A cathedral in space

(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)

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So far, NASA’s new Webb telescope has revealed “cosmic cliffs,” the glittering landscape of a star’s birth, black holes never seen before, a dying star’s final performance, the steamy atmosphere of a distant planet in detail, and the deepest images ever of a formerly unseen universe. The picture above is of a tiny sliver of the universe represented here on the ground as looking through a window the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. 

Why is our universe so compelling? Why do we look at the thousands of galaxies found in this picture the size of a grain of sand and imagine if we could see that deeply into the whole of it? Why are we not crushed by the awesomeness of it? Why do we stand and stare sometime at the stars in wonder? What is that feeling? 

I’ll tell you what it is. It is the feeling Solomon explained in Ecclesiastes when he wrote, “I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

We have eternity in our hearts but limited minds and limited sight with which to understand it. Look at the picture again. Feel the pull. That’s eternity. You know it’s there, but you can’t grasp it; you can’t see it; you can’t understand it. You can’t possibly take it all in. That’s why it’s a burden. It’s a burden to feel it but not fully know it. “[We] cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

In my thinking, this is where art comes from. The artist deals with the eternity in the heart that is always trying to reach beyond the limitations of the mind. It’s breaking free of frustration. Even artists who do not know God mess with the eternity in their hearts.

This is also where worship comes from. It too comes from the eternity in the heart. That’s where we meet God. Worship is what fills in the gap between the heart and the head — what we feel and what we don’t know. Worship is the wonder. The Webb telescope might as well be a cathedral in space from which we gaze with wonder, and without even knowing it, into the face of God.

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