Thursday, September 13, 2012

A speck…

I heard an astronomer last week describe Earth this way- “We’re a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck.” So it goes, he claimed, when you consider the vast magnitude of space. Humanity’s relationship to the endless-seeming, post-Big Bang reality.

I’ve been pondering the cosmos of late, not simply because of this comment, but so too because of amazing footing from the new Mars rover, Curiosity. Did you hear about this? Recently, NASA landed another high-tech rolling robot on the red planet, equipped with 3-D, hi-def video. Apparently, the landing involved decelerating the craft from 13,000 miles per hour to zero, in seven minutes. What’s more, NASA’s scientists couldn’t make adjustments during the landing, meaning the whole operation was pre-programmed. So once Curiosity entered Mars’ atmosphere, observers could only wait, worry and pray. Praise the Space Gods, though, it worked! Curiosity’s a-roving. And wow! At least I find the images it’s sending to be beautiful.

Funny how knowledge evolves, amen?! In Genesis 1, the scripture writer attempts her/his own “Cosmological” imagining. S/he imagines the cosmos as being contained within a great dome. There are Waters below (sea), Waters above (sky; held back by Heavenly Flood Gates), and the Land on which s/he walks is a kind of literal middle ground. Beyond the Waters are what ancients called “The Deep” and “The Heavens”. And since those were, presumably, divine domains, no one knows what’s there.

Notice what a human-centered worldview that cosmological thinking was- We are the center of God’s Creation, the Divine Plan’s culmination. After all, on the story’s supposed Seventh Day- just after creating humanity- God rests, as if to say, “I’m done, y’all! Have at it.” Nowadays, though, we know that beyond earth’s sky aren’t waters holding back Heaven. Instead, it’s this endless void called Space, of which Earth isn’t even close to the center. In fact, the above-quoted astronomer says, “There’s truly no ‘Center of the Universe’.” No one place from which gravity pulls, and around which all things rotate.

Instead, we’re “a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck”, a phrase that, I suspect, makes some feel lonely and insignificant. Certainly, when Copernicus first proposed that the Earth rotated around the Sun, not vice versa, church authorities of his day cried (my paraphrase), “Blasphemy! You’re making us feel small!” But I take another perspective. It makes me marvel at the wonder of God! The majesty of this Divine Reality whose attention encompasses all that is. Typically, we us-centered humans act like “all that is” means…our state? Nation? Civilization? Planet? But as Mars’ Curiosity reminds us, Reality is so much greater still. Yet to think, as Psalm 139 contends, “Lord, you have searched me and known me”? How cool is that?! God knows and loves us. Amidst all the endless immensity of the cosmos!

Honestly, it further impresses upon me a sense of profound responsibility. If, in fact, as our faith contends, God not only cares about life on this lonely planet, but cared enough to get involved through the life and resurrection of Jesus, shouldn’t we take that much more care of our lush, abundant home? I know some people- perhaps some of you- question the veracity of human-caused global warming. Whatever your convictions, though, about causes and solutions, none of us should be blasé about potential consequences of receding polar ice caps and 6.9 billion (and rising) people on earth. Our planet’s too fragile, too isolated, for us to shrug off possibly devastating risks. Not when we have industrial capacity to damage it. And hopefully save it.

But here’s the thing: Presumably, by getting involved in life through Jesus, et al, God thinks enough of us to believe we can handle the responsibility. We aren’t God. But we too can love. We too can work together creatively. For that reason- God’s faith in us- I have faith in our common future. We may be a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck. But that speck ultimately rests on the beating heart of God. Whose name is Love, whose hope is endless and who knows us well enough to have faith.

Grace and Peace,

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