Recently I bought an Apple Smart Phone. My new Smart Phone has a number of features, applications, and services not thought of just a few years ago. Except for the feature of notifications of new Email, Face Book, and Twitter postings, I like my new Smart Phone.
Initially, the notifications feature came with strange and startling sounds. These sounds bombarded me night and day, moment by moment, and often at inappropriate times. Because all this was new to me, I looked to see what the notifications were and found that most were for emails about politics, trying to entice me into some new project, or some way to spend more money.
Face Book and Twitter postings are also on my desk top personal computer and all of them can wait for me to read them—rarely do they generate any sense of urgency for me. I have solved the notification problem with all its strange sounds and inappropriate timing by fiddling around with the device. I do not need to be in continual contact with friends and family. Now I am at peace with my new Smart Phone.
The application my new phone I enjoy the most and the one that gives me the least annoyance lets me look at the night sky and identifies constellations, stars, and planets. It is a beautiful piece of work. The screen even sets up for night vision. Now that Saturn is so visible in the night sky these days, this is an especially valued application for me.
The beauty of the universe has long intrigued me. Sometime last year, probably last summer, I did a series of paintings of galaxies as I saw them from the NASA Hubble Telescope. Whether others like them or not is not important to me. Painting and capturing in my mind’s eye the beauty of the universe was my goal. The universe sparkles with a beauty that should entrance us.
My concern is that we will travel too far into space. It is not that I would want to prevent exploration of the universe; my concern is human beings will spoil the galaxies and their planets as we have the earth—we will find a way to mar its beauty and trash its Astro-scape. We already have space junk.
Psalm 148, as it is translated in the Psalter of the Book of Common Prayer captures for me the awesomeness of the space beyond this sphere—our island home, planet Earth. The Psalm is not based in the new found information of astro–physics and related sciences. When the psalmist spoke the words, he saw the earth under a great dome and above the dome the sun, moon, and stars moved over it. He understood that the waters of the heavens—rain and snow—were stored above this dome and God showered the earth from the water stores of heaven. Thus, the Psalm is based on a lack of knowledge but not a lack of awe. Understanding our place in the universe only recently has changed. Galileo was only pardoned of heresy a few years ago—the Church is very slow about such things.
We now know that we are only specks of dust in a vast system of planets, galaxies, suns, and moons. We are a part of a system that remains mostly unknown to us. In our new knowledge of the heavens, some scientist take delight in telling humanity it is not very important and human beings have a small and defined limitation in the overall scheme of the universe. In fact, they proclaim, there is no reason for humans to believe they have any special place in the overall scheme of this planet or the solar system of which it is a part.
This may be a true observation. Possibly, there is little human beings can offer or do to change the course of universal history. Planets may collide, the entire solar system may be swallowed up in a black hole, and meteor may strike the earth and eliminate all life except the cockroach. All of that is possible.
But, as the psalmist did millennia ago, we should sing, “Hallelujah.” We should sing, “Praise the Lord of the heavens.” In this beautiful Psalm, the author wrote of the animals of the sea, the beasts of the wild and the fields, the scorching sun, the tempestuous winds, the snow, and flood, and the elemental events of earthly living and then he sums up his response to nature with,
Let them praise the Name of the LORD,
for his Name only is exalted,
his splendor is over earth and heaven.
In my imagination it seems the psalmists loved creation. Loving the created order, he saw in it humanity as a part of creation and loved it too.
Love is the issue; it always is. When love of creation, love of the creatures of the earth and I suppose of the universe, exploration becomes a source of joy. Exploration of the earth’s unknowns, space unknowns, and even the unknowns of the human body can lead to full and fulfilling lives. Exploitation, on the other hand, leads to death of the planet, humanity, and all the living flora and fauna of the earth—except cockroaches.
Jesus commanded his followers to love one another as he loved them.
Love, in English, is all encompassing word. Love can include passion, friendship, or even simply a fondness for something; for example, loving Neapolitan ice cream, which I do.
Then, what does Jesus seeking for his followers in this commandment of his? Is he asking them to have a passion for one another, a friendship, just a fondness for each other? Additionally, does the psalmist’s love of creation fit into this commandment? Further when reading in the New Testament, when John of Patmos has a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, is he suggesting the earth and the universe as it is should not be cherished?
The answer to the questions on the nature of love is, “Yes.” Jesus wants his followers to have a passion for each other, a passion to care about them more than they care for themselves. He wants them to live in community as friends, and he wants them to express a fondness for each other as co-workers on the way. John of Patmos in his Revelation writes allegorically. The new heaven and a new earth is a new way of understanding the nature of God and a new way of loving fellow human beings. The evidence of God is among us. He writes God is among mortals wiping away tears of fear, anger, and hatred with the love Jesus commanded his followers to express.
When we can no longer stand the expressions of hatred and despair infecting the world, we can look to the heavens, look to the fields, look to the forests, and instead of giving up we can praise God for the beauty of holiness that surrounds us. When we allow God to be among us hourly, daily, throughout the years we live, all tears will be wiped away and we will truly experience a new heaven and a new earth. It is not an empty promise.