by Pastor Doug Kings
Here is the picture I featured in my sermon on Sunday. It’s called the Hubble Deep Field and is a composite photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over the course of several days in 1995. It covers an area of the night sky near the Big Dipper about the size of a dime held at arm’s length. This represents 1/24 millionth of the entire sky, counting both of the Earth’s hemispheres.
NASA says there are about three thousand objects in the picture. A few in the foreground are stars from our Milky Way but all the rest are individual galaxies. The furthest are 12 billion light years from us, and thus not far from the Universe’s creation 13.8 billion years ago, aka the Big Bang.
This density of galaxies is apparently uniform wherever you look. Hubble has taken a few deeper pictures since this first one showing even greater density. Plus, we know there are galaxies beyond our view. Thus, according to recent estimates, we are surrounded by over 200 billion galaxies (and some scientists have estimated the number even higher).
Our Milky Way galaxy has between 100 and 400 billion stars and about an equal number of planets. It’s considered an average size galaxy so you can do the math as to how many stars and planets there are, then, in the Universe.
All these numbers, of course, are mind boggling. Then try to think of them in terms of Relativity and the idea of the Universe as an entity of space-time for which the idea of “beyond” the Universe is as meaningless as the idea of being north of the North Pole, and a headache is sure to follow.
Or maybe not. Perhaps instead our reaction can be one of awe and praise. In other words, we can react with our soul and our heart as well as our mind. This, of course, was the response of our ancient forebears gazing on the blazing night sky, much more easily done then prior to the spread of artificial light.
Without any of our science, ancient people experienced the Universe as sacred mystery. And while many believe science has banished God from reality, it is significant to me how many scientists also respond to their discoveries speaking of God and the sacred. The book I mentioned on Sunday by physicist Michio Kaku is The God Equation. Similarly, the late Stephen Hawing wrote of discovering The Mind of God. God was also spoken of often by Albert Einstein.
Now some would respond that these scientists are not talking about the God of the Bible. And in a sense, they are right. But if God can only be experienced in the world that we know, then the experience of God by ancient people could only be expressed in terms of the world as they knew it.
I realize this is not a small matter. Yet it has only been to our detriment to imagine that the revelation of God stopped two thousand years ago or only occurred in the miniscule timespan encompassed by the Bible. Over 700 years ago, the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas said that God’s revelation occurred in two volumes: nature and the Bible. Psalms 19 begins:
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
The true God, the only God that can be meaningful to people now, is a God of today. If our God is to make sense, that God must make sense in the context of the Universe being revealed by those studying it. Hubble’s amazing images and the other incredible discoveries of contemporary science don’t threaten our faith in God but should only serve to deepen that faith. They should leave us awestruck as only true divinity and sacredness can.
And while the Hubble Universe may leave us feeling overwhelmed, it also then demonstrates how incredible God’s love for us is, however insignificant we might feel. As it says in Psalm 8:
1 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens….
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
5 Yet you have made them a little lower than the angels,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
Blessings in your life and ministry.