A clear night sky has been a recurring source of awe and wonder in my journey of faith. To view objects which are billions of kilometres away, yet so clear and constant in the sky invokes something within me which draws me back repeatedly. Ancients ascribed power to the elements of the night sky – charting the way that moon and stars influenced their daily lives. They saw life their, a life they barely understood. That same sense of mystery inspires astronomers and scientists along with average people like myself.
A clear night sky on the coast earlier this week brought me once again to a reflection on God, and my place in His majestic and expansive creation. The earth is but a speck of all that is created, yet it looms so large in the purposes of God as we understand them. I sat at a window, looking out upon a cloudy, yet windy sky.
It was not long before the cloudy sky opened and the stars were revealed. In my heart the Psalmists words echoed: ‘the heavens declare the glory of God’. I pondered these heavenly bodies and their light. We can make light, direct it, bend it, dim or strengthen it, yet we still do not understand truly what it is – wave or particle? Where once scientists declared that nothing could travel faster than light, yet now face the conundrum that light itself breaks that rule. How can we understand the light of God?
And then the log fire caught my eye, where logs I had placed some time before on it burst into flame, which now began to illuminate the room where I sat. I watched, entranced, pondering what Moses had seen in the burning bush. In the flames one could imagine a hand beckoning: ‘Come’. They danced playfully across the timber. A playful God? Yes!
Then it dawned: the light of that fire is the same as of those distant stars! Dancing, burning, like our own sun. While they seemed so resolute and constant from this distance, close up they too danced playfully. Like God, whose light and warmth can be as intimate as a log fire, yet at the same time resolute and constant.
When I looked again at the stars, clouds had once again obscured them. My first thought was that they had concealed the glory of God, for they obscured the light. Yet it was the cloud which had borne the glory of God before Israel in the wilderness. God’s glory was not being concealed, only taking new shape! I had to look with different eyes – with a different mindset – to recognise this.
The heavens indeed declare the glory of God… in more ways than one!
July 14, 2002