Updated: Sep 1
Did you see the photos from the James Webb Space Telescope that was sent into space recently? The Webb is the most powerful telescope ever launched into space. It allows astronomers to view objects too old, distant, and faint for the Hubble Space Telescope, its predecessor, to see.
The pictures I saw taken from the Webb Telescope were beautiful and amazing. The featured picture shows a star-forming region of the Carina Nebula referred to as the Cosmic Cliffs.* There are also spectacular images of the Cartwheel ring-shaped Galaxy, new details of star formations and the black hole at the center of the galaxy which is around 500 million light years from Earth. The Webb uses infrared light detection which peers through dust that previously obscured the Cartwheel Galaxy.
For those of you like me who may have forgotten what a light year is from your high school physics class, a light year is the distance a beam of light travels in a single Earth year. For example, the nearest star to our sun is Proxima Centaury, 4.2 light years away, meaning the light we see from the star takes a little over four years to reach us.
I remember lying on the lawn with my buddy, Ted, one summer night in San Marino, CA, where we lived, staring up at the sky watching falling stars. We were lucky that the ever-present, thick smog in those days cleared for a while. To this day I can recall the scene, as two 12-year-old boys were in awe of the space spectacle being performed for us. I wondered for the first time how the magnificent, boundless universe came to be.
The very first words of the Bible address this question.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:1 (New Living)
It’s true that some other faiths and systems of thought have other views. And for some people, it doesn’t matter at all. They reason that the only thing that matters is that I’m here now and will try to make the most of the time I’m given.
But, there is more to the story. Even if the physical universe made of rocks and various chemicals could have accidentally come together to form planets like Earth, what about life itself? In his book The Case for a Creator, New York Times bestselling author Lee Strobel writes, “Science doesn’t have the slightest idea how life began. No generally accepted theory exists, and the steps leading from a barren primordial world to a fragile chemistry of life seem imponderable. Absolutely overwhelming evidence points toward an intelligence behind life’s creation.” Examples of God’s hand are everywhere – our atmosphere and gravity just right for life, our distance from the sun, and so forth. I highly recommend the book I just referred to, to complement and deepen one’s faith.
Moreover, God didn’t just set the universe in motion and then withdraw. Consider a song recorded in 1990 by Bette Midler, a major hit called From a Distance by Julie Gold. The refrain goes:
God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us from a distance. From a distance there is harmony, and it echoes through the land And it’s the hope of hopes, the love of loves. It’s the heart of every man.
It’s a good song sung by a very talented performer. I salute her for singing about God in our increasingly secular society. Yes, God is watching us, but not from a detached distance.
God and His spirit are all around us, available every day to spur us on to spread hope and love to the heart of every man, woman, and child. God created our world, our unique life, and our desire to know and worship Him. Then He came to Earth some 2,000 years ago to further his work and left us with his Holy Spirit to live with us forever.
A song which captures the nearness of God for me is Thy Word by Michael W. Smith which is printed on the back wall of the Creekside sanctuary.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path When I feel afraid, and I think I’ve lost my way Still you’re there right beside me Nothing will I fear, as long as you are near, Please be near me to the end
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I will not forget, your love for me and yet, My heart forever is wandering. Jesus be my guide, hold me to your side And I will love you to the end.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path