 16, their two dogs and two cats. When life is slow she also knits, reads, and does yoga.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Easter 5

A reflection on John 14:1-14 by Janine Goodwin

“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

I once watched a friend, whom I’ll rename Stephanie for this meditation, undergo a radical conversion. When I met her, she was a teenager more interested in fashion than in faith, a kid who went to a mainline church because her parents said she had to. In the course of a few weeks, she became a passionately enthusiastic member of a small church that her understandably distressed parents called a cult. She changed her style of dress, her way of speaking, and the entire focus of her life. She believed in miraculous healings, and she spoke in tongues, things that both unnerved and thrilled me. She also preached hellfire to an extent that eventually led me to universalism because I couldn’t love a God who would send people to hell nor a human soul that could hold out against infinite love for all eternity.

Once, when we were out for a walk, Stephanie began lecturing me about the last verse of this passage. Her preacher had told her that if she asked for anything in Jesus’ name, God would have to give her what she asked, because God never broke promises. At this point, a dog ran out of nearby yard and began to follow us, barking. She told it to go home. It didn’t. She commanded it, in the name of Jesus, to go home.

I couldn’t decide whether she was being heroically faithful or blasphemous. The dog followed us for another block as we walked slowly away, barking so loudly we couldn’t discuss God’s failure or refusal to make it go home. When it turned away, we talked about something else.

I don’t know what Stephanie got from that experience. I got the beginning of the sense that God’s promises are never a way to use God for our ends, and a sneaking sense of relief that her invocation had not worked—because if that dog had immediately stopped barking and trotted home, I would have felt obliged to join her church, which I did not want to do. In either case, I knew I would never have tried what she did, because I didn’t really want God to be close enough to me to disrupt the fragile balance of my life with miracles and demands.

It would be easy to dismiss Stephanie’s faith as immature, and to stop there. Of course her faith was immature: she was a teenager. She did, however, have the kind of courage Stephen had in today’s epistle reading, and I did not. My faith was immature, too, though in a different direction. I didn’t want the power she wanted, because I didn’t want to be called to do the strange works Jesus did.

Like Thomas and Philip in this Gospel reading, both of us were engaged in the lifelong task of learning to trust a God we can never fully understand. My friend believed in Scripture as a sort of magic, in which the power of God could be called down for her purposes. In contrast, I was more frightened of passages like today’s gospel than I was of the growling dog. On Sundays, I sat in a quiet church with nicely dressed people, hearing these wild promises and impossible demands from Jesus and wondering why no one else noticed the kind of danger we were in. God was calling us to do greater works than Jesus did. I found that terrifying. Even if I dismissed the miracles of healing and feeding and the raising of the dead as things that didn’t happen anymore, with a vague sense that it would be both upsetting and somewhat tacky if they did, there was a lot of work to do: the work of justice and peace, the work of preaching and teaching, the work of showing God to one another. I couldn’t help noticing that the followers of Jesus tended to upset the way people thought and worked, and that a disproportionate number of them were ostracized, ridiculed, and even killed. True, not everyone was called to be a prophet or a martyr—but you never knew who would be. I used to revise the hymn, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” slightly:

And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
And one was slain by a fierce, wild beast,
And there’s not one reason, no, not the least,
That I shouldn’t get chomped, too!

I wanted a safe life, and the Gospels offered no safety at all. I didn’t want to be Stephen. His assurance was wonderful, but his death was still an ugly death. He saw God, true, but I would rather not have done so while being murdered by an angry mob. I strongly suspected that if Jesus had walked by and said, “Follow Me,” I would have said, “Er, thanks, but I really don’t think I’m up to it.” I still wonder whether I am. He still keeps calling.

It has taken me a long time to see that the disciples in today’s Gospel passage were just as confused and frightened as I. Jesus tries to reassure them at the beginning of the passage, telling them that they will be with him always, that he is going to prepare a place for them. They can’t hear what he is saying. They can’t hear what they have already heard: that they know the way to the place where he is going. They don’t dare know what they already know. They respond to Jesus’ assurances with demands for certainty. Thomas wants a heavenly road map. Philip wants proof of Jesus’ authority. How does Jesus respond? He answers them with surprising pragmatism. Jesus may rebuke the disciples, but he is not a perfectionist. He reminds them of what they have learned about him, then tells them to believe in any way they can. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” I like to have a proper theoretical foundation for things, so this, for me, is one of the most radical and shocking utterances in any Gospel. If living in an imperfect faith is more important than being right, I have no excuses left. I am called to am uncertain, vulnerable life, a life in which the only assurance is that I will be with Jesus when it all ends. That has to be enough.

My friend and I both wanted a God who would give us certainty, and were met by a God whom we could not understand. We looked for the knowledge of God in groups of people who had differing ways of looking at the Gospels. We were both wrong, each in our own way. We told each other why each others’ churches were wrong, but never admitted where they might be right, never looked at what we might teach each other about the life of faith. Perhaps that was our greatest error: we let our very real and often deeply painful differences become a barrier that prevented us from sharing what we knew of God. In our desire for certainty, we lost the holy uncertainty that is humility before God.

We are all wrong, to varying degrees at varying times, and we are all right, and we are none of us all right or all wrong; we will never be entirely sure when we are right and when we are wrong, and Jesus doesn’t seem to care nearly as much about that as we do. Jesus wants us to believe and do his work, despite our misunderstandings and imperfections. What would happen if we would all spend more time listening to each other and believing that Jesus has already told us what we need to know? If we could listen more to Jesus, and less to our own desire for power and our own fears, what miracles could we do?

Janine Goodwin is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader who lives with her husband, dogs, and cats. She holds a B. Mus. and an M.S. Ed. in Special Education from the University of Oregon and an M.A. in Theology from Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. When she is not working with words, she makes jewelry and rosaries.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Easter 4

A Reflection on Abundant Life, John 10: 1-10, by Rev. Dr. Katherine Godby.

In John 10:10 Jesus says “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” What amazingly powerful words. Jesus came, he lived and he died, and he lived again so that we might have life. But not just any life—abundant life.

In a spiritual direction group about a year ago, a woman suddenly stood up, threw her arms open wide, and shouted up to God: “I WANT IT ALL, LORD! I WANT IT ALL! YES! I. WANT. IT. AAAALL!”

Oh, what an image she created in my mind. She was without a hint of self-consciousness. Her action was completely spontaneous and completely beautiful. I knew—indeed, everyone in that group knew—that the abundant life was already hers.

The abundant life can be thought of in many ways, of course. What I offer here is a brief reflection based simply on that amazing image created by my friend. It seems to me that her action was an embodiment of abundant life because it held in creative tension two opposites: empowerment and vulnerability.

She embodied a sense of empowerment. Imagine with me, if you will—My friend is in her late 50’s, beautiful silver hair, and petite. She SHOT straight up and declared in exuberant and no uncertain terms that she wanted LIFE! She wanted it ALL! At a deeper level, her declaration was perhaps the most powerful prayer I have ever heard or witnessed.

Walter Brueggemann writes about how the ancient Hebrews had the nerve to hold God accountable. In the imprecatory psalms, the psalmist(s) figuratively shake their finger at God and say, “You promised to stay with us. We have done everything you asked, but you have abandoned us! Wake up! Rouse yourself, O God, and come to our aid as you promised!” I’ve always loved that—the whole idea that we “mere” human beings would have the courage to stand up to God and say, “Hey! Thing is wrong!” fills me with a sense of how intrinsically valuable we are, how we are indeed made in God’s image, and how we need not fear.

My friend’s action that evening reminds me of that: she knew her intrinsic value, she acted from within the center of the image of God within her, and I think she was so filled with exuberant love that there was no room for fear of any kind. What gorgeous power!

Think about it for a moment. In my own life and as a pastoral counselor, I know the ubiquitous role fear plays in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. I once did a study of the number of words/phrases in the English language that signify fear. Here are a few:

—dread, chill, foreshadow, fright, trepidation, agitation, hysteria, apprehensive, cowardice, ‘oh, that was creepy,’ dismay, disquieted, fainthearted, jitters, misgiving, nightmare, cringe, quake, qualm, warning, nervousness, tense, scare, suspicion, timid, trembling, unease, intimidated, shudder, angst, anxiety, horror, terror, terror-alert, panic, awe, fretful, consternation, dismay, alarm, foreboding, ominous, ‘oh, you startled me,’ worry, concern, hesitant, bashful, meekness, insecurity, threatening…cold feet, backing out, chicken, chicken-hearted, chicken-livered, sinking feeling, second thoughts, weak-kneed, yellow streak, gutless wonder, turned-tail and run, funny feeling, mousiness, wimp, shrink from, bad omen, goose bumps, the heebie-jeebies, mass hysteria, big baby, fraidy cat, jellyfish, sissy, lily-livered milksop, milquetoast, and yellow-bellied doormat, paranoia, night terrors, mass hysteria. And of course, ALL defense mechanisms are trying to keep some kind of fear at bay: compensate, deny, displace, dissociate, obsess on something else, make a joke, idealize, identify, intellectualize, introjet, refocus threatening anger onto ourselves, isolate, minimize, project, rationalize, regress, repress, split, substitute, sublimate, and suppress. Not to mention just good old fashioned avoidance. And phobias? oh, please. We can take almost any noun in the English language, and somebody is afraid of it! Fear of cats. Fear of rats, bats, crickets, dogs, bogs, mice, lice, heights, flights, water, worms, sex, speed, space, race, constraint, cocktail parties, office hours, old friends, Friday the 13th, and fat. [Miller, The Mystery of Courage, Harvard Univ. Press, 2005]. Fear underlies all anger—because all anger is a response to some kind of threat. Fear often accompanies love—few people are spiritually mature enough to love without fear of losing love.

And we know that fear funds sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, racism, classism, ageism, ableism—all of which at their core are fear of difference.

But when we exuberantly love, when we are filled with a passion for LIFE, then fear doesn’t stand a chance. There’s no room for it within us! Jesus’ promise of abundant life provides the empowerment we need to live courageously and joyfully inside a culture of fear. Wow.

At the same time, my friends’ action also embodied a sense of trusting surrender. Her gesture of arms thrown open wide spoke of utter and conscious vulnerability, offering no protection whatsoever. The gesture never fails to remind me of Jesus on the cross. It is crucial to remember, however, that this gesture is made consciously. Jesus was aware of what might come when he decided “not my will, but Yours.” And my friend is no innocent babe in the woods—she knows from experience the bitter realities of life. Her gesture came amidst acute awareness of the inevitability of loss and suffering, of our own mortality, and of the evil that human beings can and do perpetrate. The consciousness of this vulnerability is what makes her action an embodiment of trust.

The tension between our empowerment and our trusting vulnerability is a creative tension that results in an abundant life, a life lived to its fullest.

My friend threw her arms open wide and said Yes to abundant life. May each of us know that kind of trusting courage as well.

Bio: Katherine Godby is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is currently serving a United Church of Christ congregation in north Texas. Her Ph.D. in pastoral theology and pastoral counseling focused on issues of authenticity in a postmodern world. Married late, she is enjoying the plunge into life with a husband and three children-by-marriage.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hearts on Fire: Easter 3

A reflection on Luke 24:13-35 by Laura Grimes.

Mary and Cleopas trudged wearily and silently along the dirt road. After several days and nights of fear, grief, guilt, and anger they were utterly spent. Mary briefly wondered what was in her husband’s mind and heart, then returned to the restlessness of her own. How could it be true? One more demonstration of Roman brutality, one more betrayal by the priestly caste that colluded with them, one more failed Messiah. What a fool she had been to trust, to believe that things could be different, to imagine that someone from her own village--her best friend’s older brother—could be the chosen one of God.

Mary sighed as she thought of that friend. Though it had been three years since Shira’s death, the pain and memories had resurfaced as fresh as ever since Jesus’ torture and execution at the hands of Pilate’s soldiers. Watching in terror as blood gushed in fountains despite the desperate labor of the midwife and her assistant, and the joy at Benjamin’s birth turned to anguish. Feeling her own child leap in her womb as she watched her friend’s face grew pale and her voice faint. “Esther, your son” – “Little one, your mother.” The words were addressed to Shira’s older sister, who had plenty of milk for the boy; her year old daughter now ran, climbed and jumped everywhere, nursing less and eagerly learning to eat fruit and cheese. But Shira’s eyes sought Mary’s too, in a wordless appeal to which her breaking heart willingly assented. If she survived her own birth the following month, she would love Benjamin as her own, tell him stories of his mother’s youth, make him the most welcome friend to her own firstborn. And she did, until the horrific day two years later when Simeon was taken by a sudden fever. She couldn’t stand to see Benjamin anymore, couldn’t stand life in Nazareth at all, and neither could Cleopas. When he suggested that they join the growing group of disciples following Jesus on his mission, she eagerly assented.

Her namesake, Jesus’ mother, sighed wearily at the news but kissed and blessed them on their way. She knew that Jesus has a special mission, but had felt angry and betrayed when he left so soon after Shira’s death, which followed Joseph’s by less than a year. Didn’t he know how much the family needed him? Couldn’t God’s call, so long delayed in coming to clarity, wait another year till they had all adjusted? Thank heavens they had been reconciled before the end, his mother rushing to Jerusalem in time to join the others at that bittersweet Passover meal. Mary recalled leaning back against Cleopas’ chest, intently watching Jesus’ actions and listening to his startling words. Jesus tenderly washed their feet, something the women usually did, and she remembered the recent feast Martha had prepared to celebrate Lazarus’ return to life. Her sister, yet another Mary, had anointed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. The others had been both moved by the grace and intimacy of her gesture, and troubled by his cryptic words about burial, put out of mind till he spoke in a similar way tonight. “My body, given for you”—she tasted the fresh bread she and the other women had baked. Her mind flashed to the awkward, eager nights of love when she and Cleopas first became one flesh. It had been so long now. Other couples in the group managed to find the needed privacy, but their desire had cooled after Simeon’s death, even when Joanna whispered to her of herbs that the women at court used to prevent conception. “My blood, poured out for you” – she sipped the rich wine Cleopas handed her. Her empty breasts ached as she remembered the bliss of sleepily holding Simeon to her breast on the sleeping mat, with Cleopas’ arms enfolding them both.

The next day she stood as close as she could to Jesus, with Jesus’ mother, Mary of Magdala, some of the other women, and John. Cleopas was farther back, with the few male disciples who hadn’t run away with Peter and the others. She watched Jesus’ mother, looking at him with eyes full of unshed tears, and her heart was torn between compassion and resentment. She couldn’t imagine watching people torture and kill her beloved son —but at least Mary had gotten to watch her son grow up. And he had made a free choice to speak the truth even at the risk of death, rather than being snatched by a stupid, pointless disease. Then even those conflicted feelings fled, as Jesus’ face paled and his voice grew faint. “Woman, your son” – “Behold your mother.” As on the day of Shira’s death, those solemn words were followed by a cry of anguish, and an uncontrollable gush of blood, caused this time by the soldier’s spear piercing savagely into Jesus’ side.

Lost in her memories, she barely registered when Cleopas said something, and was startled when another traveler approached and spoke to them cheerfully: “What are you talking about this fine day?” Cleopas looked at him as if he were crazy, and frustrated words spurted from his mouth. “Are you the only person in Judea who doesn’t know what’s been going on this week?” Mary’s tongue unloosed, and they started speaking over each other as they poured out the story. Following Jesus, hearing his words of fiery challenge, and seeing his miracles. Being sent out on their own to preach the good news, and like the rest of the seventy, being astonished when the Spirit moved through their hands as well. Their combined prayer healed a little girl with the same fever that had taken Simeon, and it brought peace to their heart. They agreed that they were ready to see Benjamin again, and maybe even to open to a new life in their own family. Marching into Jerusalem behind Jesus’ donkey, with the crowds cheering, and their hearts rising to think that Israel would be free once more. And then the grief, and the fear, and the wild claims of angels made by Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and the recriminations that had finally driven them to leave the other disciples in Jerusalem and begin the long walk home.

The man waited till they were talked out, then smiled wryly and challenged Cleopas: “Don’t you know the scriptures? Wasn’t that the fate of every true prophet?” Turning to Mary, he added “Isn’t pain--sometimes death--always the price of new life?” Shocked into silence, they listened as he spoke on, their dead hearts slowly starting to spark to new life. There was something about his manner that resembled Jesus—but no, that was impossible, and surely he would have said something, and he didn’t really look like him anyway. As they approached the inn in Emmaus, the sun was setting. The stranger and said, “Here’s where I leave, you, friends. Thanks for your company.” “Oh, please stay and eat with us,” Cleopas urged, and Mary added her voice to his. She felt stronger and more hopeful in his company, and wanted to delay the return of despair she feared would come along with his departure. The man smiled again and agreed, and they went in and ordered a simple meal from the innkeeper.

He brought wash water first, and Mary knelt to wash Cleopas’ feet; she saw tears well up in his eyes, though they didn’t fall, and felt the same sting in her own. She turned to the stranger next, but Cleopas shook his head and took the towel and basin from her. Her renewed grief turned to wonder as her husband followed their rabbi’s example, washing the stranger’s feet and then hers, with a tenderness which awakened her heart—and some other parts she had thought long dead. She smiled at him with a promise of the joy they would later share. Then they all washed their hands in another basin, and her famished stomach made an embarrassing noise as the innkeeper’s daughter placed cups and a flagon on the table. “My mother’s bread is the best in Emmaus,” she assured them, “but it’s in the oven yet. Just a few more minutes.” So they quenched their thirst with the wine and eagerly set upon the tart goat cheese, salty olives, and sweet grapes that accompanied it.

A few minutes later the girl returned with a steaming loaf of barley bread. Mary reached out to serve it to the others, but the stranger forestalled her, as Cleopas had earlier. He reached for it, broke it in pieces, and handed one to each of them. Jesus! It was him! How could she have missed it before? Mary’s heart leapt and she clutched at Cleopas in shock, looking away from Jesus for a moment. When she looked back she received another shock—he had completely vanished. She took a deep breath and steeled herself for another rush of grief, then realized that it wasn’t coming. She couldn’t see him, but she could still feel him with her somehow, and she could tell from Cleopas’ dancing eyes that he could too. “Come on, let’s go back…” “We need to tell the others…” They both spoke at once, then laughed as they cut off their jumbled sentences. Cleopas reached in his pouch for a few coins and tossed them on the table. She grabbed their cloaks, then her beloved’s hand, and they set off together in the star-filled night.