A Reflection shared with the congregation at Crook, August 2nd
Further secrets of the universe have come to light this summer. After a decade-long journey through our solar system, the spacecraft New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto on the 14th July, making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth. Pluto was only discovered 85 years ago yet New Horizons flyby of this dwarf planet and its five known moons is providing an up-close introduction not only of Pluto but the Kuiper Belt – a region of the Solar System beyond the planets, where Pluto is located. The new startling images of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt shows a region populated by icy objects ranging in size from boulders to dwarf planets. It is understood that these objects, including the planet Pluto, may enlighten our understanding and preserve evidence about the early formation of the solar system. NASA’s New Horizons probe has already begun sending back images of Pluto from the outer edge of our solar system, but it will be at least 16 months before all the data arrives back on earth.
At the same time as exciting new images of Pluto were appearing on our television screens and in our newspapers, it was also reported in July that Nasa has discovered the first Earth-like planet in a constellation of the Milky Way more than 8,400 trillion miles (1,400 light years) away in the constellation Cygnus. The alien world dubbed Earth 2.0 with the possible potentially capable of supporting life was detected by the US agency’s Kepler space telescope (Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA on March 7, 2009 to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars). After 20 years of searching the universe NASA’s Kepler project has found, for the first time, an earth-like planet orbiting a star like our own sun at a similar distance. “It’s the closest thing we have to another place that somebody else might call home,” said Jon Jenkins, a data analyst at NASA. “Today the Earth is a little less lonely because there’s a new kid on the block.”
In the Judean-Christian tradition the immensity of the universe reflects a God of plenty, a God of super abundance even. When I look into the heavens on a starry night I feel like other human beings very small in the overall cosmos and scale of things. At a baptismal service I often read from Psalm 8 and remind the congregation of verse 2. Today I am remind myself of verses 3 and 4:-
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Our universe seems beyond our capacity to comprehend yet in one way or another it invites us to do so, to discover its emerging secrets. God is also beyond our capacity to understand yet believers of all faiths seek to know and understand Him. Christians don’t believe in an unknowable God in an unknowable universe, yet today with new findings from outer space we are much more conscious of how tiny our solar system is within the universe. The author of Psalm 8 would be amazed and astounded at our present day space research and discoveries. But the psalmist would also understand that to be amazed is also to worship, to worship God, the creator of the universe, made known to us in Jesus Christ, in reverence and love.
Minister, St Andrew’s Dawson Street, Crook