I didn’t want the night to end. We sat under the stars, the moon shining down on us, a gentle wind, and a lifetime of unspoken thoughts hanging in the air. It was my last night in the village that I called home for two years. My time serving in the Peace Corps was coming to an end. The following morning a van would come and pick me and my stuff up and take me to the capitol to prepare to board a plane back to the United States. After our final meal together and stories shared, the people I had come to call family sat in silence. The laughter ended and the tears paused for a moment. One of the woman turned to me and said, “You see this moon. It is the same moon that will shine on you when you’re back home in the states. Look up at the moon and remember us.”
Fast forward a number of summers and I’m walking the ancient pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. Day after day I get up and walk for hours. Many days I rise before the sun has risen. Many days I begin the day in pain wondering how I’ll manage so many miles. Each day that I walk I meet people from all across the world. So often we can only communicate with a hello and buen camino (good walk), but as we look into one another’s eyes, we know we are more than just acquaintances. We are fellow pilgrims along the way. We are friends. I share meals with my fellow companions and we break bread together and toast to our journeys. We feast and welcome anyone who comes. There’s nothing more beautiful than extending the table to make sure there’s room for all to eat. Every night I go to bed, exhausted and full, and I look to the sky searching for the moon; remembering that it connects me to those I love.
A few years later I’m visiting my fiance in San Antonio. Very early one morning the phone rings and life instantly changes. My father is dead. A few hours ago we spoke on the phone from his hospital bed and he reassures me that he’ll be fine. “Go and enjoy yourself. I’ll be fine,” he says. Apparently we have different definitions of fine. It’s roughly 3 am and even though I don’t think to look, I know the moon shines outside. I know it’s over me in San Antonio and also over the hospital room where my dad lays.
I love the biblical story of Nicodemus. He’s a leader in the synagogues, a man well-respected. And he has questions for Jesus. Questions that he seems afraid to ask when anyone else is around. What is it about the night that draws Nicodemus to seek out Jesus? What is it about his relationships with others and his status in the synagogue that compels him to go out when no one else will see him? Perhaps he’s afraid or embarrassed. Perhaps he wants Jesus to convince him of who he is. Or maybe he knows that the night is when the moon shines brightest. It’s in the darkness that we most need the light to shine. It is during the night when Nicodemus meets Jesus and realizes his need for a savior. The night and the moon shining above is when Nicodemus knows for certain that he is never alone.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/