To Infinity and Beyond (Message for June 15th, 2014)

Scripture:  Psalm 8

     When I was in 6th grade, we were given the assignment to report on an area of science.  We had to turn in our first choice followed by two other choices in case our first choice was taken.    Of course, my first choice was astronomy.   I did not want biology or chemistry or anything else.  I wanted space, the final frontier, because that is what excited my imagination.  I was not the only one.  The teacher had given us a list of possible scientific subjects, and one of them was cosmology.  I found out that this also had to do with space, so it became my second choice.  When the teacher did the draft, astronomy went early and I ended up with cosmology.  Cosmology is the study of the origin, evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe.   Another way to put it is, that cosmology is the study of everything!    Astronomy is the study of stars, but cosmology goes beyond that.  It takes the knowledge of astronomy and plugs it in to the bigger system to see how it all interacts and what it all means.   Cosmology is the study of space in its entirety.   Given the enormity of space, this is a big topic.  As I started going through books and realizing how big this was, I did not know what to do.   My parents helped me organize everything and created an outline that only hit the most vital, important, and basic elements of cosmology.   The assignment was to give a report that to be at least five minutes long.  For a sixth grader, five minutes of talking can be a lot.   I ended up not having that problem, my report went on for forty minutes.   I remember leaving the teacher speechless, it was his last year of teaching and he had never had that happen before.    How could I not go on for that long?   I was talking about the universe after all.   There are very few subjects that big!    Space has always been fascinating to me, and continues to be so.   I know that I am not alone.   Even though our understanding has changed over the centuries, what lies beyond the sky has always been a topic that fascinates and captures the imagination of humanity.  

            Have you ever been at a place, where you could really see the stars?   I mean, REALLY see the stars, someplace isolated with no light pollution and a clear night?   I remember back when I was a camp counselor at Camp Mone’to (down in Brown County), there was a week where I did pioneer camp, and on the last night they had the entire camp sleep under the stars.  In the clearing at the top of the hill.  It was a perfect, cloudless night.   I know, that like me, a lot of the kids did not sleep much that night because they could not stop looking at all of the stars.  I cannot help but remember that image as I read this morning’s scripture, and read about how David, the author of this psalm, considered the heavens, the moon, and the stars.   Can you imagine what the night sky looked like in Israel around 550 B.C?   There would have been almost zero light pollution.  There would not have been any airplanes in the sky.   It must have been a truly breathtaking view.   Seeing that kind of scope of the grandeur of creation, it is no wonder that psalm begins Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”   

            Have you ever considered just how big creation is, how large it is in scope?    Consider this, here is earth from the moon.  

The moon is 238,900 miles from earth.    Think of the old car you have or use to have.   How many miles does it have 110,000, 175,000, 200,000?    All of those years driving all of those miles was still not enough just to make it to the moon one way.   If we go further out, you have probably seen this picture refer, called “the pale blue dot.” 

  This picture was taken in 1990 by the Voyager probe as it was completing its mission.   On the edge of our solar system, they turned it around and had it take a picture of earth.   The pale blue dot, which looks like a speck of dust suspended in a sunbeam is earth from nearly 4 billion miles away.   Our solar system is just based around one star in a collection of stars we call the Milky Way galaxy.   The Milky Way galaxy has over 100 billion stars in it.  

In fact, some estimates guess there are up to 500 billion stars in our galaxy.   That alone is mind boggling, but we are not the only galaxy.  In fact, we do not know how many galaxies there are, and we do not have enough resources to even see them all.   The best estimates are that there are 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, with each galaxy having billions of stars.   When all that is added together, when all of the math is done, there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all of the beaches in the world.   The universe is so, so much bigger than we can comprehend.   What is unfathomable to think about is that God, the very God we worship and know today, created each and every one of those billion and billions of stars and placed them exactly where he wanted them in the heavens. 

            When we are confronted by the absolute vastness of the universe, what can our response possibly be?   I think that Bill Watterson, pretty much captured it in this comic strip:  

When we take in the scope of all that God has created how can we feel like anything more than a speck of dust?   David had to wonder the same thing which is why we asked:  “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  This is the question that people have looked to the stars and asked themselves for untold generations.”    This is a question that we all face at some point.    This question poses itself in many forms.   “Why am I here?”   “Do I have purpose”  “Does any of this have purpose?”   Does life have meaning?   Does our existence have significance?   We all face these questions in our lives and we all want the answers.   It often seems that staring into the infinite wonder of all creation, like the night sky, brings up these questions.   It saddens me that so often when people are faced with the vastness of creation, instead of being at awe by the creativity and grandness of the creator they conclude that the universe is essentially too big for a creator, that random chance is a better explanation for how all of this came into being.    I cannot really understand that point of view.   To me, when I consider how big the universe is, how infinite it is in scope, and how diverse it is in its existence, I can not imagine how there could NOT be a creator behind it all.   To me, the thought that all of those stars and galaxies, let alone all of the life on our little planet came about by random chance, that there is no creator- and that we are alone in this universe- is the single scariest and most horrifying thing I can conceive of.  

            If this morning’s scripture had concluded with verse 4, with asking “what is mankind that you are mind of them?” then it would be a bit of a downer scripture.   Thankfully, it goes on and David reminds us that not only did God make us, but he entrusted us with the care and rule of the world.  The psalm goes further than that, verse five says that God has crowned us with glory and honor.”     This psalm reminds us that not only does God hold the whole world in his hands, but he also holds each and every one of us in his hands and he holds us dearly.  This psalm reminds us that we do have meaning and purpose.  This psalm reminds us that the creator of the whole cosmos, cares about us very much.  

            When we keep that reminder in mind, then it changes everything.   It puts everything into better perspective.    Remember, this blue dot. 

It is us.   Famous and esteemed scientist, Carl Sagan, wrote about this picture:

“Look again at that dot.  That’s here.  That’s home.  That’s us.  On it everyone you love, everyone you know everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.   The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions ideologies, and economic doctrines every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator ad destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”  

All of our problems, all of our pain, and all of the trials we have experienced and will experience take place on that mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.   God is so much bigger than our pain, he is so much bigger than our problems.   Yet despite that, God care for us.    God cares us for us so much that he came and dwelt among us.   Not only does God care for our pain, but because of the life that Jesus lived, God understand our pain.   Isaiah 53:3 reminds us that Jesus was “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”  

 When we remember that God cares us AND understands us , it truly does change everything.    We can have a confidence that God is on our side.   We can have a peace because we know that the One who worked out how the universe works, is working on our behalf.    We can have a joy because we know that the creator of everything is willing to take time out of managing the known universe to listen to us.   With whatever problem we face in our lives, whether it be a big decision, whether be a life shattering medical diagnosis, or event that feel like they are pulling us apart and breaking our heart, we can have a confidence that we are not alone.    We can have an unshakable confidence that goes to infinity and beyond, because we know that the God who has the power to create trillions upon trillions of stars and place them in billions of galaxies is on OUR side.    I could go on, but someone else already said it better.    Matthew West wrote a song called More.  In this song, he tried to capture what a love song from God to us might sound like, so let’s listen to that now.

The enormity of all that God created, the trillions of stars, the sheer size of the universe, is awe-inspiring.   What is even more amazing is that when we are confronted with just how big creation is we are reminded that God is bigger than that!   Most amazing of all is that God-the creator of it all- loves us more than all of the stars and galaxies combined.   With whatever you are going through in your life or whatever you will go through, may you know that the God loves you and God will not abandon you.    May you have the full confidence that comes from trusting God.   May you be able to lay your troubles at his feet, and when you are willing to do that may you find that God is right there for you.    May you find that you are significant, because God says you are.    May you find these things to be true, and when you do may you join with the whole of creation in praising our great creator by singing “God, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”  How majestic is your name in all the galaxy.  How majestic is your name in all the universe.  How majestic is your name to infinity and beyond.