Print

Vastness

Written by Pastor Aaron Decker. Posted in Light and Life

LnL HubbleDeepFieldThe picture at the right was taken by NASA and the European Space Administration through the Hubble Space Telescope.  It is known as the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, and features about 10,000 galaxies in this single image.  The photo is extremely focused, covering only one thirteen-millionth of the night sky.

Less than four hundred years ago, Galileo was condemned by the Church for his support of the idea that the sun lies at the center of our solar system.  At that time, this solar system was the sum total of our concept of the universe.  It is incredible to me that, in such a short time, we have been able to advance our scientific understanding of everything that lies around us so manifold.

When the authors of our creeds first proclaimed that God is creator of "heaven and earth," they had two specific realms of existence in mind.  "Everything," was its meaning.  "All that is above, and all that is below."  As we dial back our view to encompass the vastness of the universe, some people cannot help but lose their faith.  What are we, but a speck in the midst of billions of galaxies?  And if so, how can any of our faith be true?

For me, though, our greater knowledge only supports and develops my faith.  God created the heavens and the earth, all that is, the entire universe.  And we who know Christ have come to understand that God made it with purpose:  God created so that He had something to love.  This universe and all that is in it exists, quite simply, to serve as the object of God's love.

No wonder the universe is so big.  It must be.  For this is how vast God's love is.

Dwell on that idea for a moment.  The incredible, vast nature of God's love is so limitless that only a universe containing billions of galaxies is big enough to even begin to receive it.  No wonder theologians insist we not think of God's love as an emotion, as much like human love.  Beginning with scale alone, there is no comparison.

And yet, the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich, tells of a vision.  "Our Lord showed me a spiritual sight of his familiar love," she says.  "And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, and I perceived that it was as round as any ball.  I looked at it and thought:  What can this be?  And I was given this general answer:  It is everything which is made."  In comparison with God's own vastness, the universe is but a tiny thing.

Julian continues, "I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that it was so little that it could suddenly fall into nothing.  And I was answered in my understanding:  It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God."

This, I think, is the core of what we can discover in this part of the creed.  It is not the wonder of the incredible size of creation which captivates me.  Nor is it the unfathomably greater power of God's own self.  But it is the truth that, for all God's vastness, He continues to love and sustain me each day.  We are important enough to give us his only Son.  When we look at the universe, we become as nothing.  But when God looks at the universe, we become everything.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Aaron

Image from the Hubble telescope taken from Wikimedia Commons.  It is in the public domain, and can be used in any application as long as it carries notice that it is produced by NASA and ESA.

Julian of Norwich quotations taken from chapter 4 of the short text of her visions.  Edition:  Julian of Norwich, Showings, Trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, Classics of Western Spirituality.  (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 130-131.

Prayer from Psalm 8:  O God our God, when I consider the heavens, the work of your hands, and the moon and stars which you placed in their orbits, what are human beings that you are minful of them, and mortals that you pay any attention to us?  We are the object of your love, and you crown us with glory and honor.  How great is your name!  Amen